The lucky few: Tales from rural India
Thankfully, I have some savings. Others are not so lucky. At least, at home, I will get something to eat. I wonder if I will ever be back in the city, says a migrant who returned to Bihar
Vishnu Paswan, a cigarette and paan seller in Noida, earned between ₹ 25,000 and ₹ 30,000 every month before the lockdown began. Today, he is back in his village in Gopalganj, Bihar. Vishnu had got married six months back and had to accompany his pregnant wife back to his village.
“They forgot about us in the city. We were made to shell out money to take the train back. Thankfully, I have some savings. Others are not so lucky. At least, at home, I will get something to eat. I wonder if I will ever be back in the city. We are so expendable,” he says over the phone.
His family has enough land that grows staples and some seasonal vegetables. “We have some surplus to sell too but there are so many migrant labourers now who have no savings that we have given them away
Here, at least, we won’t starve. But we can’t afford much else, we are not buying biscuits,” he says
Shivam Singh Parihar is another migrant who had come from Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi to work as a master mason at the rate of Rs 700 per day. When the lockdown came into force on March 25, Shivam was building a private house in Gurgaon. Not only did the labour contractor not pay him for his work in March, he refused to entertain his calls too.
Today, Shivam is back in his village where they have had a bumper harvest. Even after selling very well, we have enough to sustain the family for at least four months. Even he has been left unnerved by the situation he faced during the lockdown.
“We have enough land. But so many people in our village do not own any, they have no savings. They have no food. How long will they live on others’ charity? See, even the poor do not want to live on charity,” he says.
That is why Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics at London School of Economics, says, “Cash transfers can help in stimulating demand as nearly 90 per cent Indians do not have salaried jobs.”