22, Feb 2021 | Mamta Pared
Kakdi Kakdya Potinda’s wrapped up body lay on a small cleared patch of red earth, as shocked mourners sat around, perhaps waiting for the last rites to be held. One wonders if the death of the 50-year-old Adivasi woman would ever make the news.
She was not famous. She was just another worker eking out a meagre living under the government’s Employment Guarantee Scheme. No one comes to cover news if a common citizen suddenly drops dead, do they? However, Potinda’s death should not go unnoticed. Her story reflects the life, and deaths of thousands like her.
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She worked in the Kayari village of Jawhar taluka in Palghar district. And according to those who were in the area, it was while she was working in the fields that Potinda suddenly collapsed and died at around 12 noon on January 14, 2021. The rest of the village did not notice immediately as they were busy with Makar Sankranti celebrations.
Soon a junior engineer from the Public Works Department (PWD) visited with two policemen, but even they had to wait for the senior officer before taking any action. It was night, by the time the police took Potinda’s body to Jawhar Hospital. They don’t know the reason behind her sudden death. A widow, Potinda has two sons and two daughters. She was staying with her elder son.
No one knows how or why she died suddenly. They do not know if she was suffering from a chronic ailment that could have led to her demise, but everyone knows what a tough life she had led till then.
Potinda hailed from the Kayari village which is located on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. It is about 30 kms away from Jawhar, the nearest big town as it were. From her own village, it took Potinda about 45 minutes to walk down the hill and reach her workplace. So, she did that, till the day she died.
Her family was supposed to get a compensation worth Rupees 50 thousand, however it was denied because none of them had an Aadhaar card. Work was stopped for four days after Potinda’s death. Ironically, when work restarted, another woman suffered a heart attack, but survived. Now many workers are scared to go for work.
There is a provision in the Employment Guarantee Scheme for the workers who have worked for more than 90 days, to become members of the building construction boards. However so far, no special efforts have been made by the Building Construction Board to encourage membership.
If the building construction board itself registers these workers as members, then those working under Employment Guarantee Scheme, can avail compensation schemes. The building construction board has a provision to pay Rs. 5,00,000 as compensation to the family of a worker who dies while on the job. So, if the board had taken the initiative and registered the workers then it would benefit those working under employment guarantee scheme. It is not known if Potinda was registered.
Meet Mamta Pared
Mamta Pared is a young Adivasi woman hailing from the Warli community. She lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Her mother is unlettered, while her father was educated up to the fourth standard. After they got married, her parents started working together at a brick kiln. Every year, ther family used to migrate for employment and lived near brick kilns six months out of twelve months. There are five siblings, the youngest was born when Mamta was five years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, she was responsible for caring for her siblings, and also helped with household chores. She had to skip school frequently and stay home to take care of her brother. But she studied hard, passed scholarship exams, stayed in a government hostel, even borrowed money to pay college fees. Mamta eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media. She wants to be a journalist, and later become a professor in a college. She is am working on earning a Master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Abasaheb Garware College in Pune.