This couple has a rags to riches story to share, thanks to O&M training conducted in Purnea
Caste and class distinctions are fraught with deep-rooted biases and prejudices in the Indian hinterland . A case in point is that of Manoj and his wife Neelam In Purnea. The couple was shunned by society for belonging to the sanitation community and they were both scorned and looked down upon in Purnea district of Bihar. The heroic story of Manoj is worth recounting. His family lived in a small room in Harda Basti, and he somehow managed to study till class 8 when all of a sudden his father expired. Manoj has an elder brother who had separated from his family and preferred to shift base and went on to live with his in-laws. No one came to help him even from the sister’s house and our male dominated society does not accept help from daughters. This saga of struggle continued despite the fact that his father worked in a government job in a nationalized bank. Manoj did not get a job in his father’s place, a provision that has been put in place by the government. This is because he was underage and hence not eligible. Distraught and desperate he found work as a cleaner in a local hotel in Bhat Bazar for a measly Rs 1000 a month. Half his salary was spent in travelling from his village to the city of Purnea.
As luck would have it, one fine morning the FINISH Society team visited Kasba Block and wanted to create a list of members who could be scientifically trained for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) work for toilet cleaning. The team briefed the youngsters about the benefits of formal training and the kind of salary it would fetch them, but most of the Dalit work force refused to get their names registered for the O & M training. Surprised at this refusal, when the FINISH team probed deeper, they came to know that during the Covid 19 lockdown a private company from Patna approached them, took some money from each one of them and gave them a cleaning job in Patna. After toiling hard for 6 months, these toilet cleaners were sacked and they were neither paid a single paisa for the period they worked nor did they get back the money they deposited to the company. They were not willing to burn their fingers yet again with the offer made by FINISH Society.
When the prospective employees were told about FINISH’s transparent way of working and were assured they would not have to shell out a single paisa, Manoj agreed to join when he was assured that a formal training certificate would be given to him. Manoj also enrolled his wife Neelam’s for the O&M training. The couple was going through a tough time since they had 2 children besides his mother and making both ends meet had become a well-nigh impossible task. They were also told that after training they would be provided with cleaning equipment and other sanitation material. Making bamboo baskets to keep the home fires burning proved to be of little help.
The training took place in two parts ,one in December 2022 and the other in January 2023. Manoj ,his wife and others participated in the training very enthusiastically. During the training sessions Manoj was in the forefront to answer every question and ask whatever he didn’t understand. After the training, everyone was happy to receive some cleaning equipment and training certificates from FINISH Society.
Later, on showing the training certificates Neelam got a job in a local hospital, and started getting a salary of Rs 5200 per month.
Manoj, in the meantime got a job in a hospital in the Line market, and started drawing a salary of Rs 6000 per month. The training certificate came as a boon and he got hired in the middle school in Harda and started getting Rs 1000 as monthly wage.
What further boosted their income was the fact that the hospital would pay separately for running the sanitization machine at the rate of Rs 75 per room due to which his income had catapulted to Rs17,000 per month .
Today, he sends his two children to study in a CBSE run private school. He has also bought an e-rickshaw on loan and works in the hospital from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. After this he plies his e-rickshaw from 2 p.m to 9 p.m and earns another Rs 10000. They say that money is a great leveler. Today, Manoj and his family get a lot of respect in society and he says, “no work is small, if it helps you move forward in life.” His wife Neelam comes back from work and looks after her two children. She says earlier “nobody would even speak to us and would consider us and the children as untouchables but today our lives have transformed beyond recognition.