BEGUSARAI: Bihar’s famous snack litti-chokha will soon find place on the plate of US President Barack Obama.
A day after his meeting with US ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer in Patna, Irfan Alam, who has been invited to the Entrepreneurship Summit called by Obama, told TOI that he would carry a tin of freshly-baked litti with dry chokha, besides a model of his rickshaw, to hand over to the President at the White House this April.
Irfan, chairman of the SammaaN Foundation that works for the upliftment of rickshaw-pullers and their families, said: “I have already conveyed my decision to the US envoy when he asked me what I would like to present the US President during my US visit. I’d like to carry a large tin of littis so that others may also get the taste of this Bihari delicacy,” he added.
The enterprise of Irfan, an IIM-A graduate, is not hardcore business. “There are around 10 million rickshaw-pullers in the country. Most of them are illiterate and poor. Over 90% of them are farm workers who migrate to cities for want of employment at home. They hire rickshaws for which they pay owners Rs 30 to Rs 40 per day and end up with a pittance for themselves,” he said.
Irfan, who in in his early thirties, got banks to finance rickshaw-pullers. “We designed rickshaws, which can shelve newspapers, mineral water bottles and other such small items for sale if the passenger needs them,” he said. These rickshaws also carry ads and the pullers get 50% of the ad revenue, the remainder going to SammaaN. Apart from the fare, the rickshaw-puller earns from the ads and the sales and up as owners of the rickshaw after repaying the bank loan in installments.
Irfan, who has gifted a model of his rickshaw to Roemer, started off with 100 such cycles in 2007. Today, over three lakh rickshaw-pullers from across the country are registered with SammaaN. While 10,000-odd are pedalling the special rickshaws, the process is underway to benefit others. The organization also provides books to rickshaw-pullers’ children and imparts training in occupational skills to their wives.
“Ambanis and Birlas have visited Bihar, but it is Bihari entrepreneurs on whom Bihar has to bank upon for enterprise in the state,” Irfan said.