Asura Bibi, entered silently and went and stood beside the table of Kalikinkar Das. She had two papers in her hand. She passed one to Kalikinkar, mumbled something and stood there motionless. There was a sudden silence in the office room of Kalikinkar, the Deputy Chief of Sehera Radhanagar Panchayat. He was immersed instantly in the content of the paper handed over to him. The whirling sound of the electric fan took over the room.
Even before Asura Bibi, a married lady possibly in her late twenties, entered the room, we were busy in discussion on the village livelihood survey. Kalikinkar had told us that many people in the village would take loans before the rainy season crop to buy seeds but this time since there would be no crop, these people would have to take a severe beating. There would be no income, no profit and no means to repay back the loans.
Kalikinkar shook his head as he read the content then pulled his eyes from the sheet, looked at us and said, ‘This is what I have been telling you, she had taken a loan from the bank which went in waste and now she is applying for another loan with a request to waive of the previous loan.’ He handed the paper to us.
Asura Bibi, is a member of the Ahallya SHG based in Nityaberia, which is around 3 kilometres from Choto Sehera village. She along with 9 other members of the SHG had taken a loan of Rs. 15,000 from the bank.
As she went out of the Panchayat office room with the paper signed by the Deputy Panchayat chief, we followed her to know her story.
Asura Bibi’s share of loan was Rs 1,500. She had started a small fishery in her pond with that money.
‘Now everything is under water, even our pond…the fishes have perished and I would not be able to repay back my loan,’ said Asura Bibi as we walked down to the Choto Sehera Free Primary School building, which was now her family’s address for the past 29 days. ‘So I am making a request to the bank to waive off my previous loan and give me some more, so that I can do something for my livelihood.’ She now has to submit this application to the bank with the hope that they respond positively.
Asura’s house is totally damaged. Whatever belongings they had are under saline water. They could carry nothing. Their cows got swept away. On the day of Aila, they ran to this school building for shelter. Since then, she along with her husband and their 8 year-old daughter are residents of Choto Sehera. Her husband, Mohit Gazi, is a farmer. Now with all farm land gone, he too has little hope for future.
As we walked down to the school where Asura’s family has taken shelter she ushered us to a room, which is big enough, but definitely not big either to contain 8 families.
‘We are the only Muslim family in this room,’ she said welcoming us to the room.
Asura Bibi was staying in that room with 8 other families who were members of the Ahallya SHG.
There was Krishna Sardar and wife Birlo along with others like Jamuna who had also taken loan to rear cattle. It was like a stuffed cage. Each had a story to tell.
Krishna Sardar, an elderly man, was knitting the fishing net. ‘This is the only livelihood options left now for the next few days,’ he said.
Livelihood seemed to be emerging as the single largest concern now for the people in Sehera Radhanagar Panchayat as much as in many other places. Asura Bibi, Krishna, Birlo, Jamuna and others are now living on just one hope that the bank listens to their plea at this hour of need. But somewhere deep within their heart they too fear that chances are slim.