Abraham Lincoln in one of his most famous quotes about democracy said that ‘Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people’. Taking a hint from this revered quote, a very curious case of a banking organization has been reported. A bank in the Indian state of Bihar has been opened by a group of beggars, will be run by the beggars, and will be operated only for the beggars. The bank will manage savings and provide financial support to other beggars in the region in a moment of crisis.
As astounding as it may sound, most of the beggars in India are coordinated and controlled by rackets which have links with the local mafia. They are technically working on a revenue model in every single city and state in the country with strategic locations of functioning close to traffic lights, temples, schools, railway platforms, parks, etc. Many beggars in the city of Gaya, Bihar, have traditionally depended on alms given to them by thousands of Hindu devotees visiting a famous shrine. It has been reported many times that the temple’s trust and management are in cahoots with such practices and also receive a cut out of total money received in the form of alms and donations by beggars standing outside their temples across the country.
The beggars who stand outside the gates of the temple named ‘Maa Manglagauri Mandir’ have started the bank. They have named the bank after the temple’s goddess and call it ‘Mangala Bank’. Raj Kumar Manjhi, one of the 40 beggars who have come together to start this bank spoke to local media about this unique financial institution. He acknowledged that they have established a bank for themselves and that the manager, secretary, treasurer, agents and other members who are working for the functioning of this bank are all beggars. Manjhi is the bank manager and is said to be educated enough to handle the accounting and other financial aspects of the bank.
He further stated that every beggar of the group makes a recurring deposit of Rs.20 (Indian Rupees), which is close to 32 cents in United States currency. Deposits are made every Tuesday and when tallied, totals up to a weekly deposit of Rs.800 (approximately 12.78 USD). The lady who is the secretary of the bank, Malti Devi, informed that the bank’s operations began six months ago. She said that they hope to help accomplish and achieve the aspirations of other beggars. She shared that the beggar community is looked down upon as they are from the poorest section of the Indian society.
Malti said that she was now trying to reach out to other beggars by opening a bank account for them as majority of them do not possess proper documentation. They lack the identity cards issued by the Indian government which is given to people who live below the poverty-line. As per the Indian government data, people with a daily spending capacity above Rs.32 (51 cents) in villages and Rs.47 (75 cents) in cities are regarded as above poverty-line. Going by this abysmal standard, there are more than 363 million people living below poverty-line out of a population of 1.25 billion. The world’s most populous democracy, India, now has a bank of the beggars, by the beggars, for the beggars.
Manjhi’s wife, Nagina Devi is working as the treasurer of the bank. She said that her job is to manage the money received in deposits. Vanarik Paswan is the collection agent and he undertakes weekly collection of recurring deposits from every member of the bank. Manjhi further stated that their bank had helped him with the expenses occurred during a medical emergency when his sister and daughter got injured while in the kitchen and sustained burn injuries. The bank gave him a loan of Rs.8000 (approx. 128 USD) for their treatment. He said that it was an example of how the bank could help a beggar without adequate documentation unlike other corporate banks.
Manjhi would not be levied any interest or other charges on his loan for a period of one month. After that, he says that the bank would charge interest of up to 2 to 5 percent as a policy. This, he said would help the bank recover money faster. The group is very happy that they have their own bank now. They said that they could now save some money for their future needs. They added that the fact that the bank is owned, operated, managed, and run by the beggars themselves, is what makes it unique. They were said to be encouraged by officials of a State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare.
By Ankur Sinha