The BJP government is planning to launch a project where it will train 3,000 beggars, with the help of All India Radio, to sing paeans of government policies such as Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and others. The project is aimed as a tool to spread awareness about policies but also as a means to give beggars a livelihood.
The BJP government has given a whole new meaning to the phrase, “singing for your supper”. The Modi government has come up with a plan to promote their policies to the ‘every day man’. They will train 3,000 beggars in different cities to sing paeans to government policies like Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and other initiatives.
On a regular day, commuters will witness a number of performances on local trains. From old school Bollywood numbers to screeching bhajans and nasal qawwalis, these quaint moments will soon be replaced by beggars belting out propaganda slogans.
The idea of the project came from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and is being anchored by its Song and Drama division. All India Radio has been asked to handle the operations of the project, including training the beggars.
” We are looking at this as a livelihood opportunity. This is a better way to use their abilities”, said an official from the ministry, as quoted by Economic Times.
According to the ministry, Mumbai is full of beggars that travel on trains and sing to earn some money. This project will use the approach, however, they will only be singing praises for the government and promoting its policies. The pilot project is due to begin in Mumbai in September and will be taken to other cities in phases.
The ministry also said a remuneration model is being worked out for the beggars. ” They would not need to beg any more. We are working on the logistics of building an incentive model,” said an official.
This project is part of the ongoing effort by Arun Jaitely to promote the government’s various policies. The publications division of the government is in the process of printing books that talk about the various efforts taken by the government to reach the masses.
“The government’s first priority is to ensure every citizen in the country knows about its schemes, achievements and efforts made to change their lives. Not everyone has the time to watch TV or read newspapers. The singing musician on the train reaches out to several commuters in a day and hence, is the best person to take the government’s message to the people,” an official added.
The project in itself is a good idea, however, there are a few points of contention that need to be brought up.
First, is this a policy meant for the benefit of the beggars, or is it merely a propaganda technique by the government. Are they using beggars for this project to uplift their lives and give them a livelihood, or are they using the cheapest possible labour to complete their task. The reason for these questions is that the motivating factor behind the governments decision is what will define whether this project is good or not.
The jury is out on the efficacy and propriety of using beggars in such a way. Many argue that using musician-beggars for government propaganda is akin to exploiting their vulnerability. However, others believe that it is an innovative idea and would help rehabilitate many beggars.
There is a sense of propaganda that is extremely prevalent, however, unless the beggars are being coerced, there is nothing wrong in that. If private businesses can use the talents of these people to advertise their products. Why can’t the government do the same?
At the same time there is the argument about what else can be done for these people. Why can’t the money that is being used for this project be used to give beggars vocational training, so that they may be able to find real jobs and earn a living. Why can’t this money be used to create housing for the homeless, or be used to educate the thousands of children that are part of the urban poor. There are a multitude of things that can be done for beggars with the same money, instead of promoting the government’s achievements.