By Asit Srivastava
Lucknow, Sep 29 (IANS) He begs not just for himself but also for the greater common good. As head of his village in Uttar Pradesh, 46-year-old Dharmveer Bhoora has been able to contribute thousands of rupees for development, all made out of begging.
Bhoora, who comes from an extremely poor, backward class family, has been begging for over 30 years and still continues to do so, even after becoming head of Khaikheri village in Muzaffarnagar district, some 350 km from Lucknow.
"Today I don't just beg for food for myself and my family...I have the additional responsibility of looking after the development of the village. So the money I make out of begging is also utilized for undertaking developmental projects in the village," Bhoora told IANS over telephone.
"It may sound incredible to you, but since I became village head in 2004, I have managed to collect thousands of rupees from begging that were later spent on improving the civic infrastructure of the village," he added.
How Bhoora, a beggar, made it to the prestigious position of village head in the year 2004 is another interesting story.
"It all started with the resentment of villagers against the alleged malpractices of public representatives. To teach them a lesson, we unanimously decided to make a beggar sit on the village head's chair," said Rajeev Tyagi, a local and primary school teacher in the village.
"We thought it would be a slap on the face of corrupt politicians and public representatives as it would equate them with beggars.
"As Bhoora was known to all of us, we made him complete the formalities required to fight the village head elections. At that time, we told Bhoora that he meant a lot to us and would be now responsible for the fate of the village," said Tyagi.
The decision was like a dream for Bhoora.
"Initially, I thought the locals were making fun of me. But when they made me complete the election formalities, I realised they were serious. It was then that I decided to take my new role as a challenge and work for the village's progress," said Bhoora.
"From metalled roads to public toilets, the installation of street lights and the construction of community centres, I have made all this possible from the money I made out of begging only. Taking this into account, I will continue with this practice," he added.
Though annually, Bhoora receives nearly a Rs.500,000 grant from the state government, villagers find it insufficient for development purposes and say the alms collected by him are a huge help.
"This village has a population of nearly 10,000 people. If we leave the developmental work carried out by Bhoora in the last four to five years, we will have nothing to count on in terms of development," said septuagenarian Manki Devi, a resident of the Purkazi area of the village.
"That is why when Bhoora begs, we donate open-heartedly. We know him very well. From his alms, he keeps only what he requires for his family and the extra is spent on the development of the village," she added.