A bank founded by beggars at Gaya for their rainy days has gone bankrupt, courtesy lockdown 3 , leaving them on the verge of starvation.
Till lockdown 1 and 2, ‘Mangla Bank’, founded seven years back by about 50 beggars who sit outside the famous Maa Mangla Gauri temple, had a balance of Rs 1.20 lakh. “However, we could not sustain it further. During lockdown 3, all the money was distributed as loans to beggars for survival, as their earnings in the form of alms stopped when the Maa Mangla Gauri temple was shut down and the devotees stopped coming. There is no flow of cash or kind now,” says Chenari Paswan, 65, who is the manager of the Mangla Bank and has been begging at the place for about 40 years.
Maa Mangla Gauri temple is situated on the top of Mangla Gauri hill. According to mythology, here Shakti is worshipped as a Goddess of benevolence and nourishment. The footfall of devotees is maximum on every Tuesday, besides the Durga Puja.
Paswan rues that though they still sit at Mangla Gauri the whole day, they hardly get any alms. “On Saturday, a ‘babu’ came and gave us Rs 2,000, instructing to distribute 2 kg flour to each beggar, but this will hardly be enough for all. No official from the Gaya district administration has come to help us. Till now, we are surviving on small helps coming from some social workers or generous people,” he says.
The Mangla Bank has a formal register where all the deposits and credits are jotted down. “When things were normal, every Tuesday, the beggar used to deposit Rs 50 with me. Every Saturday, the collected money was deposited in Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank, Maranpur branch. Besides this, the record is manually maintained by me in a register,” says Paswan.
The cash, in the time of need, is withdrawn from Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank and given as loan to the beggars at 2% rate of interest. “The bank account is operated by joint signatures of three beggars, Malti Devi, Hiramati Devi and Nagina Devi. Nagina is the treasurer of the bank. I don’t have the authority to withdraw the money, which gives the rest of the members faith on me that fraud will not be committed with the collected money,” says Paswan, adding the interest collected from the beggars is deposited in the bank account.
Nagina says members who ask money from the bank for drinking and gambling are discouraged. “Aggrieved, some have resigned from the membership of the bank. But as an informal institution, we have lent money for marrying daughters of the beggars, in time of medical emergencies or even for sponsoring studies to wards of the members,” she says.
Paswan hoped the ‘normal’ days would return soon by the blessings of Maa Mangla Gauri, who has been helping them live in this world.
Gaya’s deputy collector, Amrita, who is also in-charge of Covid-19 control room in the district, said the beggars would have to contact the control room through phone or visit the four disaster relief centres, where cooked food is served twice a day. “They can also get dry ration from the control room, as they might not be ration card holders, but the condition is that they have to get their names registered with us,” she said.