Buy milk alternate days. If that is not possible, buy three glasses of tea that all six in the family can share – this has been the strategy that K. Selvam and his wife S. Rosy have been adopting in the last few weeks.

“What else can we do if milk is so costly? Even the tea that we buy costs two rupees more now,” says Selvam, a daily wage labourer who works in a tinkering unit in Pulianthope, earning about Rs.200 a day on days he is called for work.

The couple, with four school-going children, live in a small hut, which seems not more than 10x10 feet in area, in Aindu Kudisai colony in Chintadripet. Rosy works as domestic help in Nungambakkam, and earns Rs. 2,000 a month.

“We are able to send my three daughters to an English medium school because someone sponsors their education. Our son goes to a Tamil medium school,” says Selvam.

“The children used to drink milk every day, but now we have little choice but to buy tea on days we don't have money for milk. On several days, when I am not called for work, we don't even cook at home. We buy some idlis nearby and manage,” he adds.

With the frequency of meat and fish also coming down on the family's menu, the children S. Muthulakshmi (14 years), S. Swetha (11), S. Aswini (9) and Abikes (7) seem to have hardly any protein intake. “Both of us take the bus to work. His bus fare has gone up from Rs. 2 to Rs. 4 and mine, from Rs.4 to Rs. 6. This is just one way,” says Rosy.

With milk and transportation costing more, the family is left with virtually nothing half way into the month. “We had saved a bit of gold for my girls. I was forced to pawn it with a moneylenderrecently, for Rs.8,000. Even then it is tough. We can't buy anything remotely healthy for our children as we simply cannot afford it, ” says Selvam matter-of-factly.

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