Guwahati: Beggars in Assam’s state capital have found a way to make profit from the alms they receive by setting up a cooperative society to trade coins as change for Rs 100 with bus conductors being steady customers.
“We provide change for Rs 100 to bus conductors with the 25 paisa, 50 paisa and one rupee coins we get as alms. We make a profit of Rs 10 on Rs 100,” Suren Haloi, a beggar who seeks alms here at the busy Kachari junction said.
“With hundreds of buses passing through Kachari daily needing loose change, we earn Rs 20 to Rs 30 apart from what we earn from begging,” he said.
The extra money was spent on two square meals a day, which they had to do without sometimes earlier, he said.
The beggars set-up the cooperative to pool their resources and make some money.
“This method of earning being lucrative, over a hundred beggars decided to join hands to form a cooperative credit society,” he said.
Another elderly woman beggar near Gauhati Railway Station, Sakina Khatun said, “I no longer beg as I have grown old. I collect coins from other beggars to give it to bus conductors and others. Then I share in the profit.
“My health is failing now and I cannot beg for long hours. But the cooperative society helps me to earn. I put in a few hours in the first half of the day when people come asking for change,“ Khatun said.
“Earlier I could hardly give my three children one meal a day. Now we have two full meals daily,” she said.
Khatun, who sits near the RBI, said “people, particularly shop-keepers, can easily get change from me without having to stand in queue at the bank.”
Another beggar Jyotish Deka, who sits at the Fancy Bazar bus stop, said “People give us one rupee, 25 paisa or 50 paisa coins, which we give as change to others as people need change all the time.”
Stationery shop owner Rajani Barman who gets change from the beggars said “These people are smart. They come to shops to give us change for a profit. We also get benefited as we need change to give to our customers.”
Bus conductor Hiren Medhi said, “We don’t have the time to go to the RBI for change everyday. The change we need are easily available by the beggars who sit at bus stops. The extra Rs 10 we pay for every Rs 100 is worth it.