Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are meeting an Indian crippled beggar in the city of Nashik in Maharashtra, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
When foreign tourists come to visit India, many of them are shocked by the numbers of poor people and beggars on the streets of the large cities such as with the woman photographed in Nashik in Maharashtra in India. But the worst thing that the photographer found out through stories is that a lot of these beggars are crippled and they were not born this way.
When foreign tourists come to visit India, many of them are shocked by the numbers of poor people and beggars on the streets of the large cities such as with the woman photographed in Nashik in Maharashtra in India. But the worst thing that the photographer found out through stories is that a lot of these beggars are crippled and they were not born this way.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photorapher
– Updated on March 22, 2024

Crippled beggar of India

Some of these people were intentionally made cripples when they were kids and some of them paid doctors to amputate the healthy limbs. For instance, in 2006 three Indian doctors were caught on camera agreeing to amputate the healthy limbs of beggars. The competition between beggars is great and when you look worse than other beggar, than you have better chances to get some extra rupees from the tourists.

What does it mean to be crippled?

A cripple is a person or animal with a physical disability, particularly one who is unable to walk because of an injury or illness. The word generally came to be regarded as pejorative which is form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. When used for people with disabilities.

Disabled persons are an often overlooked population
In India, disabled persons are an often overlooked population. Despite the fact that there are more than 26 million disabled persons in the country, they often face discrimination and limited access to basic services and rights and there is a strong cultural stigma associated with disability in India, leading to many disabled persons being isolated from the rest of society. As a result, they often lack access to education, employment, and adequate healthcare and this puts them at a distinct disadvantage in life, making it difficult for them to participate in economic or social activities.

In addition, disabled persons are often victims of abuse and exploitation. They are frequently denied basic human rights such as the right to vote or access to public spaces. Furthermore, they are often the targets of discrimination in the workplace, with employers often refusing to hire them due to their disability.

Steps to improve the situation of disabled persons
The government of India has taken steps to improve the situation of disabled persons in the country. For instance, the 'Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995' mandates that all employers must make reasonable accommodation for disabled employees. This includes providing access to facilities and providing assistance in transportation and communication. Furthermore, the Act also requires that all educational institutions provide support services for disabled students. Despite these positive changes, much more needs to be done to improve the quality of life for disabled persons in India. Improving access to education, employment opportunities and healthcare services is essential for disabled persons to become more independent and lead productive lives and changing the cultural attitude towards disability is also essential.

"Although there is a growing awareness of disability rights in India, more needs to be done to ensure that disabled persons are treated with respect and dignity. So, disabled persons in India are a largely neglected population. With more awareness, support and action, disabled persons can lead more fulfilling and independent lives"

Portraits of Indian crippled beggars
To be crippled is also a term of a medically outmoded and politically incorrect term that implies a serious loss of normal function through damage or loss of an essential body part. According to many definitions, a disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory or some combination of these. Other definitions describe disability as the societal disadvantage arising from such impairments. Disability substantially affects a person's life activities such as we see with the portrait of an Indian woman in Nashik in India and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.

Disability is a contested concept, with different meanings in different communities. It may be used to refer to physical or mental attributes that some institutions, particularly medicine, view as needing to be fixed with the medical model. It may refer to limitations imposed on people by the constraints of an ableist society with the social model. Or the term may serve to refer to the identity of disabled people. Physiological functional capacity is a related term that describes an individual's performance level and it gauges one's ability to perform the physical tasks of daily life and the ease with which these tasks are performed.

Perception and discourse about disabilities
The discussion over disability's definition arose out of disability activism, which challenged how the medical concept of disability dominated perception and discourse about disabilities. Debates about proper terminology and their implied politics continue in disability communities and the academic field of disability studies. In some countries, the law requires that disabilities are documented by a healthcare provider in order to assess qualifications for disability benefits.

In contrast to people-first language, identity-first language describes the person as "disabled". Some people prefer this and argue that this fits the social model even better than does people-first language, as it emphasizes that the person is disabled not by their body, but by a world that does not accommodate them.

"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action, while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives"

Disability and poverty in India
There is a global correlation between disability and poverty, produced by a variety of factors. Disability and poverty may form a vicious circle in India, in which physical barriers and stigma of disability make it more difficult to get income, which in turn diminishes access to health care and other necessities for a healthy life. The World report on Disability indicates that half of all disabled people cannot afford health care, compared to a third of abled people. In countries without public services for adults with disabilities, their families may be impoverished. In contexts where their differences are visible, persons with disabilities often face stigma.

People frequently react to disabled presence with fear, pity, patronization, intrusive gazes, revulsion or disregard and these reactions in India can and often do, exclude persons with disabilities from accessing social spaces along with the benefits and resources these spaces provide.

The stigma functions to marginalize persons with disabilities and going out in public so often takes courage. How many of us find that we cannot dredge up the strength to do it day after day, week after week, year after year, a lifetime of rejection and revulsion? It is not only physical limitations that restrict us to our homes and those whom we know. It is the knowledge that each entry into the public world will be dominated by stares, by condescension, by pity and by hostility.

Facing the stigma
Additionally, facing stigma can cause harm to emotional well-being of the person being stigmatized. One of the ways in which the emotional health of persons with disabilities is adversely affected is through the internalization of the oppression they experience, which can lead to feeling that they are weak and worthless or any number of other negative attributes that may be associated with their conditions. Internalization of oppression damages the self-esteem of the person affected and shapes their behaviors in ways that are compliant with nondisabled dominance.

Ableist ideas are frequently internalized when disabled people are pressured by the people and institutions around them to hide and downplay their disabled difference or pass. And the act of passing takes a deep emotional toll by causing disabled individuals to experience loss of community, anxiety and self-doubt. The media play a significant role in creating and reinforcing stigma associated with disability. Media portrayals of disability usually cast disabled presence as necessarily marginal within society at large and these portrayals simultaneously reflect and influence the popular perception of disabled difference.

Tips for treating Indian beggars
When you are in a city, you will likely encounter people who ask you for money and sometimes it is hard to walk away from a beggar. However, giving beggars money will only provide a very short term solution to a long standing problem. By treating beggars with dignity, exercising some street smarts and working with local charities and shelters, you can make a difference. One of the things a Traveler in India can do is to acknowledge the beggar. Instead of ignoring them, look at them where you are nodding, smiling or saying hello to show you are aware of their presence. This is a compassionate response that will not cost you any money, but you can also refuse to give money politely. A flat "- No" to their request might seem rude and uncaring.

Instead, try something like, "- I'd like to help, but I don’t have any cash". It is respectful and it allows you to avoid feeling like a villain. Ask the Indian beggar what they need and you could give your spare change, but you cannot control what it will be used for. Instead, if it is safe to do so, ask what they would like to buy. If they need a bus ticket, offer to buy one for them. If they are wearing shoes in poor condition or covering themselves with newspapers, ask their shoe size or offer to bring a blanket and this sees to their physical needs and also gives them the dignity and respect that money cannot buy.

Offering food to the beggars
Another hing you can do is to offer food. If you are near a restaurant or café, offer to buy a cup of coffee or food and this will allow you to address the beggar in a way that is helpful and ope and you also can at least be assured they will have food or a warm beverage. Keep in mind some beggars may trade food for other goods or services but you cannot control this once you hand them the food and this does not happen all the time, but it is good to keep this in mind so you are aware of the possible downsides of giving a beggar food.

"One can also direct the beggar to a shelter and if you think they might be sleeping on the street, let them know the location of the nearest homeless shelter and this will help them get off the streets, at least for a night. It will also connect them with services that could give them the means to rise out of their situation. Give money to a local charity can also be helpful and you can look for charities that help people stay off the streets and provide support for the homeless. If you are concerned about beggars in a country you are visiting, look for a charity that focuses on a specific need, such as providing school books and supplies for children beacuse this will keep them in school and off the streets"

India is home home to millions of beggars
India is a fascinating and vibrant country that is a popular destination for photographers around the world. It is also home to millions of beggars who line the streets as seen in this archive story and try to make a living under some of the toughest conditions. Being a photographer who has had the opportunity to document the lives of these people has been an incredibly enriching experience.

See this video about being crippled in India made by India Today.

The photographer's own experience of photographing beggars in India
"- When photographing beggars in India, it is important to approach them with respect and humility. I always make an effort to interact with the people that I am taking photos of, engaging them in conversation and getting to know them a bit before I start snapping away. Before taking a picture, I try to explain to the person why I am there and what my project is all about. This often times will lead to posing the person for a specific picture and if I am lucky, sparks of enthusiasm will come out of the exchange. Once I start taking pictures in India, it can be challenging to capture the emotions of these people. Often times they are living with some kind of physical or mental disability and this can be difficult to show through the lens of a camera. It is for this reason that I strive to capture the subtle expressions of the people I am photographing, as these can truly show the life that they live and the struggles they face on a daily basis", the Photographer says again.

"- Photographing the lives of beggars in India has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Through my work I have managed to capture the resilience of these people and the resourcefulness that they apply in order to survive in a harsh environment. It has been inspiring in a way that I have not been able to experience through any other form of photography. Being a photographer and documenting the lives of beggars in India has given me an insight into the unique lifestyle that exists in this incredible country. These individuals are often underestimated and yet have an immense strength and courage that is admirable. Capturing these moments through my lens has been one of the most meaningful chapters in my career as a photographer"
, the Photographer says again.

"- I know that portrayals of persons with disabilities in which they are presented as being inspiring simply because the person has a disability. I am aware of that these portrayals in India are criticized because they are created with the intent of making non-disabled viewers feel better about themselves in comparison to the individual portrayed. Rather than recognizing the humanity of persons with disabilities, inspiration porn turns them into objects of inspiration for a non-disabled audience", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Mazgaon beggar portraiture

Mazgaon beggar portraiture

Read also:  Mazgaon beggar portraiture

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a criplled beggar in Nashik. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.