No change? no problem: Meet this digital beggar from India’s Bihar state

Raju Prasad switched to e-wallet after he got fed up with excuses of ‘no loose change’

Published:  February 05, 2022 Lata Rani, Correspondent


Raju Prasad: Keeping up with the timesImage Credit: Lata Rani

Patna: People seeking alms with begging bowls are a common sight in Indian cities. But a beggar from Bihar is keeping up with the times after hearing excuses from the passersby that they don’t have loose change in their pockets.

Meet the new age beggar Raju Prasad who has turned digital by seeking alms through e-wallets, such as Google Pay, PhonePay and Paytm.

A resident of Bettiah in West Champaran, Raju, 40, is earning around Rs50-Rs60 through digital transfers daily by youngsters who seldom carry coins with them.

“I faced a survival crisis as a majority of people came with the excuse that they didn’t have a loose change. They would say they aren’t required to carry cash or coins in this digital age. So, I finally opened a bank account and created e-wallets,” said Raju, who seeks alms most of the time at the local railway stations and in the town centre.

He has opened his account in State Bank of India, a multinational public sector bank. But it was not easy for him to open an account in the nationalised bank.

“I was told to submit an Aadhar card and PAN card for opening the account. I had the Aaadhar card but didn’t have the PAN card. I had to struggle hard to arrange one,” he said, with a big smile on his face. It was only after he had his bank account that he created e-wallets.

Raju with a begging bowl and an e-wallet seeking alms at a railway station.Image Credit: Lata Rani

Raju wears a digital payment system around his neck to allow people to scan the QR code to transfer money to his bank account. Deep smartphone penetration and dominance of digital payment applications such as Google Pay, PhonePay and Paytm have made things easy for this beggar.

Although this beggar has e-wallet facilities available now for seeking alms but a majority of the people from the countryside still give coins or petty cash. “It’s mostly youngsters, students and city residents who offer me alms through e-wallets but local villagers and passengers still put coins in my begging bowl,” he reveals.

He is perhaps the lone beggar in the country to have gone digital. A similar story of beggars seeking alms through digital wallets was earlier reported from China, the closest country to being a cashless economy.

Strangely, despite all efforts by the state government, begging is still rampant in Bihar. Last year, the government had said it was preparing a database of beggars to provide them both employment and shelter.

According to the government, the project has been started in 13 districts of the state — Patna, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Saran, Araria, Vaishal, Gaya, Nalanda, Bhagalpur, Rohtas, Purnia, Katihar and Araria. Of them, the authorities have announced to first free Patna from beggars.

Bihar had 29,723 beggars, according to a written reply given to the Lok Sabha by federal Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot in March 2018.


Categories: Asia, India

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