Sex workers of Sonagachi, Asia’s largest red-light area, will don the chef’s hat at various food pavilions this Durga Puja as part of a collaboration between the state fisheries department and Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), which works for the welfare of sex workers in the state.
As many as 30 sex workers will get work as chefs after receiving training, which will be conducted by the State Fisheries Development Corporation (SFDC).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Managing Director of SFDC Soumyajit Das said that the initiative was undertaken to help the “weaker sections of the
society”. “We need manpower to run our food pavilions at various puja pandals. This year, it has been decided that we will help the weaker sections of the society by offering this kind of opportunity. Recently, we had given similar training to women from Sundarbans area to offer them employment opportunities. Later, we had also worked with inmates of various state government-run homes. Now, we have decided to work with sex workers with the help of DMSC,” he said.
Selected sex workers will work as chefs in eight food pavilions in Kolkata and two in Bangalore. Once the festival ends, these workers will work with the state fisheries department and draw a salary.
“We have asked DMSC to send us list of names. We will take about 30 workers. The training for the first batch of 12 workers will begin from Tuesday. In the training period, each worker will get a stipend of Rs 150 and lunch and dinner. They will be trained in cooking and fish processing. They will be working at our food pavilions at various pandals,” Das said. He added the remuneration will depend on the amount of fish that they will process, scale and cut every day.
Kumartuli Sarbojanin, Kumartuli Park, Jagat Mukherjee Park, Tala Sarbojanin, Barisha Sarbojanin and Jatin Das Park are some of the puja pandals where such food pavilions will be set up.
Mentor of DMSC Bharati Dey told The Indian Express that there has been a great interest among sex workers to apply for the training.
“Sex workers who are in the age group of 30 to 50 years are very interested to get selected for the training. Most of them are above 40 years of age. We have given a list of 30 names to the department concerned and the training will begin shortly,” Dey said.
She further said that each sex worker will get a minimum Rs 400 per day once they start working at the pavilion. DMSC has more than 1,30,000 registered sex workers in its fold.