COVID-19 has presented unprecedented economic and social challenges to millions of people worldwide, pushing them towards poverty. Bhubaneswar's Smrutirekha Behera has had a similar fate.
A resident of Patharabandha slum, Smrutirekha, used to teach LKG, UKG and Class I students at a school in Chakeisiani, Bhubaneswar, before the first lockdown. However, the pandemic forced her to work as a driver of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation's (BMC) solid waste transporting vehicle.
Following the pandemic-induced lockdown, her school closed due to restrictions in classroom teaching. Home tuition was also not allowed due to the growing number of COVID cases across the country last year.
The 29-year-old, who is a political science graduate from Maharishi College of Natural Law and also underwent Montessori training, lost her only source of income. Meanwhile, her husband Basudev, who works for a private firm, saw his salary reduced to half, making it difficult for the family to get by.
Two Families To Look After
Their situation worsened when her father passed away, and her mother was diagnosed with cancer last year. Besides, her mother-in-law is a diabetes patient and requires ₹ 2000 a month for medicine. Smrutirekha's brothers are also too young, so she has to take care of both her families.
Struggling to make her ends meet, she decided to work as a drive for BMC and took the job three months ago. In 2019, she had attended a driving training course organized by the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) for 15 women from Patharabandha slum. The organization helped her get the job at BMC, as reported by The New Indian Express.
A Day In Her Life
Her day starts at five in the morning, accompanied by two helpers. She goes around places like the OUAT Colony, Siripur, Gopabandhu Square, and other city areas to collect dry and wet garbage. After collecting the waste, she visits a micro composting centre (MCC) in Unit-VIII to dump the wet waste and dump the dry waste at a centre near Sainik School.
According to BMC Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Singh, the corporation has made efforts to recruit more women into the civic body to provide them with a source of income during the pandemic. Besides Smrutirekha, BMC has employed three other women drivers to transport waste in the city.