The Optimist Citizen

This man changed the lives of hundreds of Beggars. Read How.

The story of Sharad for whom beggers were a Responsibility and not a Liability!

Often in our fast paced lives, the appeal of material pleasures becomes so strong for us that we often forget the pain of the lowermost strata of our society. They are the ones who are crumpled under the pressure of financial deficiencies and have lost their joy and are invariably called Beggars.

Hailing from the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh, Sharad witnessed this different facet of society vividly while studying in Lucknow. He saw beggars who were physically disabled, mentally distraught and addicted to drugs. This scenario appalled and persuaded him to work for them.

After his graduation, Sharad met Dr. Sandeep Pandey who was working in the field of education. In 2010 he started working with him and did surveys on primary schools of Hardoi district. Later he wrote an article about the problems of beggars and started serving free meals to around 50-60 beggars inspired by the Langars of Gurudwara.

In 2013, while pursuing his Masters in Social Work, in order to continue his work for beggars he filed an RTI to the Social Welfare Department to know the provisions made for them by the government. The response was shocking and equally revealing. It said that there were 8 beggar homes in Uttar Pradesh and most of them were not operational.

Sharad Patel participating in UnManifesto's concluding event in Delhi
Sharad Patel participating in UnManifesto’s concluding event in Delhi

His findings received ground with his work when he received the Changelooms fellowship in 2014. It was then when he started his program for rejuvenation of government beggar homes by providing advanced help, financial assistance, mobile phones, education facilities, employment opportunity and vocational courses for skill development. He also organised a conference in which 70 to 80 beggars participated and shared their problems with the Chief Minister and district administrator. This conference was a great success as it brought in more funds for the campaign.

Sharad says that lives of many beggars have changed after the revival of necessary skills for their livelihood. Once beggars, they are now working as drivers, electricians and blacksmiths.

Subsequently, Sharad joined the  UNMANIFESTO campaign – which was a nationwide campaign initiated by CYC-PRAVAH and supported by UNFPA in the year 2014 and run for a period of 3 months in 2015. With the objective of engaging youth participation in the political process and bringing social inclusion and effectively involving government bodies for a change, this campaign ran across 20 states and Union Territories of the country. This campaign assisted him financially to speed up his work and guided him on how one should present their demands to different government authorities. Sharad learnt the nitty-gritty of networking, self-development and event organisation through UNMANIFESTO.

The campaign’s success is reflected vividly by the fact that more than 100 beggars got there voter ID and Adhaar cards issued and 205 got there ration cards made. Beggars with physical disabilities received medical aid and equipment like wheelchairs. Earlier, they were helpless; now they thrived independently in the society.

 Sharad wishes to continue this program on a wider scale to reach the millions of beggars whose cries of agony go unheard and wants to make them citizens capable for a different and optimistic future.

Story by :  Gurvinder Kaur Romana
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