Sex-workers in Kolkata are being trained to work at food stalls for Durga Puja celebrations
These sex workers have perhaps found a new way to contribute to the festivities.
Sex workers at Asia's largest red light area, Sonagachi in Kolkata, created a lot of buzz when they first attempted to organise their own Durga Puja in 2013.
Since then, they have borne repeated onslaught of the administrative forces, which finally compelled them to discontinue celebrations.
However, the Durga Puja this year might, once again, bring a fresh beam of hope in the lives of some of the Sonagachi workers.
Thirty sex workers, aged between 30 and 40 years, have signed up for a workshop that will train them to work at government food stalls during Durga Puja celebrations. Donning gloves and disposable caps, these sex workers are now being taught by a man named Govinda Das to cut various kinds of fish that will be supplied to various food pavilions across Kolkata during the festival.
The women are working for almost six hours a day. They are earning around Rs 10-20 per kg, depending on the variety of fish. Although the training promises a scope of earning Rs 1000 per day, the workers, as of now, are only getting Rs 150 daily, along with a travel allowance of Rs 50. Free lunch is also being provided on site.
"When I was asked if I would like to learn about cutting fish, I was extremely happy. Finding a good and respectable income, not having to be secretive about where I go to work every day, is a big relief,'' one of the sex workers was d as saying by Indian Express.
The stipend may not be enough for the workers but Kabita Biswas, the mediator between the sex-workers and the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), seems to think otherwise. "A few girls feel the stipend is low. It's Durga Puja and everyone wishes to earn a little extra. Some of them make more than Rs 500 or Rs 600 a day. With almost half the day gone at the site and the time spent in travelling from their home to the park, it is not a total win-win situation. They don't get any bonus, and now, in the days running up to Pujas, they are not very comfortable earning less. Most are very interested in the initiative and are keen to get trained, some are shying away as it means a cutback in their daily income. A few girls have told me that they want to come, but after Puja," she told Indian Express.
''We have already talked to the fishery department about the price. They are paying our workers more, and this is just during the training period. Once they are fully trained, they will earn more," added Dr Smarajit Jana, chief advisor of DMSC.