Sharad Patel, a farmer’s son from Mirzapur in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh, was supposed to acquire a degree and settle for a well-paying job to support his family. However, he took a different path and decided to help thousands of homeless people who are forced to beg on the streets of Lucknow. In 2014 Sharad filed an RTI application with the Government of Uttar Pradesh to understand its efforts for the welfare of beggars. He chose areas in the city that had a dense population of beggars, but building trust and establishing a rapport with the community was tough. Sharad began with ration cards, which entitle poor people to buy wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene oil at subsidised rates from government shops. He negotiated with the authorities who agreed to make ration cards for hundreds of beggars even though they had no address proof, which is otherwise mandatory. The move infused a sense of belief in the beggars, and the community started approaching Sharad for their cards. He also managed to help 400 beggars to take possession of government houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna scheme. Sharad is now interacting with the local municipal corporation for the identity cards of these beggars, which will help them in getting Adhaar Cards. Sharad has submitted a charter of demands to the government, which specifically asks for a proper shelter home for at least 200 beggars in Lucknow. Under his guidance, 22 beggars have stopped begging and have started working. That’s some way of turning things around!
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