Life on the poverty line at Rs 15,000 a month!

Earning four times the limit of Rs 33.33 a day, and still struggling

Life on the poverty line at  Rs 15,000 a month!

It’s official. Spending more than Rs 33.33 a day in urban areas and Rs 27.20 in rural, the average Indian has finally broken out of the poverty trap. An escape so dramatic that the Centre on Tuesday had claimed that only 22 per cent of the population live Below the Poverty Line (BPL).

Now, here is a living example of a four-member nuclear family in Bangalore, for whom even a household monthly income of Rs 15,000 is a precarious perch on the BPL line.  

But before a look at the illustrative yet real case of Rajeshwari and family, here’s a simple piece of arithmetic pegged on the Planning Commission’s limit of Rs 33.33 a day for the urban poor: A family of four should exist on Rs 132 a day, or Rs 3,960 a month.

Based in JP Nagar, Rajeshwari’s family of four gets almost four times that amount. By the Planning Commision’s calculation, she ought to be ultra rich. But reality stings hard.

“My family and I won’t make anywhere close to that mark if I didn’t work as a domestic maid in two flats, and earn something extra doing a part-time job in a Union office. If my husband, a painter, is lucky, he gets a full month’s contract,” she explained to Deccan Herald.

Her salary of Rs 7,000 and her husband’s Rs 8,000 (irregular if a painting contract doesn’t materialise) is barely adequate to cover the house rent, school fees of her two young daughters, monthly ration, medical expenses and utility bills.

Against all odds, Rajeshwari had enrolled her two daughters in a private English-medium school. She had a reason, strong enough to take loans and salary advance from her employers to fund her children’s education.

“My parents could not afford an English medium education for me. Neither can my husband find a better-paying job that requires a working knowledge of English. I didn’t want my children to suffer the same fate,” she contended.   

Unfazed by the annual fees of Rs 40,000 and Rs 30,000 for her daughters, she had taken the advance, agreeing to forgo part of her monthly pay.

“I end up getting hardly anything every month. It gets really tough, I have to somehow manage.”

Parental help was out of question as they had disowned her after she married a Christian. Keen to keep her children healthy, vaccinated and safe, she would take them to a private hospital, even if that meant digging deeper into her virtually non-existent purse.

But if Rajeshwari’s aspirations and ability to fight have kept her confidence high, the vast majority of the City’s slum dwellers are not so lucky. Trapped in an unending cycle of debts, they are at the mercy of their employers and the system. For the likes of domestic maids, Muniyamma and Triveni of Gubbala slum, household incomes of about
Rs 8,000 are a cruel test of endurance.

Earning a few rupees more than Rs 33.33 a day, they had no living memory of a rupee saved. Neither will their hard-pressed children, even in the distant future.    

Comments (+)