India: "It is becoming very difficult now."

(By Rama Lakshmi -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Akhlidevi Hiralal, 35, works in a grain shop cleaning wheat grains from jute sacks. She goes to three stores to do this chore every day, earning a little more than $4 a day.

She lives in a slum for Dalits, a lower caste, in south Delhi. Her husband died five years ago, leaving her as the only breadwinner for her three daughters and two sons.

"It is becoming very difficult now to have enough for everybody in the house to eat and save, too. Only if I save a little every day will I be able to buy textbooks and uniforms for my children," she said.

Milk and cooking oil are more expensive, and it is more difficult to buy wheat.

"I have a food ration card, but the ration shops are always understocked. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't," she said.

She must check several times to see if a shop is open. There are often very long lines. If she waits, she misses work.

Hiralal, who is illiterate, said she does not know how the food crisis is affecting people in other parts of the world.

"I only know about what is happening around me," she said. "Things are more expensive this year. We will vote out the government this year. If they cannot take care of the poor, why should we vote for them?"

-- Rama Lakshmi

© 2008 The Washington Post Company