Unable to find other options to earn money, they hope to pay off pending dues first

For the past 20 days, Rosy Behera has been working to build a road near her village in Odisha’s Puri district where, instead of putting her civil engineering skills to work, she carries mounds of earth on her head as a daily wager under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Alongside Ms. Rosy Behera (20), two of her sisters, who are B.Tech. and Class XII students below 19 years of age, have been working to earn ₹207 each per day.

The three sisters belong to a Dalit family in the Goradipidha village under Chainpur panchayat. They are desperate to arrange funds to help Ms. Rosy Behera, the eldest among five sisters, further her higher studies.

“After completing my diploma in Civil Engineering in 2019, I am not able to arrange funds for my Bachelor’s degree. I also have to pay an outstanding amount of ₹24,000 to the diploma school,” Ms. Behera told The Hindu.

After acquiring her diploma, Ms. Behera said she had enquired with a private engineering college if she could pursue a B.Tech. programme with a government scholarship. She added that since she belongs to a Scheduled Caste community, her tuition fees can be borne by a government scholarship programme, but she cannot afford hostel fees.

“I could not find other options for earning money. I started working as a daily wager under the MGNREGS along with my parents, sisters and grandfather,” said Ms. Behera. Her two youngest sisters are in Class VII and Class V, respectively.

“My immediate younger sister came forward to help me, despite [the sister] pursuing a B.Tech. programme in computer science. I think the wage accumulated by family members from the MGNREGS work would partly solve my problem [of repayment of dues]. But I have to arrange a lot of money,” said Ms. Behera. The family has neither a homestead nor agricultural land. The MGNREGS work, she says, may continue for three months.

In 2019, an engineering graduate was seen working under the MGNREGS in Balangir district after he lost his job in Chennai.

Caption: Rosy Behera (white dress) returning from work with family members in Odisha’s Puri district.

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