Tarique Mohammad Quereshi

Ashoka Fellow
Mumbai, MM, India
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Tarique Mohammad Quereshi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Having seen the inside of state-run “homes,” Tarique witnessed not only the inhumane conditions within which they reside, but also recognized a larger social universe of citizens—one that highlighted their differences. With the mentally-ill, aged, and homeless alongside beggars, he realized there were no mechanisms to determine the differing situations through which one reached a state of destitution, nor to help formulate appropriate action. By separating their identities and circumstances, Tarique unravels multiple solutions to ensure they are accorded basic human rights and are reintegrated into society.

Tarique delineates the identities of destitutes and throws light on their contexts, to transform existing perceptions of beggars and destitutes that lead to a uniform label and institutional responses. He puts in place processes and builds collaborations that equip institutions to effectively respond. Tarique’s non-confrontational approach and strategy of “positive engagement,” has moved state and non-state institutions to empathize and assume different roles in creating community spaces (instead of institutional spaces) and integrate destitutes. For instance, through his partnership with citizen organizations (COs), hospitals and beggar homes, he has ensured that the mentally ill are provided care and the aged are sent to old-age homes instead of “beggar homes.” He has also organized an Employers Collective comprising employers from the informal sector to testify for their employees who have been wrongly arrested and employ other destitutes. Using “homes” as his entry point, Tarique looks at life-patterns, alternatives, and support systems available for the destitute. He has built partnerships with various COs and government institutions, redeploying existing resources to better diagnose and treat citizens labeled as destitutes.

Rather than create parallel systems, Tarique believes in realigning and equipping existing institutions to effectively address problems that lead to destitution. Over the last five years, he has convinced the Mumbai beggar homes to transform their perceptions and adopt various processes that address the human rights of destitutes: Access to counseling, legal representation, vocational training, employment, healthcare, sanitation, identity proof, and means to reconnect with their families. Tarique is also building an alliance of COs, policymakers, and police to advocate for the repeal of anti-poor legislation and push for affirmative action to protect and rehabilitate destitutes.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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