P Naveen Kumar, a lecturer at JKKN College, Erode, Tamil Nadu has given a new life to more than 5000 beggars by rehabilitating them and giving them jobs. He is the founder of the Atchayam Trust, which has around 400 volunteers across 18 districts. His work has received the National Youth Award in 2018 from the Government of India, followed by a State Youth Award in 2019. They have recently set up a rehabilitation center which houses 25 people temporarily for their health check-ups, yoga, meditation, and treatment until they set up a livelihood or are sent to a nursing home.
As a student, having an economically poor background, he would often give his dinner money of Rs. 10 to the needy and would sleep hungry. One day, he helped a man only to realize that he was conned, and that man was a beggar. On persistent enquiry, the man said that he was an alcoholic and was disappointed with his life and hence had decided to follow this path. Naveen immediately found him a job as a watchman in a residential society.
He wanted to help more people who had chosen this path, and then his journey towards a beggar-free India begun. The success which we see today did not come easy. Funding was a major problem. His friends mocked him to be one among them as he too was begging for funds. It did not pull him down. He spent most of his initial salary to bring Atchayam Trust to life which is now sustained by the volunteers and crowdfunding.
Each rehabilitation requires about Rs. 4000, involving a cleanliness routine, providing them with food and clothes, and treating drug users through doctors. Then, people with skills sets were assisted to become street food stalls owners, tailors, watchmen, painters, or servers at restaurants. The rest were counselled and sent to nursing homes or reunited with the families.