23, Sep 2021 | CJP Team
During our fact-finding mission in Purvanchal, we came across several instances of unemployed families forced to the brink of starvation. In December 2020, we met Mohammed Shoeb, an elderly gentleman from Revri Talab in Madanpura, who had not eaten a single morsel of food that day.
“Food wasn’t cooked in our kitchen today,” says 65-yesr-old Mohammed Shoeb, sitting in the very shop he had purchased hoping to expand his business before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Now the property is a sunken investment, as the sarees that he used to weave, have no takers anymore.
“I still have unsold stock worth Rs 50,000/-, but now I fear I will have to end up selling them at scrap value,” he says utterly dejected. He hadn’t even been able to open the shop, when the Lockdown was announced and his dreams came crashing.
CJP ran a #CJPagainstHunger effort from March-July 2020 to help people during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Determined to deepen associations with communities like Migrant Workers, Women led Urban Poor Households, and Urban Daily-Wage earners, we launched campaigns like #MigrantDiaries and #LetMigrantsWork. CJP also launched the #CJPfellowships to empower myriad marginalised communities. The Purvanchal Weaving Industry Fact-finding initiative aims to produce a report that will become a powerful analytical and advocacy tool further leading to programmatic grassroot initiatives to battle discrimination and division. Please Donate Now to help CJP reach more such communities across India.
“We had 12 looms,” he recalls his heydays, “but now all are shut. The workers have all taken up other jobs. Some sell vegetables, some are drivers, some work as daily wage labourers.”
While the women of the household don’t work on the looms, they engage in allied activities like ‘nali’ and ‘bana’ that are essential before work begins on the loom. There are 15 people in his family, including six school-going children. They used to go to a private school, but haven’t been able to attend online classes ever since the pandemic struck.
Mohammed Shoeb has an Aadhaar card, a voter ID, a yellow ration card and even a zero-balance Jan Dhan account, but says he did not receive any assistance from the government. “I did not get a single paisa,” he says, adding, “The free wheat we got twice was of such a poor quality that it was inedible… Not even worth the effort of grinding it!”
Shoeb is also neck-deep in debt. “I have borrowed over Rs 2,50,000, including Rs 75,000 from him,” he says pointing to a man standing next to him, who, it appears, had come to collect his debt. “I owe money to Mubarak, the shop owner. I owe money to the vegetable vendor,” he says.
The debt has also impacted his relationships with people. “Earlier people would say ‘salaam’, check in on me to see how I was doing. But now that I’m in debt, no one cares enough to even ask how I’m doing,” he says. The sudden economic misfortune has taken a heavy toll on him as is evident in the manner in which an anxious Shoeb repeatedly asks, “How will I repay them? When will I have money?”