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Giving alms sensibly

The educated and well-to-do in Karachi are having second thoughts about giving alms to the countless beggars whose numbers rise phenomenally in the holy month of Ramazan. Over the years, the citizens of Karachi had been distributing alms without thinking and mostly to the crowds of beggars that surrounded their vehicles at every traffic light in the city. Some of my friends were keeping small boxes of change or currency notes of small denominations just for that purpose in their cars. All that has changed and now the well-to-do in Karachi are rethinking their strategy to distribute alms. Many groups in social media are discussing the issue. The problem is not that they do not want to give alms but they do not want to fill the pockets of professional beggars who descend on this metropolitan city each year and collect huge amounts of money which ends up with their handlers.

According to available statistics there are more than 130,000 local beggars in Karachi and 300,000 beggars come from other cities every year before the arrival of Ramazan. Not all are just beggars as some are also hardened criminals and add to the growing crime rate in the city. This also explains the rise in theft of side mirrors of vehicles, petrol and even stereo decks during this period. This year due to the poor financial condition of the country and resultant economic chaos with soaring prices of common commodities the influx in Karachi is larger than usual. The people of Karachi are discussing ways to address this issue and ensure that their charity reaches the right hands.

Charity is close to the hearts of Karachiites as figures show and these figures do not really reflect the total amount of charity. A lot of charity goes unrecorded and unannounced such as the assistance offered to house servants. I know many people who look well after their house servants helping them with the wedding of their children or in many cases financing of their children’s education. There is the odd emergency when the house servant or his or her children fall seriously ill. With nowhere else to turn to do they place their case before their employer and nine timesut of ten they get the assistance they need. Another well deserving candidates for financial assistance are the drivers and chowkidars in the more affluent parts of the city like DHA, Clifton and other similar localities. It is customary for these individuals to visit their villages at least once a year and they expect some assistance from their employers so they can arrive with few gifts for the family and friends. Have you ever considered how well these people have served us over the years? Our children are dropped off and picked up each day and I have seen drivers drive them to school from nursery to graduation and then every year picking them up from the airport when they arrive to spend their university holidays with family. As chowkidars they have provided us security and any untoward incident has been rare at least as far as I know. In most cases they have served their employers to the best of their abilities and even though they come from different backgrounds, traditions and practices they blend in and almost become members of the families they serve. Now that is a lot better than giving money to strangers on the road who might or might not be the needy person they pretend to be. This is exactly the route that is being discussed currently and forms the crux of the campaign to discourage alms giving to the hordes of beggars on the road.

The solution is very simple. Limit your alms giving to the poor and needy that you know. This will also extend the shadow of relief as you will now look around you and discover that many people close to you are also in need though for some reason or the other they cannot say so. It is just not money that needs to be distributed. Helping others can take many forms like cloth or dresses for Eid and nowadays the most important of course is rations for the family. Make sure that while you are enjoying your family dinners and sometimes having to pick and choose the one you would like to attend the poor people under your wing at least enjoy one full and hearty meal at Eid. Discourage the professional beggars and help those really in need. A simple message but one that can make your giving alms really meaningful.

Zia Ul Islam Zuberi, "Giving alms sensibly," Business recorder. 2023-04-22.
Keywords: Economics , Traffic light , Currency notes , Crime rate , Social media , Eid , Ramazan , DHA

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