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First aid, healthcare: It’s all in the family for those who protect the Hapus

Workers get no insurance; in fact, they live and work in shacks where there is no running water, electricity or toilets.

more lifestyle Updated: May 20, 2018 16:32 IST
Reetika Revathy Subramanian
Hapus,Aapus,Alphonso
Kaushilla Sonar, 60 (second from right), has come to the Konkan from Nepal with her husband, two daughters and four grandchildren. (Reetika Revathy Subramanian)

In the first week of April, 60-year-old Kaushilla Sonar was chasing a group of monkeys away when she tripped and crashed to her knees. They were bleeding and her legs began to swell, but she couldn’t let the monkeys get at the fruit.

“Skipping work was not an option the next day either, so I told my grandchildren to skip school for four days and watch the farm for me,” she says. “There are no doctors for us here. We have to go to the village and pay for first-aid ourselves. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up with the monkeys in the weeks that remain.”

Kaushilla is here with her husband, two daughters and four grandchildren. She previously worked as a domestic helper in Pune for two years before moving to Ratnagiri.

The Nepali workers routinely clamber up 40-ft-high trees and tackle monkeys head-on. But they have no health cover, formal or informal. The nearest primary healthcare centre is about 30 km away, in Lanja town. And even seeking help would mean the loss of a day’s pay.

“We have to look after ourselves. It is our individual responsibility,” says Sarita Thapa, who is here for the first time. “For example, I don’t use a knotted rope to attack the monkeys because I hurt myself previously. I only use the catapult and stones,” she adds.

According to Madhukar Jadhav, the village sarpanch, previously, orchard owners used to submit identity documents of the Nepali workers employed in their farms to the local police. “But over the past three-odd years, there has been no real documentation and the workers don’t get any support,” says Jadhav. “So, if there are any relatively serious injuries, and the owner feels that the worker is an asset on his farm, he might give an additional amount at the end of six months. But there is no real mandate or contract to attend to health issues or injuries,” he adds.

First Published: May 19, 2018 21:28 IST