In our daily life, as we visit restaurants or walk down the streets, we often come across beggars seeking alms. These beggars approach us and ask, ‘Sir, please give me some money.’ Sometimes, we see these young kids too. They say, ‘Sir, I’m hungry, haven’t had anything since morning.’ Look at these children… Consider giving them something, sir. And then, sometimes, when we’re caught up in our own worries, we might brush off a shiver to a beggar who comes near us. But if we don’t have spare change, we might refuse, politely saying that we can’t give money. However, in such moments, if a beggar comes to you and says that they don’t want anything physical, they have a QR code with them. Scan it and you can send money online. Hearing this, you might be taken aback, but this is truly happening.
The journey of digitization began in 2006, but it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who formally initiated the Digital India campaign on July 1, 2015. With the demonetization in place, a significant shift towards digital payments was witnessed. Then, in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a substantial portion of the population turned to online payments, and even beggars adapted. Many beggars now ask for alms through QR codes. Last year, in February, a beggar named Raju was spotted at Bihar’s Betiya railway station wearing a QR code around his neck, which garnered significant attention on social media. Now, a young man in Gujarat has joined this trend, seen asking for alms with a QR code, and his video has also gone viral on social media.
On the streets of Anand, a beggar with curly hair and a long beard has been seen asking for alms from people using a QR code for the last three to four days. In this digital age, this beggar, with his distinct English accent, begs on the streets using a QR code. Who is this beggar using digital means to seek alms? Where does he originally come from? How did he transition from asking in fluent English to resorting to begging on the streets? Learn more about these intriguing aspects, including how he started using a QR code for begging.
The digital beggar hails from Rajasthan but is known by the name Sanjaysinh Zala in Anand. Despite having studied science up to Class 12 at a Central School, he claims to be from Rajasthan. He first appeared on Anand’s streets near the National Highway under the Vagharsi Patiya flyover, asking for alms from 6-7 people gathered there. The next day, he was seen near Chikhodara Chowkdi, still begging. This beggar, with distinct English fluency, continued to beg at Samaarkha Chowkdi after being brought from Vagharsi Patiya, and he now begs near Chikhodara Chowkdi, engaging people with fluent English conversations and singing various Hindi film and Krishna’s devotional songs to attract attention. People visiting this digital beggar scan the QR code and donate money online. This beggar’s QR code strategy has garnered admiration and attention from those who encounter him.
People often wonder why beggars ask for water. Sanjaysinh Zala shared that he came to Gujarat from Dholpur in Rajasthan years ago. Back in Rajasthan, even asking for a glass of water from someone was a challenge. The term ‘begging for water’ is used when beggars ask for water, but the situation in Gujarat made him realize the stark contrast. Here, life is much better. In Gujarat, after returning to begging, I have been leading a better life. During my initial days in Gujarat, some people refused to give me alms, while some didn’t hesitate to offer. When I used to beg for alms in front of people, some would even threaten me. Now, I feel grateful for the kindness I receive from people.
Sanjaysinh Zala shared an idea about digital begging through QR codes. He mentioned that in the past, he would often receive small coins or leftover food items when begging. Sometimes, people would even hand him a box or a plate, and money would be dropped inside. Occasionally, he encountered situations where people would give him a 10 rupee note and take back 50 or 100 rupee notes, leaving him perplexed. This made him realize that nowadays, instead of exchanging physical currency with small denominations, people opt for QR codes to make payments, which prevents small denomination coins from being returned. This led him to utilize QR codes to accept digital alms, as he noticed that many individuals, especially the younger generation, prefer using QR codes for transactions, and it helps in avoiding the handling of small change. This transition to digital alms has made him realize that people have started using this approach to avoid giving out small change to beggars, and he found it effective and efficient for both parties.
According to Sanjaysinh Zala, beggars used to struggle to obtain meals in the past, even when seeking a single meal for the day. However, since he started using QR codes to beg, his fortunes have changed, and he now enjoys meals like pizza. Not just any pizza, but he now orders meals from well-known chains like McDonald’s and KFC, including items like garlic and chicken pizza. This change in approach, using digital begging through QR codes, has allowed him to access better-quality meals from popular fast-food restaurants.
I beg in English to sustain my livelihood,” this beggar further explained, “I understand English quite well, and if someone talks to me, I can comprehend and respond. Although I beg using English, I am running my life in Gujarati, meaning I can go anywhere to beg. I’m originally from Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and I even go there to beg. In that region, a large number of people understand English very well, so I can sustain my livelihood by begging in English and managing my life in Gujarati.
Before, we had never seen a beggar asking for alms using a QR code,” a local resident mentioned, “Just a few days ago, we saw this beggar for the first time. Prior to this instance, we had never seen him here. He used to sit below the bridge, singing songs and asking people for money. During that time, he also took out a QR code from his bag to receive online payments from people. This was quite surprising for all of us because, until now, we were used to seeing beggars asking for alms in the traditional way. But seeing a beggar using a QR code to ask for alms was a completely new experience for us.
Currently, the beggar is nowhere to be found. According to discussions among locals, this beggar has been seen begging for alms in various cities across the state, ranging from Rajkot to Bharuch. However, recently there have been no sightings of him. It seems that the beggar, who was known to be associated with Sanjaysinh Zala, has not been seen near the Samarakhad Chowkdi area, where he used to beg earlier.
Last year, a beggar named Raju gained attention in the media. If you happen to visit the Bettiah Railway Station in Bihar, you might come across this digital beggar named Raju. He gained prominence in the media in the early part of 2022. His unique style of digitally asking for alms might also catch your attention on television. Raju, the name of this beggar, started his journey as a street beggar and eventually transitioned to begging at the railway station. As times changed and the era of digital payments evolved, Raju adapted his begging style as well. Now, he approaches people with requests for alms using Google Pay or other mobile payment methods.
According to the India Digital Payments Annual Report, online transactions in the Ladakh region of India amounted to a value of 87.92 billion INR in 2022. Various digital payment methods such as UPI, debit and credit cards, and prepaid instruments contributed to this significant volume of transactions. Specifically, UPI witnessed a surge, with transaction volume exceeding 74.05 billion and value exceeding 126 lakh crore INR. This marks a notable increase compared to the previous year, where transactions amounted to 91 billion and value stood at 76 billion INR in 2021. In 2022, the use of digital payments saw substantial growth in ten states and Union Territories, making it the highest in those regions.
A digital wallet, also known as an e-wallet or mobile wallet, is a software application that allows users to securely manage their financial transactions. It serves as a form of electronic payment system within a mobile app provided by a bank or financial institution. With a digital wallet, users can perform various electronic transactions such as online purchases, money transfers, and bill payments without the need for physical cash or credit cards. Personal information is typically secured through methods like passwords or biometric authentication to ensure encrypted and safe storage.
Digital wallets enable users to carry out a range of electronic financial activities, including making online purchases, transferring money, and paying bills, all within a single app. Some digital wallets also offer additional features such as loyalty programs, discounts, and coupons to enhance user experience and provide added value.