Kolkata’s neglected Durgas celebrate puja

By Arnab Mitra

Kolkata: The Durbar Mahila Samanway committee’s Durga Puja was inaugurated on Sunday by the Minister of State for women and child welfare, Dr Sashi Panja. This is the third consecutive year that the sex workers organization, Durbar is organizing the Puja in Sonagachi, North Kolkata.

The inaugural ceremony was also graced by the founder of Durbar, Dr Samarjit Jena and other dignitaries.

Minister of State for women and child welfare Sashi Panja inaugurating the Durga puja organised by the sex-workers of Kolkata
Minister of State for women and child welfare Sashi Panja inaugurating the Durga puja organised by the sex-workers of Kolkata

2015-10-18 17.05.38NewsGram talked with sex worker Rita Roy and the secretary of Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee Bharati Dey, to know their views on their Durga Puja.

Arnab Mitra: How will you enjoy on these five days of Durgotsav?

Rita Roy: Like the other people in the society we will also entertain ourselves having tasty dishes, new clothes and with cultural programs. But there is a difference… our enjoyment starts and ends in this red light area and we cannot refrain from work, as every day we have to earn to serve our belly.

AM: Do you like to spend time with your family members if you get a chance?

RR: Not me, everyone likes to spend time with their family members. My family knows  everything and are very much dependent upon my earnings. But thanks to our society and its mindset, I never dared to meet them. I didn’t even see my parents’ faces in 20 years.

AM: What is the role of Durbar in improving the condition of sex workers?

RR: Dr Samarjit Jana’s struggle along with all the other sex workers of Durbar to give us a stand has helped in providing us a kind of social status. Before Durbar, sex workers were treated like dogs, but now we have our own bank, our children are going to school and we are living happily.

AM: Do you see yourself as a durga?

RR: Yes, people worship Maa Durga as she saved thousands of lives by killing Mahisashur. Similarly, every night we kill the lust of greedy men and save the lives of our sisters and daughters.

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The sex-workers had to fight a legal battle to get the permission for the puja

In an interaction with the secretary of Durbar, Bharati Dey, she said, “The sex workers are very happy with this puja.” But she is dissatisfied with the court’s verdict of not giving them permission to organize Durga Puja. “If the court won’t allow them to do puja next year, they will stay aside from organising Durga Pujo.”

On the question of ITPA Act and social respect, Bharati Dey said, “The government should immediately withdraw the ITPA Act and make prostitution legalised in India. That way, the sex workers will get their deserved social respect as they are working to serve a basic need of the society.

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