Begging is a controversial issue in India. In one of the poorest countries in the world, millions of people turn to begging for a lack of a better alternative. At the same time, there are many able-bodied and even well-educated people, who use begging as a supplement to their professional income. While the government has its focus on criminalizing beggars, instead of rehabilitating them, some beggars have chosen to take issues into their own hands and have started the first bank in India run by beggars for beggars.

The co-operative bank is called Mangala Bank and is situated in the town of Gaya. It was opened by beggars who have been depending on alms from devotees at the gate of the temple "Maa Manglagauri Mandir" for their survival. The bank allows beggars, who often don’t have appropriate proof of identification, to open an account and save the alms they receive. The bank’s members deposit 20 Rupees — approximately $0.35 — every Tuesday, totaling 800 Rupees per week. The bank also helps in times of emergency.

Raj Kumar Manjhi, one of the members of the bank, says:

"Early this month, my daughter and sister sustained burn injuries while cooking. The bank has provided me a loan of Rs.8,000 for their medical treatment. It is an example of how the bank can help a beggar like me without any paper work or guarantor as practiced in nationalized and private banks." 

Manjhi had a month before he started repaying the loan at a 3 to 5 percent interest rate.

The beggars were encouraged to start their own bank by officials of the State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare in 2014. The bank allows the beggars to be able to save money for the future for the first time in their lives.

Mangala Bank has a manager, treasurer, and secretary along with one agent and other members, who are running and managing it. They say that what is unique about their bank is the fact that it is owned and managed by beggars who decide on the rules and regulations themselves. 

Photo credit: Flickr