“Hijras” as tax-collectors

One cash-strapped Indian city has launched a unique collection service to dislodge payment from tax deadbeats: Door-to-door eunuchs.

Eunuchs, or men who lack external genitalia, are regarded as powerless in India and traditionally make a living on tips for dancing at weddings or blessing newborns.

But they are also known for extreme stubbornness and Patna, the capital of Bihar state in eastern India, hired scores of them Wednesday to compel shop owners to pay their tax arrears.

“We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy for the municipal authorities to collect taxes from defaulters,” said Bharat Sharma, a revenue officer.

Only 2,000 of nearly half a million people have been paying property tax and water supply charges to Patna’s municipal authorities, and tax collection is less than one-third of a projected tax base of $15 million, said Atul Prasad, the municipal administrator.

Dancing and singing to the beat of drums and wearing bright saris, the eunuchs met with success in their new role Wednesday. They collected about $9,000 in cash and checks from shop owners in the city, Sharma told The Associated Press.

Revenue officials accompany the eunuchs with records to settle the outstanding dues on the spot. The eunuchs get 4 percent of what they collect from defaulters.

The eunuchs would be asked to help collect outstanding taxes from private homes soon, Prasad said.

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