Sarajmuni Soren, 31, is a resident of Majhali village (Angrabhasa-II Gram Panchayat), Nagrakata block, in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Her husband, Sushil, is a daily wage worker, and they have three children: Two daughters (seven years and four years) and a one-and-a-half-year-old son.
The five-member family’s life has never been easy; they have no agricultural land, proper housing, and a ration card to access the State-run public distribution system (PDS). Sushil, who works as a river stone excavator for three to four days in a week, earns between Rs 200-Rs 300 per day. On good days, he manages to earn a little extra for the family by selling fish in the local market. Sarajmuni is a housewife.
Despite Sushil’s insufficient income, the family was somehow managing to make their ends meet. But now their life has come to a complete halt, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the nationwide lockdown that began on March 24. The last time Sushil got work was March 20.
With no income and little savings to fall back on, Sarajmuni and Sushil are finding it difficult to fulfil even the basic needs of the family. Thankfully, her elder two children are getting midday meals from their school, and the younger one eats at the local anganwadi.
Since the family doesn’t have a ration card (they have now applied for one), they never got food grains from the PDS. However, on April 23, Sarajmuni received a government coupon (meant for non-ration cardholders) to collect rice and wheat for a month, as part of a programme rolled out to help poor people tide over the pandemic-triggered crisis.
There is another lifeline that is helping the Soren to tackle the crisis: BRLF and its local partner, Prasari, has given Sarajmuni a ration kit that takes care of the Soren’s food security and sanitation needs. The kit, which has items to last for 10 days, includes rice (10 kg), potato (4 kg), musoor dal (1 kg), soybeans (500 gm), mustard oil (1 litre), salt (1 kg), spices (five packets), and soap bars (five pieces). The efforts of the NGOs have also been supported by the block development officer and his colleagues, and police officials.
“The ration kit is a ray of hope for me and my family in this time of unimaginable crisis,” says Sarajmuni. “I am relieved and happy”.