Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Labhpur is a village among many in the Labhpur block of Birbhum. It has a population of 201,901 (Census, 2011) with a literacy rate of 71.2%. 66.2% of the villagers in Labhpur are agricultural laborer generating income more than 6 months every year; however, 33.8% are engaged in marginal activities earning money less than 6 months per year. This 33.8% are mainly engaged in working as sweepers/helpers in the popular Phullora temple, a major tourist attraction in the district.
When the Scratch team started interacting with various artisans in Birbhum, we came to know that the village of Labhpur was in a vulnerable condition and in immediate need of intervention. The data mentioned above was the only thing we had in hand. We took it on ourselves to know this specific village, and its needs above all. During July-August, 2021 we spend quite some time in the Labhpur village and interacted with men, women and children to know more. In this report we would like to mention some of our main observations.
As the reports suggest, the main source of income for most of the villagers is agriculture. However, Birbhum being a draught as well as flood prone area, the income of the majority is always in a vulnerable position. The ones marginalized, working in the local Phullora temple/driving the local transport “Toto” do not earn enough to support their respective families and are in need of other employment opportunities. They receive frequent meals and clothes as gifts/gestures of goodwill from the tourists who come to visit Phullora, but these are not long-term solutions to their problems.
Men and women from various nearby villages, mostly tribal, are seen to migrate to Labhpur in search of better livelihood solutions/ due to some personal problems. Hence, Labhpur seems to be a village with diverse cultural elements and various groups. That has come to be one of the main challenges in this specific village. “Groups” divided on the basis of household seem to exist; these groups seem to be endogamous (practice of marrying within the same group) in order to preserve their unity. The result- constant divide and conflict of interest among the villagers.
Team Scratch arranged for a camp in order to distribute some clothes, dry food and masks for the villagers in Labhpur, during which one of the villagers shared with us that “Labhpur is not a good place to be in. There are some of us who need help, but there are some who just want to take advantage.” While distributing masks a 12-year-old child let us know “We don’t need masks. We are blessed with Maa’s presence (referring to the Phullora temple). Covid has left us long back. You can keep the masks.”
There is only one health care center in the entire village, that too right adjacent the temple which has no scheduled days of operation. When we enquired whether the villagers were in need of proper healthcare set-up, again the answers were either “Yes, our children are in dior need of the same” or “We are blessed. We have God’s blessings and nothing can harm us.”
An interesting observation was how most people were not interested in working but were looking for other sorts of intervention- regularized food and monetary distribution. However, almost all the women in the entire village (even the one’s already engaged in some sort of income generating activity) showed interest in our model. These women are blessed with the art of stitching. They have been engaged in making Knatha sarees and cloths and have learnt it from their ancestors and want to use this specific skill set to take better care of their families and do better for their children.
On learning about the Scratch model, these women have shown commitment and have volunteered to be patient with us during the skill development phase as well.
(A glimpse from a camp arranged in Labhpur; we thank Rotary Club of Calcutta, Jadavpur for providing us with masks for distribution in the same)