Mason Raghubir Yadav’s income has taken a hit, he says. Four years ago, the family would earn ₹15,000 a month. But in 2018, the family, comprising Raghubir, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, together earns just ₹10,000. His son is a daily wage ‘labourer’ and Raghubir himself turns to agriculture in the rainy season, when construction work comes to a standstill.
“The daily wage for a mason in Bihar is just ₹400 and I get 15-20 days of work every month,” he informs. One more indication that even better-off agriculturists are feeling the pinch, he says, is that upper-caste landlords are increasingly doing the farm work themselves, instead of hiring labour. This has hit families like him and the future looks uncertain. This trend of landlords working on their own farm has been picking up over the last two years.
“Nothing has changed for us. We earn daily and spend daily, there are no savings for us. The situation is getting from bad to worse and the fear of getting no work has increased.” He himself would prefer to work in northern and western states, where wages are higher and work easier to get. But ill-health of his wife has put paid to his plan to migrate.
“I have applied for Indira Awas Yojana twice; my name has also appeared on the list once, but I never received the amount. We also applied for subsidies to build a toilet but never received it. This, despite the fact that the ward commissioner was from our caste; we even gave him some money but still failed to get the subsidy. Whatever we have built on our 2.5 katha of land is with our earning,” he adds bitterly.
The family has got a gas connection under Ujjwala Yojana, but is unable to buy the refill. “There is no money to buy a gas cylinder,” he explains. “It is impossible for us to buy a cylinder every month; we therefore use wood to prepare food,” he laments.
“Jab Notebandi hui toh logo ne bataya, ki har garib ke khate me 2 lakh bhejenge Modi ji par aaya thenga, (When demonetisation was announced, we were told that Modi Ji would be depositing ₹2 lakh each in our bank accounts, but nothing has come so far).”
As per official rules, both Raghubir and his son are eligible for separate PDS cards, but his son has been refused the facility.
Discrimination, low level corruption and inefficiency of the government extend to even government schools. While two of his three grandchildren attend government schools, “they are not officially enrolled; the Headmaster has asked me to keep sending them to school and assured that he would enrol them next year. But despite not being enrolled, they do get their midday meals and Raghubir is grateful for these small mercies.
Worried over soaring medical costs, (his wife requires medicine worth ₹1,200 every month which he has to buy from the market), he has still hired a tutor to teach his grandchildren and pays him ₹700 every month.
“There are no jobs; there is no end to expenses. Very often, officials visit us to take feedback, ask questions, fill up forms and return. But I do not know what good this does to us,” he says, in despair. “God alone is the saviour,” he adds resignedly.