KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Dancing and singing eunuchs are knocking on doors in the Indian city of Patna in a bid to embarrass shopkeepers into paying their taxes.
The new shock strategy, in which sari-clad and heavily made up eunuchs accompany officials on their rounds of crowded shopping areas in a country notorious for tax evasion and non-payment, has been declared a success.
“Some paid in cash, while others quickly wrote checks. The shock therapy, which we plan to use sparingly, was a grand success,” Atul Prasad, a top official in impoverished Bihar state, of which Patna is the capital, told Reuters Friday.
The novel tax-collection technique kicked off Wednesday, with boisterous eunuchs loudly demanding that mortified shopkeepers pay up -- to the bemusement of scores of onlookers.
Taxmen pocketed 425,000 rupees ($9,570) from defaulters in a few hours.
“People may be afraid of them, but they are very much part of society and are useful,” Prasad said, adding that authorities would pay the eunuchs a four percent commission on the total tax collected.
Eunuchs are still common in India, where they live in closed-knit communities. Some are castrated men but others are transsexuals and hermaphrodites who have been ostracized by their families.
Also known as hijras, they are widely feared and move around towns and cities in groups and demand money on occasions such as marriage or the birth of a child. They are believed to have occult powers.
Those unwilling to pay sometimes face lewd dances, lifted saris, and abuse.
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