BENGALURU: Women selling onions occupy the last rung on the payment ladder at the Yeshwantpur APMC yard. In return for their labour, they are not paid in cash, but in the form of onions or potatoes. What is worse is that a huge chunk of these perishables are in a state of decay.
Elaborating on the chores many poor women like her perform here, M Ambika says that when produce from farmers are brought in sacks, buyers would insist on checking a few sample bags before bulk purchase. “An entire bag is emptied and the buyer would inspect them and choose only the good ones. He keeps aside the rejected potatoes or onions,” she explains.
A large section of the women, two in each onion or potato outlet, help the buyers put the selected onions in a sack for transportation. “In return for our labour, we are allowed to take these rejected items. We eke out a living by selling them for cheap,” Ambika says. Some buyers also give them one or two kg of fresh onions. When asked as to who would actually buy the rotten perishables, pat comes her reply, “Hotels and small grocery shops.”
However, even this paltry income has been hard to come by due to a dip in the number of lorries as well as sacks reaching the yard since November 9. “I used to make between Rs 100 and Rs 200 per day. Now it is between Rs 50 and Rs 100 per day,” Ambika says.
There are roughly 2,000 labourers employed in the yard. The men largely do the loading and unloading of produce.
Muruga and his colleagues are quite a disgruntled lot. “We used to earn Rs 700 to Rs 800 per day and have work thrice a week. Now we earn Rs 150-Rs 200 a day due to the reduced number of trucks coming to the yard,” he says. He is among a group of labourers who come to the city from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for seven to eight months each year to earn a living.
Ganesan, a co-worker says, “Just see this truck now. Seven of us were trying to offload the 300 sacks in it which is normally done by two or three people. This will reduce all our wages.”
Jaishanthappa of Bharat Traders, a potato dealer, says, “I used to buy a truck-load of potatoes a day. Now I am buying only one every four days due to cash crunch.”
The regret over the diminished income and cash crunch echoes across owners and labourers.