The spiritual town of Puttaparthy is a haven for beggars in the country, thanks to the inflow of thousands of foreign tourists every year. Their outlook is deceptive. Revelations about them make one dumbfounded.

The beggars maintain bank accounts in nationalised banks and even in private banks in Puttaparthy and have deposits to the tune of lakhs of rupees. They are also in businesses--from running a restaurant to promoting piggery--and also in micro-financing. Children earn a minimum of Rs.500 or so and some of them are well versed in multiple languages. There are children who speak Italian, French, German, Spanish and English because of their association with the foreign visitors who take pity on the begging children and often give alms in different currencies.

Some of the beggars are engaged in money exchange services like offering dollars, pounds and Euros in exchange for rupees on commission basis. Some foreigners pay them in Indian currency too. Some families earn Rs.10,000 per day.

Foreign tourists are also moved at the plight of babies who are placed in small baskets and are heard crying for milk. Foreigners buy milk powder packets for them which are immediately returned to the very shop-keeper for a little lesser price and the beggars make good with the money earned on milk powder. The women hire the babies to make money.

Some foreigners, with a view to stopping child begging, had made vain attempts by opening children's homes and also by sending the children to hostels for educating them but the children who are accustomed to begging and earning fat amounts and to addictions like smoking, come out of the hostels as soon as the foreigners leave the place. The parents of these children also demand the hostel managers to return the money paid to them by the foreigners.