Happiness is on the plate for the sex workers of Sonagachi this Durga Puja! The inmates of Asia’s largest red-light area are all set to wear the chef’s cap this festive season, at the various food pavilions run by the West Bengal fisheries department.
As part of a collaboration between the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), an NGO which works for the welfare of sex workers in the State, and the State Fisheries Development Corporation (SFDC), sex workers will be trained to work as chefs at the food stalls.
They will be trained to cook various dishes for its food pavilions, and cut and process raw fish which are sent to various departmental stores across the state.
Soumyajit Das, SFDC managing director told PTI that since most of their cooks have been sent to Bengaluru to manage the food pavilions there, there was a shortfall in Kolkata. That is when they approached Durbar.
We will be training the manpower, both in cooking and in fish processing – right from handling a live fish to packaging a finished product. They will cook for our food pavilions during Pujas.Soumyajit Das, SFDC Managing Director
Samarjit Jana, an official of Durbar, said that the training of the sex workers has begun from 5 September. The first batch had 30 sex workers who were sent for training by the SDFC.
The fisheries department had asked us for few women who could help in their kitchens and their fish processing units. We sought the opinion of the sex workers and many of them and their children expressed their desire to work as cooks.Samarjit Jana, Official, Durbar NGO
This is a warm, welcoming move for a community which is most often oppressed and humiliated. According to a Times of India report in 2016 , Durbar took a step back from organising Durga Puja for the sex workers after facing flak from several authorities.
The good news does not end there. The SFDC is planning for a long-term employment opportunity for the sex workers in the state.
"As we need people in our processing units where we regularly have to cater to huge orders from various food chains, online grocery shops and supermarkets, their (sex workers) employment will not be limited to the pujas," Das said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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