A 'bank' by beggars for beggars in Bihar

A 'bank' by beggars for beggars in Bihar

Raj Kumar Manjhi, a beggar in his 40s, depends on alms from thousands of devotees visiting the Manglagauri Temple in Gaya.

Tragedy struck his family when his sister and daughter sustained burns while cooking. However, a loan of Rs 8,000 from the self-help group (SHG) that 40-odd beggars have formed there helped Manjhi tide over it.

The Mangla Bank—the beggars choose to refer to it as a “bank”—draws its name from the much revered temple.

It has a manager, an accountant, a secretary and two assistants—all of whom are beggars.

The idea of saving some money for a rainy day struck them when officials of the State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare met them and encouraged them to form an SHG to save a substantial part of their earning, which, in turn, could be used during emergency.

The 40-odd beggars formed a “bank”, each of them contributing towards a corpus.
It was decided that every Tuesday, when there is a huge rush of devotees and pilgrims in this holy town, each member would contribute Rs 20. With a weekly deposit of Rs 800, the bank today has sufficient funds to grant loans to any of its members.

Thus it was that when Manjhi, a founder-member of this bank, needed money for treatment of his sister and daughter, he was given a loan of Rs 8,000.

Manjhi will refund the loan amount in equated monthly instalments (EMIs).
“I will not be asked to pay interest for the first month. But from the second month, I will have to pay a nominal 2 per cent interest besides the EMI,” said Manjhi, who is educated enough to do all these calculations.

Manjhi’s wife Malti Devi, also a member of the bank, said since they did not have any BPL (below poverty line) or Aadhaar card, it was impossible to open a bank account. 

“However, in our indigenous bank, my husband got a loan of Rs 8,000 during a time of crisis without the formalities of any paperwork,” she said.

The beggars plan to add more members from their fraternity in Bodh Gaya to the bank, but insist that child beggars would not be allowed to join the group.

“In fact, we don’t want our children to join this profession, as it’s a stigma. Instead, we will ensure that they get proper education and eke out a living through different professions,” said Manjhi.

Who says beggars can’t be choosers!

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