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Odisha: Know How Physically Challenged People Earn Their Livelihood From A Paper Plate Making Unit

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20 January 2019

Bikash Das

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Bhubaneswar: We have all heard stories of people starting with only Rs 5 in their pockets to becoming industry leaders, but the pain and struggle increases many folds when a person has to start from the bottom while fighting with physical disabilities. In the race of living sophisticated and privileged lives to the fullest, the urban populace tends to forget what real physical struggle entails.

OMMCOM NEWS brings to you the journeys of some brave-hearts who are fighting all odds to earn their livelihoods with dignity and respect, despite being physically challenged.

Situated in a non-descript house in capital city’s Pokhariput area, a paper plate making unit is providing ‘divyangs’ the opportunity to make ends meet. Everyday around four people are crammed up in a small room, operating a machine that is meant for making paper plates, cups, bowls, and bags. Not only have the divyangs learned to control the automatic machine, but they have also taught themselves to work with all their limbs. Such is their conviction that one can see young divyangs, with only one or no hands, sewing plates using their feet.

By earning Rs 100 for manufacturing a sack full of paper plates, the physically challenged people seem to be happy with their wages. They are satisfied as they are able to make ends meet by spending judiciously and they even manage to save some money for future. A student Jagmohan Sahu makes it a point to find time from his academics and comes to the unit daily to earn wages and support his education. He said, “I work for 5-6 hours every day and make around 200 paper plates here. I am happy with whatever I earn as I am able to pay for my education.”

Subhadra Sahu, who looks after the day-to-day affairs of the unit, said that the place has only one machine now but they are looking to expand soon. “We want to bring in 4-5 more machines and employ more people,” she said and further added, “When we wanted to start this, we did not get any private loan because people refused to lend support to handicapped people. They said that investing in us was risky. Finally, with IAS officer Yamini Sarangi’s financial assistance of Rs 20,000 from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, this unit was kick-started a few years back. Our contractor in Cuttack supplies us the raw materials for free and we sell the finished products to him at the end of the day to obtain our wages.”

She continued, “Back home, people used to make fun of me but after shifting to Bhubaneswar and getting engaged in this small-scale industry, I have found independence.”

Another Sunita Sethi, who has moved from Rourkela to earn her livelihood said, “After +2, I applied for a job at several companies but I did not get any replies. So, I found this paper plate making unit and I realized that there would be no judgements here. I took up the job and I am content with my life now.”

With dedication and constant hard work, these people have paved a path for themselves in this big bad world. So, next time you hold a plate to relish delicacies in a wedding or a party, make sure to remember the struggle of the people who made them.

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Jagamohan Sahu

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Subhadra Das