We had to pledge all our gold to bring my brother back from Malaysia during lockdown

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My name is Supriya (name changed) and I am 22 years old. I live with my family in Bongaon, North 24 Praganas, West Bengal. When the lockdown began, my livelihood was among the millions affected across the country, and so many fell below the poverty line for the first time in their history. While everyone is talking about the impact of containment on migrant workers, nobody wanted to discuss the impact that containment has had on people like me.

He was working in Malaysia and had lost his job during lockdown there. His passport and visa were confiscated by the officer and he was blocked there. My family started to pressure me to do something to bring him back. He came home but that was not the end of our troubles. We started to face ostracism from distant family members and neighbors because we were now in debt. We had pledged all the gold we had as collateral against the loan.

Without work, there was no way to pay off the loan, and the loan shark began to harass us. Things got so tense that there was a medical emergency in the family. This forced me to take another loan.

We now live in abject poverty and cannot even eat properly because the rations the government gives us are not enough.

My 18 year old brother was also forced to drop out of school and work and earn 50 rupees a day. I’m also desperately trying to find a job, but nothing seems to be working at the moment.

Every day people like me are forced to take out these high risk loans because there is no other way for us to feed our families and survive. Lenders take advantage of our inability to repay loans in time and threaten us and make life unbearable in our community.

The only thing that motivates me is my leadership role at Bijoyini, a collective of trafficking survivors. I use my voice to defend survivors who hesitate to express their thoughts themselves. I have become a very active leader in the community and will continue to fight for our rights.

Edited by Diya Koshy George

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