Railway connectivity- an imperative!
The recent news report, ‘Meghalaya needs goods trains : Mayralborn’ (ST, November 25,2023) once again highlights the necessity of railway connectivity to the eastern part of Meghalaya including its capital, Shillong. That railways will reduce the cost of transportation of commodities which will benefit the public is already a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, Indian Railways being one of the largest employers in the country will definitely provide employment opportunities to unemployed youth of the state. Besides providing direct employment benefits, the arrival of cargo trains will be a boon for local porters, transport operators and other businesses that will cater to the need of the railways thereby improving the economy of the state and augmenting the per capita income.
The opposition of certain organisations to the extension of goods railway to other parts of this state is nothing but vested interest as is evident from the recent arrest of a member of a prominent organisation for carrying out alleged extortion from overloaded trucks. However with the arrival of railways into the state there’ll be hardly any scope for ‘extortion’ from goods vehicles as most imports will be transported by rail further reducing their cost benefitting the state’s inhabitants.
Stanley LK Diengdoh
Why Daphi shouts for our attention
Every moment can teach us a new lesson. Every stranger we cross paths with can make us more humane. A few days ago, I met a woman going from house to house selling mustard greens, locally known as “laipatta”. “Didi laipatta, Didi laipatta,” were her humble plea. This is the only way to draw the attention of people inside their homes. The lady, a mother of four, probably not older than thirty-five, is from a distant village in Mawsynram. What makes her take the trouble to travel here all the way certainly calls for a case study. After my frequent meeting with the lady on by-roads, one day I inquired about her. She told me that she comes to town these days to sell mustard greens. With a distressed expression on her face, she introduced herself as Daphi. I learnt the lady has a poignant story. Her husband, the main breadwinner in the family, has suddenly succumbed to a terminal illness, rendering him bedridden and unable to work for the past eight months. Hearing about her plight, I become more concerned.
She informed me that as soon as she gets off the bus, she usually goes from door to door to sell her leafy greens until she sells them all. Looking at her cotton bag (pla) I guessed she can hardly bring 35 bunches of those mustard greens in a day. Her weary and tired look, possibly from poor nutrition made me ask a few more questions. Without a hitch, she answered them all. I noticed she felt good sharing her agonies with a good listener even though a stranger.
I was very excited when she told me that all these succulent bunches were from her own garden. She informed me she gets up around 4 a.m. to pluck the foliage alone because she does not want to disturb the sleep of her children.
Then she waits for a bus to the town (Shillong). The one-way bus fare from Mawsynram to Shillong town is Rs 100. She spends additional Rs 100 to get back home that eats significantly into her meager earnings.
During the conversation she pointedly hinted that people reduce a verdant bunch of greens to even Rs 10. She says “If I ask Rs 30 per bunch, I hardly find generous buyers and I would be forced to take back home the unsold vegetables.” I felt a surge of empathy and concluded that at the maximum she would only get between Rs 450 to Rs 550 for the mustard leaves she brings and trues to sell to the tight-fisted buyers of the town.
Now just analyze the sweat and labour she puts in, starting from seed germination until these green leaves are harvested. Manuring, day-to-day care, including fending off grazing animals and harmful worms, a cultivator like Daphi invariably lives through pangs of uncertainty. Any moment nature’s fury can destroy the crops.
Now look at the situation! Even after harvesting their crops farmers have to carry a load of worries about whether they will find good customers who will buy their vegetable without bargaining for them. Just imagine her labour of going around every corner of the town’s localities. May I ask a modern economist, if each bunch of mustard leaves is not worth more than Rs 100? Sadly, there is no Karl Marx now to evaluate the true worth of the sweat of the oppressed cultivator! It’s really ironic, pseudo-Marxists these days drive SUVs and hop into posh shopping malls even to take fruit juice and one kg of French beans.
Two days ago when I presented the lady with some winter clothes and 4 caps for her kids, she murmured — “Ani mama, ani mama”. With eyes full of tears, she did not want to accept my gifts at first. However, I very humbly persuaded her to accept them. Daphi emotionally expressed her thanks, extending her hand for handshakes. Her expression of gratitude can’t be expressed in words here.
Please note there are hundreds of Daphis coming from Umsning, Sohiong, Laitkor, Mawngap, who regularly visit our homes and shout for our attention, maybe for compassion too. How good would it be if we bought their vegetables/fruits “without a bargain.” If possible, we could even offer them a cup of tea, snacks, and a few words of comfort. I am sure blessings will come from them, and also flow down from heaven!