Our society has forever been separated by a number of divisions like caste, creed, race, religion and gender but one thing that has always worked as an even bigger differentiating factor among humans, has been poverty! The financial status of a person can make or break him in the world. Poverty, much like the ongoing deadly COVID-19 Pandemic, doesn't discriminate among people and can strike them at any time. We have all seen beggars at some place or the other, most commonly at places of worship or places people gather in large numbers at. Some of us would have given them some money or got them food or something else to eat. There are some genuinely good hearts who feed them regularly and at times like the harsh winter, also provide them with blankets or warm clothing.

The Union Government of India has been running a program called the Bhikshavritti Niwaran Yojna in 10 cities of our country, including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Indore, Lucknow, Patna and Nagpur. This is a program which identifies beggars and helps them to turn entrepreneurs or choose a better lifestyle for themselves, thereby eradicating begging in the society. Now, the Bihar government has extended this scheme and in association with the welfare society SAKSHAM, planned to eradicate begging in the state. The beggars are to be given an option of choosing between becoming entrepreneurs or publicity managers for government welfare schemes!

Recently, at a programme held at the SAKSHAM office in Patna, 18 beggars were presented with a cheque for Rs. 10,000 each, to help them start businesses of their own. Some of them had expressed interest to sell vegetables while a few others wanted to set up shops for selling other things. The SAKSHAM agency has set a target of initially expanding financial support to 100 beggars, in Patna. Bihar has been having a Mukhyamantri Niwaran Yojna since 2008-9 to protect and ensure care for beggars. This was the original plan which the Central government then extended to other states also. The rehabilitation program also offers them a chance to return to their families or stay at government institutions to learn some skills to help them lead respectable lives in the society. The social welfare organisation plans to make Patna beggar-free by March 2021 and in turn, the entire state of Bihar, before the end of 2021! Some reports also state that some of the beggars had talents in singing and acting and they are to be given a chance to perform in street plays to explain the government welfare schemes to others and promote it. This is indeed a wonderful initiative and would serve all the states well to follow it!