“Back home, at least we did not have to buy all food supplies, including vegetables,” rued Rachappa. The daily wage construction labourer, who has been living in a temporary tin shed in Malleshpalya in the city for the past year, spends most, if not all that he and his family earns, on food.
“We don’t travel anywhere. There is always this thought at the back of our minds that we need Rs. 500 for each of us when we have to go home,” said the native of Raichur, referring to the expensive Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus fare.
When every rupee matters, each kilogram of rice and vegetable is eating into his monthly budget. “We have four acres of agricultural land in Raichur. But the two years of drought forced us to migrate to other cities in search of work. Back then, we would grow our own maize and other cereals. Over here, we have to buy it all,” he said, dejected.
The life in the city is weighing heavily on his earnings. With earnings as low as Rs. 200 for a day’s work for him, and Rs. 160 for his wife, every visit to the market equals the loss of a day’s worth of pay. “In Raichur, we could get enough supplies for Rs. 200, and this would last a whole week. Here, Rs. 1,000 worth of supplies will last us a week.”
The family, consisting of his wife and two sons — one of whom chose to drop out of school to join his parents in the construction work — requires 12 kg of rice and 10 kg of jola hittu (jowar flour), which is their staple food.
“Now that my sons also work with us (they are aged 22 and 18), we can afford the food, as we don’t have to pay any rent for this house. The owner of the building we are constructing let us live here for free,” he said.
‘Savings’ is an alien concept for him, but food is something he cannot compromise on. “Wherever the money has to go will go; but we cannot stop feeding ourselves,” said the 50-year-old, vehemently.