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Feeding a car project... and their personal dreams

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Group of 25 local women launch canteen services at project site

THE DELIGHTED women of the first self help group from Singur villages during the inaugural ceremony of the canteen to supply food at the Tata small car project site at Singur camp office in Hooghly district of West Bengal on Thursday. A. Roy Chowdhury
THE DELIGHTED women of the first self help group from Singur villages during the inaugural ceremony of the canteen to supply food at the Tata small car project site at Singur camp office in Hooghly district of West Bengal on Thursday. A. Roy Chowdhury

Ambar Singh Roy

Wheels of change

The

self-help group will cater for 70-80 workers initially.

Members

belong to families that sold land for the car project.

The

women received 20-day training as part of resettlement efforts.

SingurFeb 8Ms Mala Das of Rupnarayanpur a village close to the Tata Motors' small car project site in Singur always nursed a secret ambition. To be economically independent and earn some money of her own. However, having failed the Class XII examination twice, her dream was destined to remain just a dream. Or so she thought until recently. Destiny has now thrown up an opportunity in the form of the small car project coming up nearby. Today, Ms Das is part of a 25-member women's self help group (SHG) that has launched canteen services to supply food at the car project site.

Ms Das, whose husband works in a nearby hospital, is elated. And so is Ms Bonani Ghosh, leader of the Friends Canteen SHG, Ms Deepali Mondol, Ms Sujata Das, Ms Sonali Khara, Ms Lakhi Jana and others totalling 25 in number. All of them were provided 20 days of training at the Institute of Catering Technology and Hotel Management in Kolkata as part of a joint endeavour by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Hooghly District Central Cooperative Bank, the Hooghly district administration and Tata Motors to facilitate economic rehabilitation and resettlement of members of families whose land had been acquired for the car project. These organisations have provided financial and operational support to the women, who have also invested personal funds in the canteen initiative. While initially 15 of those trained have started operations, the rest are expected to join the team in a month's time.

Beginning Thursday, the canteen will be operational between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and high tea will be served to workers at the plant site.

A meal comprising rice, dal, a vegetable curry and fish will be available for Rs 35 while a vegetarian meal will cost Rs 15. Initially, the canteen will cater to 70-80 people but the numbers will increase as work progresses at the site.

Each of these women has learnt to cook 80 dishes across cuisines that include Bengali food, South Indian, Moghlai and Chinese.

Newfound hope

Ms Sujata Das of nearby Beraberi village is sanguine that her annual earnings from the canteen business will surpass what her family used to get from the land that has been sold for the car project. She has the backing of her family and is proud of her soon-to-be-acquired independent economic status.

So is Ms Khara, whose father sold his two-bigha plot for the Tata project. Ms Jana's in-laws led the family's support for her initiation into the catering arena.

But where do these new entrants into the food supply business see themselves economically a few years down the line?

Without exception, all of them want the business to grow so that they can cater to the needs of workers even after the small car plant becomes operational.

Ms Mala Das hopes to buy the Rs 1 lakh car someday.

She is encouraged by Ms Jana who says: "That will surely happen. Effort is everything. Where there is a will, there is a way. We have come out of our homes to work. We are not going to go back. Certainly not before we achieve our goals."

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 9, 2007)
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