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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fair draws beggars

Gaya, Sept. 23: The 17-day-long Pitripaksh period not only sees devotees and tourists throng the holy places, even beggars turn up in huge numbers.

Children like Gori, Reshmi, Kosmi and Raju of Gewal Bigha Bhuin Toli are enrolled in the government school at Gewalbigha. While Gori and Reshmi study in Class III, Raju and Kosmi are in Class II. Besides, Rukmini, Kabutri and Mahesh Kumar of the same family residing near Manpur block office too study in a government school in classes II, III and V respectively.

These children have taken an unscheduled break from their classes for a different reason. The Telegraph spotted these children near Suryakund pond and Deo Ghat begging from pilgrims at Gaya during Pitripaksh. Some were spotted searching for coins in the sand of Falgu, which has knee-deep water at present. More children were seen near Vishnupad Temple, Akshaywat and Gayasir vedi (near the burning ghat).

Mahesh said: “My school has no building and we study under a tree. Owing to rain these days, school is closed.”

“We earn Rs 25 to Rs 50 per day apart from rice and flour from pilgrims. This is why we have taken a break from school,” said Kabutri. When asked if they attend schools in dirty clothes, smeared faces and dishevelled hair, Gori said: “We take a bath and wear clean clothes before going to school.” Not only children, even the elderly could be seen begging from tourists. Jagia Devi and Ramkalia Devi of Gewal Bigha Bhuin Toli and Savitri Devi from Manpur were among the few hundred beggars. Jagia and Ramkalia had wrinkles on their faces.

“We have been begging for many years during Pitripaksh. We earn more than Rs 100 per day. Besides, we also receive rice and flour as alms,” said Jagia, adding that she also draws widow pension provided by the government.

Moreover, they have got their family members included in the below poverty line list. Sources said these beggars have set their eyes on the tourist season from October in Bodhgaya as Pitripaksh will conclude on September 27.

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