A BAKERY that employs women who were trafficked and rescued, transgenders, and those who are differently abled — the district administration hopes to chart a new course with this initiative in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada.
“We wanted to provide employment to vulnerable groups that doesn’t constrain them to a routine job. The bakery will supply bread and other items to hotels and government-run canteens, as well as explore other markets. The idea is to make them self-sufficient,” said Astha Rajput, nodal officer of the project.
Set up at an initial cost of about Rs 10 lakh, the Navchetna Bakery, equipped with high-end machinery, is yet to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
“We are working on providing both the services as well as the items that were not known in the district so far. It’s a pilot project, but we are very hopeful about it,” said Dantewada Collector Deepak Soni.
Anand Sai Paul, 23, the patissier, said they were looking at a confluence of modern baking skills and local produce.
“We will have the basic flavours but we are experimenting with mahua, moringa and local jaggery flavours. We are also planning to use millet and other grains to make bread and brownies,” he said.
Paul, a resident of Bacheli in the district, has a professional degree and work experience with some top hotels. “I returned to Dantewada because I wanted to work here. Any baked item in Dantewada has to be sourced from Jagdalpur, which is over 85 km away,” he said.
Paul has already started working on packaging the baked goods, to be supplied across the state and even outside.
“We are also looking at making Ragi nutrition bars with local produce,” he said.
Trafficked when she was 15, Rashmi (name changed), 21, was rescued in 2016. Now married, she is one of the seven employees at the bakery.
“I want to earn money like my husband and brothers-in-law, so that no one in my family has to be sent away in search of a job,” she said.
Accompanied by her eight-month-old daughter, Rashmi travels for over an hour daily, from her village to the bakery in Dantewada. “I want to bake a cake for my daughter when she turns one,” she said, smiling.
Among the other employees, one is a transgender while one of the three men is differently abled.
Binnu Vek, 21, an employee, is a resident of Halbaras in Kuakonda block of the district. “When I finished school, the district administration sent me to Pune for a Diploma in Basic Rural Technology in 2018,” he said.
But Vek had to return to Dantewada after his brother fell ill. After doing odd jobs for about two years, Vek was contacted by the district officials for the bakery. “When they said I had to go to Pune again, I was happy. I missed misal pav (a local dish),” he said. “Now, I know how to bake pav (bread) and I eat it with everything,” he said.
In November last year, Vek and three others were sent for a six-week bakery course at Vigyan Ashram in Pune.
The Navchetna Bakery has been painted and decorated by Pinku Jhagda, an artist from the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya in Khairagarh. “I wanted to keep the decor contemporary while also introducing types of tribal art,” he said.
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