Monica Singh is around 40 years old, she says but she is not very sure. “Something like that,” she says, shyly while arranging the dishes in an apartment in Delhi’s suburb of Noida. Monica lives with her husband Jit Singh and son Avinash in a two-room rented accommodation in Bhangel village of Noida. She works as a househelp which fetches her ₹12,000 every month. Her husband, who oversees maintenance work at a gated complex of apartments, makes ₹8,000.
“We pay a rent of ₹5,500, inclusive of electricity and water. Then another ₹5,500 goes behind my son’s commute and pocket money. The metro is not cheap,” she says. Avinash studies English Honours at a Delhi University college. “Then, there is his yearly ₹13,000 tuition fee. And I bought my last LPG cylinder for ₹950. I got back ₹240 as subsidy. Everything has become so expensive.”
She continues, “I will tell you how 2018 has been for us. Last year, a kg of atta (wheat flour) was selling for ₹22. This year, it is already ₹30. The price of sugar has gone up from ₹30 to ₹40 a kg. Cooking oil has seen a huge jump from ₹70 a litre to ₹100. And what do I say about clothes? Two years back, I bought three sets of shirts and trousers for my husband for ₹2000. I went to buy a pair of trousers two weeks back and it set me back by ₹750. My husband had a bike accident about six months back and that again set us back by several thousands. 2018 has not been achche din for me and my family.”
“How can I go to a movie? I hardly have any money left after saving ₹900 every month. That I always do. Come what may. It is for my son’s future. Cable TV is my only source of entertainment. We eat meat once a week and it is always pork. Mutton is way too expensive to afford every week,” she adds.
“You know we had filled up a form after paying ₹100 for housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). It was three years back. They said ‘we will call you’. The call is yet to come,” she complains.
“Honestly, I want nothing out of 2019,” she says, looking despondent. Then she raises her face. “There is just one wish. I took a loan of ₹30,000 from my employers and bought a 12 square yard piece of land. We will build a jhuggi (shack) there. I just hope the government does not take it away,” Monica says before walking back into the kitchen and getting on with her work.