Hyderabad: Dharam Singh moved from a small village in Nepal to Hyderabad in 1996. In the past two decades, he has built a life for himself in Hyderabad. He works as a watchman and does various odd- obs for the residents of an apartment complex in
He and his family are barely get by. Mr Singh couldn’t care less about the Budget. In chaste Telugu, he said, “I don’t know how the Budget affects me. All I care about is the price of my groceries and my children’s education.”
Mr Singh works as the man Friday for the apartment’s residents. When there is repair or construction work, he is tasked with supervising it. He makes a little extra upon cleaning the residents’ cars every morning. His wife, Ms Shashikala, works as a domestic help. Together, they bring in around Rs 20,000 a month. “In the last five years, the prices of all vegetables and grains have gone up. Earlier we could buy rice at just Rs 25, now we have to spend Rs 40,” he said. Mr Singh said that it has been months since the family ate onions and tomatoes.
Recently, they bought some onions but they have to ration the use, to half an onion a day. “If anything, I want the government to bring down the prices of vegetables and food items. It seems their prices are increasing every month. At the end of the month, we rarely have any savings left,” he said.
Singh and Shashikala have three children – Rajesh, 18, Rahul, 15, and Bharat, 12. Rajesh couldn’t pursue higher studies since the family didn’t have enough money when he was growing up. He moved out of the home and recently started working at a restaurant. Rahul, has special needs and had to drop out of school a few years ago. The couple has set all its hopes on Rahul, a seventh standard student, studying at a private school. The family spends over Rs 70,000 a year on his education. Mr Singh laments that education has become expensive.
“Bharat studied in a nearby government school for a year but the quality of education was really bad. He wasn’t learning anything. That’s when we decided to move him to a private school,” he said. He hopes that the government will make education cheaper for him.
Every month, the couple sets aside some money for their youngest son’s education. This money is not touched, even during emergencies.
During emergencies, medical or otherwise, they borrow. Despite the Centre’s push for the proliferation of banking services, Mr Singh has never been able to borrow from a bank. He depends on loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates. He is still paying off loans he took many years ago. One short-term loan was made at a five-rupee monthly interest, translating to 60 per cent annually. Indeed, being poor can be expensive. “The money we make is not sufficient. I can’t even use a bike because I can’t spend money on petrol. I use buses for transport but even the tickets have become very expensive lately. I don’t know if the government even cares about our problems,” Mr Singh said