Translated from Kokborok by Bibhuti Debbarma
COVID-19 has gripped the entire world and a lot of people have been affected. India currently has 1.48 Million cases, with many states slowly opening up after strict lockdowns imposed to slow down the transmission. In Tripura, we have had 3900 confirmed cases and the lockdown has severely affected the poor, especially the tribals. They have lost their livelihood and are struggling to find employment.
In this situation, a couple of my friends and I came together to distribute some relief material to 9 tribal families living in the village of Chandi Thakur Para of Tripura. We distributed potatoes, chillies, dal, oil, soya bean, salt, eggs, dry fish and soap bars. This village is quite far from any nearby shops, and reaching these shops is quite difficult for the residents here.
Relief material that was distributed included soap, eggs, dried fish, salt, etc.
The families that we distributed ration to are severely affected by the lockdown, especially older people whose children don’t live with them.
Drupati Debbarma, aged 51, tells me, “I have just come back from work. I work in other people’s homes to support my family; right now there is no other alternative. Our children also don’t come forward to help us. My daughter is married and lives away from my husband and me. My son also lives with his wife and in-laws. I honestly don’t know how long I can sustain my family like this.”
Bimal Debbarma, on the other hand, lives alone. “My wife passed away 10 years ago. My two sons live with their wives and children in separate houses. It’s tough being alone, I do everything myself, I cook for myself. Sometimes I can’t sleep due to anxiety. I keep thinking about how much better it would’ve been had my children been with me.”
Madhumala Debbarma lives alone in this tribal village in Tripura.
Madhumala Debbarma also lives alone. “Sometimes I can eat, sometimes not. Right now I have a little rice left with me. My only son, not having found any work here, left to look for work in Hyderabad. Now he is stranded. I have had no news from him recently; whether he lost his job or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a telephone so I can’t contact him. Sometimes I used to use someone else’s phone to contact him.”
Those who have children at home are worried about how they will be able to feed them.
Ajit and Nandita Debbarma
“Due to the virus and the lockdown, we are facing a lot of difficulties. We have four people in our family and there is no work to be found. Now, due to a problem in my leg, I have to sit at home and I can see no way out as to how I could support my family. How am I supposed to raise 2 children?”, says Ajit Debbarma.
“I live with my daughter, my wife is no more. One of my daughters is mentally ill and the other is married and doesn’t live here. I take care of my daughter here and do everything here and it is tough to manage everything.”, says Kalindra Debbarma, who’s 76 years old.
Daily wage workers have been severely affected, too. With no income from that work, people are looking for alternatives to get some money into the house.
“I work as a cattle-guard at the cattle market and earn around ₹ 200-300 per day. With this money, I can buy vegetables and other essentials. Right now with the spread of this virus, I don’t have any work. I am honestly not even aware what kind of a virus this is. Because I can’t work, it’s only if my wife works in other people’s homes that she can bring rice for us and we can eat.”, says Naresh Debbarma, who’s 64.
These are only a few stories. There are many tribal families in Tripura that are living in hardship due to the virus and the ensuing situation. Our relief distribution was a small effort to ease some of their pain. If you know of any people in need of ration and essentials near you, do help them out, it’s the least we can do to help them survive these difficult times.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.
This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz