Kandhamal’s vendor women battle cold, penury

By Rajesh Bagh

G. Udayagiri, Dec. 31, 2018: As cold wave sweeps across the Kandhamal district of Odisha state in eastern India reels many remain indoors, except women vendors.

They have to brave the 6 degree Celsius to sell vegetables in the street — 25 rupees a kilo of beans and 10 rupees for five white radishes.

“We struggle day and night for the education of our children. We do not want our children to be ignorant and illiterate like us. We want them get good education and settle in life,” said Subanti Pradhan, 45, a tribal woman from Bakingia village.

Subanti and other women regularly come to G. Udayagiri town, 17 km away from their village, at 6: 30 am and leave around 8.30 pm spending the whole day in the open.

The women get up at 3 am to catch the first bus to the town at 6 am. But before that they have to wash clothes and utensils, clean the house, and pour water mixed with water in front of the house. Some with small plot, work in the farm. They finish all works by 5:30 am and take bath before heading for the bus stand.

”It is too cold but what to do. We lead a hand to mouth existence,” Subanti told Matters India. Since they get little time to cook at home, they eat lunch from restaurants in the town. Some times their family sends them food.

Subanti says they earn hardly 100 or 150 rupees a day. “On some days, we get a little more. It is like peta pain nata (working for the belly),” she added.

Another tribal woman Purnima Pradhan, 44, is worried about her big family. “Due to ignorance and illiteracy, I have six sons and a daughter. For a big family like us educating all children is challenging and difficult, she says.

Purnima, whose family owns a small plot of land, says natural calamities have added to their woes.

Recently, two successive typhoons damaged her farm. “Till date we have not received any help from government,” she bemoaned.

Another worry for Purnima is the low market price of vegetables.

“We do not get money for our labor. Being a farmer, we do not have any other option. Land is our life,” Purnima added.

Her companion Ana Digal says her landless family survives entirely by selling vegetables.

“Some days, we just sit idle the whole day as no one comes to buy from us. If customers come, we get our livelihood, otherwise not,” the 46-year-old Dalit woman told Matters India, pulling her shawl close to ward off cold breeze.

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