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Decade Decoder

Tailor Geeta Devi is the owner of a three-room house and a small shop attached to the building. Her husband is a daily wage labourer in an iron factory. The couple have seven children. From a hand-to-mouth existence in 2004, she contributes to the family income now and can afford non-vegetarian food once a month

Name: Geeta Devi, 30

Place: Islampur, Nalanda, around 80km southeast of Patna
Profession: Tailor
Education: Class VII dropout
Family: Husband (38), in-laws and seven children ó four sons and three daughters aged between 21 and 10 years

Do you earn more or less compared to 2004?

Till 2002, we had a hand-to-mouth existence. We were dependent on my husbandís income, which was not more than Rs 1,200. It was getting difficult for us to run such a big family. I opened my small business of stitching clothes in 2002, but had to struggle for at least four years to get it off the ground. Now, I earn Rs 3,000 every month from my shop to add to my husbandís income of Rs 6,000

Do you save more or less compared to 2004?

I save pretty much the same. If you consider the rate of inflation and the amount of saving, the percentage of savings is almost the same. Moreover, you canít save a lot if you have to raise seven children

What things does your house have now that it did not have in 2004?

A television. We bought it last year

How did you travel then and how do you travel now?

We bought two bicycles in 2012 and 2013

Where do you buy grocery from?

The local shops

Do you shop all year round or only during festivals?

No, we shop only before the festivals. Since we cannot afford new clothes for all seven children, I have made a chart for them. According to the chart, one of them can shop for one festival at a time. My husband and I rarely shop

Has MGNREGA made a difference in your life?

No

Do your children go to school? In your family, did children go to school earlier? Has there been any change in the standards and the infrastructure?

My eldest son is studying in a government college. The rest go to a government school. There are teachers in the schools and the standard of education has definitely improved

Has the mid-day meal scheme made any difference?

Yes. At least the children get their meal on the campus. Although the quality of food is quite poor, the scheme has definitely increased the number of students

Is there any difference between the food you can afford now and what you could 10 years ago?

Yes. Previously we had roti and onion once a day. During, festivals we used to eat vegetables. Now, we eat green vegetables and non-vegetarian food once a month

Have you got your Aadhaar card?

Yes, I have got an Aadhaar card, but we donít get any advantages off it. We donít get LPG cylinders or grocery items on time. Even if we complain to the officials concerned, they turn a deaf ear. The government has come up with many policies but they are not implemented on the ground level

Do you encounter more or less corruption now?

I have never encountered corruption in my life

Do you have a cellphone?

I have two cellphones. The first one I bought in 2007, and the second one in 2013

Do you run out of money to buy food towards the end of the month? What do you do then?

We have to restrict the variety of vegetables we buy and stick to the cheapest seasonal vegetables. The festival months are the worst. Added to a heavy expenditure over the festivals, it becomes difficult to save money in the last two weeks. After the festivals are over, we stick to roti and boiled potatoes

Do you have more or less pairs of clothes compared to 2004?

More. Sometimes, we buy clothes and sometimes we get new ones when we attend any family wedding

What is your biggest regret in the past 10 years?

We had to sell off our fields and ancestral house to fight off financial crises and feed our children

What is your biggest achievement in the past 10 years?

My shop is my biggest achievement, which has allowed me to build a concrete house

Are you happier or sadder now?

I am happy because now I am independent and self-sufficient. I am able to give my children all that they want. Earlier, I could not even buy them toys worth Rs 5

Decade Decoder is an occasional election feature that seeks to bring out through a question-and-answer session whether lives have changed for the better or the worse in the past 10 years


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