Bhubaneswar: No work is small or insignificant, said 22-year-old Lozy Behera, an engineering diploma holder from Odisha, who had enrolled her name as a labourer under the MGNREGA scheme to fund her college fees.
Behera, born in a poor Dalit family, worked for 20 days at a construction site at Delang block in Puri for a daily wage of Rs 207, as she wanted to gather money to be able to pay the fees and earn her diploma certificate, something that the “college had withheld seeking clearance of dues”.
The student of a Bhubaneswar-based private college was first noticed by a local news channel when she was carrying a basket of mud at the road construction site.
Her story soon became the talk of the town, prompting district officials to reach out to her with help.
Shortly after, college authorities rushed to her residence with the certificate.
“I never felt ashamed of the work that I was doing. Some may look down upon me, but I don’t see a reason why I should feel ashamed. I worked for the community road development project and earned Rs 207 a day,” Behera, daughter of a mason, told PTI.
The 22-year-old woman also had two of her five sisters, one of them pursuing a B.Tech degree, working by her side at the construction site.
“We were sitting idle at home during the lockdown, when sarpanch Pradymnya Parida asked villagers to work for the road development project.
“I found it to be a good opportunity to earn something to pay my college fees. Authorities at my college had refused to give me my certificate for not being able to pay hostel fees of Rs 44,500. My father works as a mason, and we are five sisters…. I could deposit only Rs 20,000,” she said.
Several appeals to college authorities fell on deaf ears, but a news clip on a local TV channel worked wonders, Behera, who wishes to pursue higher education, said.
Members of ‘Odisha Mo Parivar’, the social service wing of the ruling BJD, has recently handed over a cheque of Rs 30,000 to the gritty woman for her education.
Heaping praise on Behera for her hard work and perseverance, Puri collector Samarth Verma said he would try and find her a job in the district.
Behera, the eldest among the siblings, said she would want to help her sisters with their education.
“Puri collector Samarth Verma has promised to find me a job. I am hopeful that I will be able to support my family once I get a job,” she added.