Oli Nag struggles to meet end for survival

Kolika, 11, bites her lips whenever she sees other children eating. She comes home and demands food from her Grandmother Oli Nag, but arranging two square meals a day is a distant dream for the family. Kolika in her growing stage needs nutrition like any other child of her age but she is deprived of this luxury because her grandmother cannot manage what she wants.

She was only 2 months old when her mother Krishna Das (first daughter of Oli Nag) expired, and from then her grandmother and her visually impaired aunt Kalpana looked after her. Kolika’s father does not stay with her. According to villagers Kolika’s father is mentally challenged and doesn’t really care about his only daughter. He sends a meagre amount to the family but that too on rare occasions. Kolika helps her aunt to fetch drinking water from the nearest source and guides her to return home.

Oli Nag at an age of 75 is a skinny and frail woman with a responsibility of feeding her visually impaired daughter Kalpana and granddaughter Kolika. She does the cleaning of utensils and floor at different houses and sort potatoes and onions for the village shopkeepers for a handful of rice, dal or just a cash of Rs. 10 or 20 and this is the only source of income for the family. She only gets 10-20 days of work and rest of the month they survive on people’s mercy or go to bed with an empty stomach.

Indira Awaas is the only thing that I could manage somehow against the name of my daughter said Oli when asked why is she not able to benefit from the government schemes. She further adds that to avail government scheme I need to go to the office, get photocopies of my documents and provide photographs, which require money which I do not have.

Sometimes seeing their deplorable condition, villagers come to their rescue by giving away grains and vegetables, but the population of the village is itself poor and their help though counted, is not enough for the family. Even the local Lower Primary school where Kolika studies provide them rice or peas from their ration but that too is very irregular. They are surviving on the mercy of the people of Baithakhal Basti.

Recent floods in Baithakhal Basti under Karimganj district in Assam amplified their miseries when water started entering their house and rendered them homeless. The rising water level made Oli Nag anxious about the safety of her blind daughter and Kolika. They evacuated their house and begged villagers for refuge. One good Samaritan from the village gave them the much-needed shelter.

After 12 days when they returned, everything except the ceiling was full of mud and slush. Flood water has taken Utensils, clothes, bed and even the books with itself. While being asked how they are going to live in that devastated house, Oli replied with laughter and said we have to manage as we can’t be choosers. This laughter in adversary, distress and helplessness was enough to shake the emotions of the people visiting her. Somehow, Oli managed to borrow Rs. 70 from the villagers to buy kerosene for lighting the lamp in the dark house.

The darkness of the house is gone but the darkness of their future still haunts them. Their survival is a challenge because they do not have any food nor any source of livelihood.  The family is exposed to multi-layered vulnerability now. They are landless too in terms of agriculture. The need for food, nutrition, security, health, hygiene, protection and livelihood is prominent for the sustenance of this family.