Tuesday, July 07, 2009


INSTITUTION : Koshish, Beggar's Home, Chembur, Mumbai
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
TARGET GROUP : Homeless, Beggars & Destitute
ISSUE : Livelihood, Rehabilitation
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL NO. : 2009SW89
DATE/DAY : 06.07.09/ Monday

Koshish started as a field action project of TISS in 2006 when a student happened to bring out issues associated with homeless, beggars and the criminal justice system. Each year thousands of men and women become homeless and are mistaken to be beggars by the criminal justice system. Their livelihoods are shattered when they get trapped in the system. Koshish operates out of Barrack No. 6 of the women’s beggar’s home in Mumbai.


Koshish runs some very innovative community outreach programs.
  • Employer’s Collective is an effort to connect employers and inmates (who were employees earlier or who are perspective employees themselves).
  • Night Outs are a platform to reach out to the homeless and discuss their day to day problems. As the name suggests this is done at night when the homeless are done with their job for the day and are settled down. The problems that the homeless gives are taken into consideration during policy building and program formulation.
Koshish runs vocational training courses like sewing, candle making etc for the inmates to pursue alivelihood once they finish their tenure at the beggars home. Later these skilled inmates make products for the market whose returns come to the criminal justice system. When they go out the employers collective helps place them in formal and informal industries. Pallavi, the paraprofessional works on a lifeskills training program for women inmates who are mentally disturbed. This program teaches the women to go back to the society and behave like normal individuals able to work and earn a livelihood for themselves. Also there is a provision for Mukadams. Mukadams are those ex-inmates that have gained livelihood in the beggars home owing to the goodwill they have generated during their tenure as inmates. They stay with inmates and manage them.

The social worker helps in critical tasks of Koshish like program implementation, forming a bridge between the beggar home and TISS. She admitted that its a difficult job to be in this system but its highly satisfying an experience.Koshish is managed by a panel of TISS faculty members, professional social workers and paraprofessionals. It receives a major part of its funding from corporate houses and funding agencies like HDFC and Action Aid.


As I attempt to establish a reconnection between homelessness and beggary I wish to reconstruct the words that Mr Ruchi Sinha gave out in the fieldwork workshop few weeks back.
“Homelessness is the direct impact of lack of livelihood and for the homeless, getting into the criminal justice framework makes it even difficult to get back to mainstream society”
If one analyses the above statement he/she will realize that Koshish is trying to address a second dimension to the trauma that the homeless face. Firstly owing to the stigma they face in the society, the homeless live a minimal existence and secondly they lose whatever little livelihood option they have when they are trapped by the criminal justice system. The basic problem arises because of the nature of Bombay Beggars Act 1959 which is still followed. Because the clauses are broad and hazy, the homeless, beggars and the destitute are exploited by the law. The fact that Koshish is trying to push the amendment of the act and that a new draft has already been submitted for scrutiny, speaks volumes about the dedication of the team. They hope that through this, they can make rules liberal and at the same time inclusive and non-exploitative.

After observing for sometime I realized that if a person is not in a position to successfully secure his basic right to food and shelter because of lack of livelihood opportunities, how many days will be able to afford basic sanitation and clean pair of clothes; and how many days will be able to resist the temptation of begging. This is something that our constitutional concept of freedom in civic society, should be questioned for.

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