Friday, December 26, 2008

Lodha: the unprivileged community

It isn’t far from the sub-divisional town Jhargram in West-Bengal. It isn’t far from the streets where high-voltage halogen lights kiss the roads every evening. It isn’t far from any amenities of a civilized society. But this distance of few kilometers has taken ages for all those bare minimum necessities to arrive to the community named Lodha.

They are the original son of the soil of this part of West-Bengal and they are present in all available history on the western border of the state. We are independent for more than 63 years now and even then we couldn’t empower them to live a respectable life. Here are some images which will talk about their current lifestyle:

The eldest daughter of the family would be around 8 years old whereas the youngest one would not have seen her first birthday yet. Both the parents work at somebody else’s paddy field work as a daily labor…and that’s their way of earning for living; that also just in this harvesting season. As there’s nobody to take care of the youngest child, the eldest one brings her to school along with a milk feeding bottle for her. Most of us cannot even think of that 8 years old is taking care of 8 months old even at her school! At times it makes me think – is it really a school or a safe place for both the kids to spend the day!

Here’s a lady of Lodha community who has not crossed her teens and has multiple kids. At the temperature of around 8 degree centigrade, she doesn’t have a minimum woolen stuff to cover her youngest kid! With minimum or no education, this community arranges marriage of their daughters when they are just around 14 years old. Very recently a local NGO has put their step forward to make them understand that it’s not the right time for their daughters to get married. But alas, nobody can answer that how the poor father would feed his daughter if she doesn’t get married. Their daughters’ marriage is nothing but getting rid of one person from his list of endless dependents…nothing else!

Here’s a closer look to a house of family belongs to the Lodha community. Made of straw & mud, it doesn’t have a door which can stop the chilling wind at night! The entire house would not be more than 250 square foot which consists of a kitchen & a bedroom! They are apparently happy, get married in this house, give birth to nothing less than 5 kids (the number reduced after lots of meetings with the NGOs), they grow up & again settle down somewhere nearby. This is getting repeated generation after generation in this community and we preferred to be more content with other more important things of life like stock market, growth of GDP and the list goes on…!

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