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Decade decoder
Did life change?

Mukesh Saini

Ten years ago, Mukesh Saini was a shepherd in Rajasthan. Today, he sells flowers to devotees. He has worked hard to get his brothers educated. Saini says he does not need many things in life. His biggest concern now is whether the government can ensure good jobs for his brothers

Name: Mukesh Saini, 30

Education: Class VII

Place: A hamlet in Alampura colony in Sawai Madhopur
in Rajasthan

Family: Wife, homemaker; mother, sells vegetables; elder brother, day labourer; two younger brothers, students; sister, married. Father, a day labourer, died a few years ago

Profession: Sells marigold garlands and rose petals used for worship

How was the family’s financial situation in 2004?

Very bad. My father used to earn Rs 50 to Rs 100 per day. Several days in a row, no earnings, especially in summer when public works dried up because of extreme heat. Mother earned Rs 30 to Rs 50 a day by selling vegetables. Eldest brother wasn’t sent to school and went to work since childhood. I studied till Class VII at the local government school but father could not afford higher education. I started working as a shepherd for Rs 150 a month

Did the family own a house?

Yes, a two-room kutcha hut. There were some utensils and buckets in addition to a few cots. Clothes were usually donated by others. We never bought any clothes or shoes. Didn’t have even a bicycle or radio at home. One fan and two bulbs were there. The thought of eating out never flit through our minds. Never took a train but rode buses for local travel. At times, there was nothing to eat in the house

What about your financial situation now?

My father died and we struggled to survive. But the situation improved slowly. Mother continued to sell vegetables, earning Rs 100 to Rs 150 a day. Eldest brother gets good money when he gets whitewashing contracts. Otherwise, Rs 100 a day. I stopped looking after animals and tried to find a better job. Did sundry work but finally chose to sell flowers. Now I have a fixed income of at least Rs 100 a day. During festivals, I earn even Rs 200 a day

Did you build a new house?

House is pucca now but the same two rooms. We have a colour TV, two fans and two bulbs

Do you have a bank account? Do you save?

I have a bank account. In some months, I manage to save up to Rs 500. It is usually difficult as two brothers are studying. One is doing BSc and the youngest is in Class XI. We all contribute to their studies

Do you have a cellphone?

Yes, I bought a mobile phone. It is needed to contact home and for business too. It is useful as people can tell me in advance if they need more flowers

When did you last watch a film in cinema hall?

Never. We see films at times on TV but there is hardly any time or power, for that matter

Have you eaten out with family?

We don’t like that. We eat at home

Do you have an Aadhaar card?

No

Has MGNREGA (the job scheme) made a difference to your life?

It does help people get jobs. My brother takes it sometimes. I do this only... flowers

Do you shop regularly?

We don’t need many things. But food like rice and dal we have to buy. We rarely buy clothes

Do you skip work? Do you go out on pilgrimage?

Usually, no. If not well, I don’t come. Pilgrimage? We have temples here.

Do you plan to set up a bouquet shop?

No, there is no market for that here. People buy flowers only for temples and worshipping. For marriages, they go to bigger shops

What is the biggest achievement in the past 10 years?

My brothers are undergoing courses in higher education and my sister is married. We hope they get better jobs and help the family grow

What is your biggest regret of the past 10 years?

We couldn’t get jobs. The government could have done much more for the poor

Are you happier or sadder now? Why?

We are happy to have survived and sustained the family. We are better off, our brothers are educated. We ask the government to give them jobs


Chandan Singh Kurmi

Chandan Singh Kurmi is a farmer in Umarghar village that falls under the Silwani block in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. He owns around 25 acres on which he grows wheat and soya bean. He is married, and has three children — two daughters and a son. His daughters are both married to farmers. His son did not want to be a farmer. He studied “computers” in Bhopal and now works for a software firm in the state’s capital. Chandan Singh was at a BJP rally in Raisen, around 42km from Bhopal, and he had travelled around 100km from his home at Silwani to attend the event.

Name: Chandan Singh Kurmi, 58

Profession: Farmer

Education: Higher secondary

Family: Wife, two daughters and a son

Place: Silwani block, Raisen district, Madhya Pradesh

Do you earn more or less, compared to 2004?

I earn more but don’t make much profit because the prices of seeds and fertiliser have gone up. The price for soya bean has come down

Do you save more or less, compared to 10 years ago?

(Thinks for a while.) I save less.

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

I had built a pucca house in Silwani in 2004 but now I have also helped my son build a house in Bhopal. In the last 10 years, I have managed to buy a tractor and a four-wheel jeep. I had a black and white television set earlier. Now I have a colour TV

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

Earlier, I rode a motor cycle. Now I have a jeep.

Do you usually travel by train or air?

I have never travelled by air. I have been on a train many times but I always travel in general class.

Have you travelled abroad?

Never

Where do you buy your groceries from?

From the local market in Silwani

Do you shop round the year or only before festive occasions?

Throughout the year, as and when we need things

Do you own an AC?

No

Has MGNREGA (the rural job scheme) made any difference to your life? How?

MGNREGA has only helped the poor in our village. They have got work. It has made things difficult for farmers like me. Labour has become costly, it has doubled. Earlier, it was Rs 100 per day and now it is Rs 200.

Do your children go to school?

My daughters went to school and college. My son did his MCA from Bhopal. My grandchildren study in private schools

Is there any difference in the food you eat now and what you did 10 years ago?

No, my food is much the same — dal, roti, sabzi

Have you got an Aadhar card? How does it help?

Yes, but I have not used it for anything so far. Usse na phaydaa hua hai, na nuksaan (it has neither helped me nor harmed me)

Do you encounter more corruption or less in your daily life?

Corruption has increased. Any work involving the government means corruption. When I take my wheat crop to be weighed, I will be kept waiting unless I give a little money to speed things up. If my transformer gets burnt, I have to pay a bribe to the linesman to get it replaced quickly

What was the last movie you have seen and when?

I never go to halls. I watch movies only on TV. I can’t remember the last one. Actually, I am not interested in movies. I prefer watching news channels

When was the last time you ate outside the home with your family?

I never eat out with the family. I like home food. But sometimes if I am out on work, I eat at dhabas

Do you have a cellphone? How old is it?

Yes. I bought this one recently. I have had one before this too.

What do you do with your cellphone?

I use it only to talk.

Do you go on holidays /pilgrimages?

Yes, I like going on pilgrimages every few years. I have been to the Kumbh Mela at Prayag (Allahabad), to Haridwar, to Amarnath and to Vaishno Devi. In Madhya Pradesh, I have visited all the famous temples such as Mahakaal temple in Ujjain and the Shiva temple in Onkareshwar

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

No, never.

Do you have more or less pair of clothes compared with 2004?

More. Earlier, I had three-four pairs of clothes; now more than 10. I buy my wife more sarees too

Describe the biggest changes in your life since 2004?

My children are well settled. My daughters are happily married and my son is earning well in the city

What is your biggest regret in the past 10 years?

I have no regrets, no regrets at all

What is your biggest achievement in the past 10 years?

My biggest achievement is extending my pucca house to 1,200 square feet in Silwani and building another one in Bhopal. Also, that I own a four-wheel vehicle now.

Are your happier or sadder now? Why?

Much happier. I have more money, I have more things and my children are well settled.