This story was originally reported and written in Hindi. PARI Education works with students, research scholars and educators across India who report, write and illustrate for us in a language of their choice.
In July this year, we finally received my husband, Ram Singh’s first disability pension of Rs. 750. This social security pension is given by the state for specially-abled males below the age of 58 and females below 55. We didn’t know that there is such a pension given by the Rajasthan government.
My husband must travel to Ajeetgarh to collect it – three kilometres from our home. Each time someone, usually me, has to go with him and we take a shared rickshaw there and back. Around two hundred rupees of the seven hundred he receives is spent on travel to collect it. It would save us money if we could receive it at home.
My name is Kala Devi (also spelt Kaile in some documents) and I live in Amner village in Kaladeh panchayat with my husband and our four young children: Seema, 16, Lalita, 15, Koshal, 9 and Kusum who is 6.
We used to live in Kota where my husband worked in a sweet shop as a halwai, earning around 6,000 rupees a month. In 2019 he had a sudden paralytic attack and has not recovered use of the right side of his body since then. To pay for his treatment my father lent us 40,000 rupees and over the next few years we also had to take a loan of one and half lakh for household and other expenses. Our eldest daughter, Sheema, needs medicines for her anaemia and breathing problems.
Left: Kala Devi standing in the area in front of their house. Right: The couple’s four children- Seema, Lalita, Koshal, Kusum (from left to right)
After my husband went down with paralysis, we were unable to manage in Kota on our own. So we returned to our village here in Rajsamand district in the hope of finding work to pay off our dues. But it was difficult for us to find work in the village so we returned to Kota again where I found a job in a children’s hostel. I was paid a monthly income of 5,000 rupees but it was not enough to meet our expenses.
We thought if we came back home we could at least live in our own home and save rent. However, when we returned for the second time, we found out that our kaccha house had been demolished and our relatives had built a house for themselves on that land. They gave us land in lieu of that but it is lying vacant as our name is not on the village list so we are not eligible for any state funds to build a house.
We now live in this room that people in the village found for us. We pay a monthly rent of 500 rupees. There is no electricity connection in this house, so I have to charge our phone at other people’s houses.
I have been working under the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) for the last few years. I get around 125 days of work in a year and a daily wage of 231 rupees every day. What I earn from this is not sufficient to meet our expenses, I lack the energy to take up any other work. But I am still searching for other jobs.
Seeing our struggle, people from the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) told us about the pension scheme and helped us access it. The village patwari (headman) helped us arrange the documents for Rajsamand district where we now live. It was difficult as all my husband’s documents show him living in Kota where he was working.
The children’s education was also paused as their documents were still in Kota and without the documents the school did not allow us to admit them; I didn’t have the money to go to Kota to get our documents back. Sheema, who was in Class 8, would teach her younger brother and sister at home; she said she wants to become a teacher. She is engaged to be married soon.
But in November 2022, with help we got our Aadhaar cards and other necessary documents and registered our four children under a state scheme for children of parents with a disability: they will each receive Rs. 1,000 a month.
All that is left is for us to build our home so that we can stay without the burden of monthly rent.
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Haji Mohammed took part in a two-day PARI reporting workshop at the School for Democracy (SFD) in Bhim, Rajasthan. SFD was founded by members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and others.
He says: When I used to see poor people I would feel bad but felt there was nothing I could do about it. When I attended the PARI workshop I realised that I can write about these issues with this training. The experience of writing has been good and I want to write more and more.”