190610 beggar begging
Image for illustrative purposes only. A bank for beggars in Bihar has run of funds after it was hit hard by the lockdown to fight the coronavirus. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Patna: A cooperative bank run by beggars in Bihar to help each other during a time of crisis has run out of funds due to the extended lockdown, leaving them on the brink of starvation.

The first-of-its-kind bank named “Mangala Bank” functioning in Gaya district of Bihar had a balance of around Rs120,000 (Dh6,000) collected through weekly contributions from the beggars. Currently, it doesn’t have any cash as the money was distributed as loan among the community. The bank was set up five years ago in 2015.

The members of a committee running the bank said the beggars survived the lockdown at first and lived on the paltry loans granted by the bank. But after the lockdown was extended, the bank has completely run out of cash.

“It (the bank) has gone completely bankrupt as all the cash has been distributed among the beggars who faced severe hardships due to closure of all places of worships. It doesn’t have any flow of cash left now to help the people in distress,” the bank’s self-styled manager Chanarik Paswan said.

He said each member of the cooperative had been depositing Rs50 (Dh2.50) every week that kept the cash flowing. But after the lockdown, they have stopped making contribution as their earnings in the form of alms have dried up.

Nagina Devi, the bank’s accountant, said they were facing hard times as pilgrims did not visit temples or mosques due to the lockdown. “In the past one-and-a-half months, the beggars survived on loans doled out by the bank but now we all are facing starvation as the bank has run out of cash. We have no idea how to stay alive. No help is reaching us from the government,” she said.

She said they were compelled to start their own bank as they were unable to open accounts in nationalised banks as they did not have identity cards or proof of address. “Due to these problems, the banks were not allowing us to open our accounts. So we finally decided to set up our own cooperative bank. It has proved helpful so far, but now our bank stares at a bleak future,” she said.

Officials said the beggars have nothing to worry as the administration was providing relief to everyone. “They simply need to contact our control room or visit our relief centres to get cooked food or dry ration,” said a senior local official Amrita, who goes by one name.