Sustained with Dignity
Amritsar, Punjab: Baljinder and her husband worked for a landlord in Dhanua village, Attari, Punjab. She toiled as domestic worker while her husband worked in the field; they were employed by the landlord to repay the loan taken at a dire situation. Their need to feed five members of their family forced them to work with no proper wages, safety and dignity. Due to lack of education, livelihood opportunities or any asset, Baljinder suffered in silence to meet their needs, but believed that things would change for better some day. But to her horror, when the landlord asked about bringing their eldest son to work to repay the debts, she decided that her children should not have the same fate.
DBSS Amritsar had been working in different parts of Punjab on Livelihood, Social Security Schemes, Domestic Violence and Caste Based Atrocities. Self Help Groups, Youth groups, Community Based Organizations and People’s Organizations were formed in the community to address these issues by creating awareness, empowering them and building their capacity on different aspects. Due to extreme poverty; lack of livelihood opportunities, resources & skills, lack of alternative small-scale loans; natural calamities like drought & floods, and constant rising prices the community members tend to depend upon powerful and rich people in the community. These powerful and rich people like land lords and business men employ these individuals without proper wages for an undefined duration in the pretext of repaying the debt. CNI SBSS had been working with the DBSS on creating an opportunity amongst the target communities on employment and provide trainings on income generation. It has been observed that job security in the traditional sense seems to be decreasing. Therefore, we have taken up sustainable livelihood program along with entrepreneurship development for poverty reduction; create an empowerment process of people’s participation in development, gender empowerment through raising income of women, and good governance.
When Baljinder learned about the interventions of DBSS Amritsar through few Self Help group members in her community, she was eager to join. Her group members had similar past as that of her, some of them were working without any wages to repay loan, some of them still had their family members working to repay loans or other favours, and they have been all familiar with such plights. Baljinder took training on different alternate livelihood options and is processing and cutting date palm fruit which is used in local confectionaries. She later took a loan from the SHG and bought an auto-rickshaw, through which they are able to earn a monthly income of Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 20, 000/-. They have now repaid the loan and no longer work for the landlord. Their elder son has now completed his 12th grade and two younger daughters are continuing their education. Their life did not change overnight, but she is content today like other entrepreneurs in the community who have started their own business such as grocery shops, cattle farming, poultry, organic farming etc. Self employed Komal shares “I am thankful to God for this opportunity provided to me, I am at peace now”. The SHGs, youth groups, Mahila Adhikar Manch, cooperatives and other community based organizations formed in the communities are platforms used to mobilize, capacitate and empower the community members on different social issues. With decrease in the community member’s dependence for loans and favours on influential, rich and powerful people, they have begun leading a life with dignity.