Beggars in Indonesia

Government announcement in a Jambi newspaper informing people that it’s forbidden to give to beggars, and that financial gifts for the poor should be given to social organizations or places of worship.

In the large U.S. cities it’s not uncommon to have people accost you for a dollar or for whatever spare change you may have. It’s actually a common thing to see in any major city of the world. In Indonesia, as in many countries, begging is illegal or restricted, though it can be seen taking place at almost all busy intersections, as well as outside the doors of many large stores. It’s not uncommon to see crippled people sitting on the roads, very near the traffic, and the blind being led by another person through long rows of traffic stopped at traffic lights. Children are also used in the collection of money. It’s very sad to see children, some as young as 3 years old, sent out into busy traffic by their parent to beg.

Beggar sitting on a very busy street.

For tourists going to Indonesia, it would be best if they would previously have developed a clear philosophy on how they will address beggars before they arrive. Though the government wants to stop the practice, and even issues advertisements against the practice, people moved by compassion, as well as by religious obligations, keep begging alive by giving.

The government’s solution to the many beggars is for people to stop giving to them. If people have religious obligations that require giving to the poor, or if they are very compassionate people and want to give, the government encourages them to give their money to a church, kelenteng, mosque, or other social organization which will distribute the money to the poor in a more dignified manner.

The Blind
Blind beggars being led by another person along streets and through crowds is a common sight.

From reports heard on the street, there could also be an element of organized crime attached to begging, with beggars having to give a percent of their income to those who control a certain area of the town. We also know of some beggars that collect sufficient money with which to start restaurants or small shops, and even employ several people. For some people, begging is a lucrative business.