19 October, 2020

The Untouched And The Wretched

Outlook revisits Raigada—still living proof of the poverty of Indian democracy

The Untouched And The Wretched
Dreams die hard. A few years ago, Gopalkrishna Bhuniya, a swarthy 25-year-old matriculate trudged downhill from his Kamalasingi village in the bowels of Raigada to a fair and forked out Rs 30 for a framed poster of Vivekananda, Netaji and Nehru smiling against a pallid green background. Bhuniya, who's landless and jobless and has a wife and two infants to support, struggles to keep his home fires burning by lugging some 50 kg of paddy on his shoulders to the market in Burjango, six kms from home. He earns Rs 25 a day, sometimes even less, for his back-breaking efforts—and work doesn't come his way every day too.

So when he put up the poster, which cost him more than his daily earnings (the Orissa government-fixed minimum wage, by the way, is Rs 30 for an eight-hour work day), in his cramped mud-and-thatch hut, his wife Bhagyabati kicked up a fuss. "I told her," says Bhuniya, "that these great leaders got us our Independence, they fought hard. So we should never stop dreaming, hoping that things will improve some day, I'll get a job and there will be enough to eat and...



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