Beach Livelihoods of Odisha

The competitive market of beach towns like Puri, coupled with financial and climatic uncertainties, forces low-skilled vendors to continue in low-risk, low-scale, and low-gain occupations.

The physical geography of beach towns like Puri in Odisha makes them very unique. The Puri beach is very large, and one needs several days to cover the length of it. This vast beach is the provider of livelihood to thousands of people from nearby towns and villages, and even those from outside the state. I visit coastal Odisha every year, but a recent visit was quite different from the earlier ones.

While sitting on the sands of Puri beach, I saw a group of young boys distributing money among themselves. Interested in what was going on, I ended up observing them. They earn their livelihood by offering body and foot massages to beachgoers. On an average, they earn ₹10,000 per month if they start work at 10 am and work till 6 pm every day. Asking them about the group dynamics and the distribution pattern of the money earned, I learnt that they had set up an informal union amongst themselves. Every person in this union is entitled to a share of the total income collected on a particular day even if that person was absent on that day, provided that they had a genuine reason for the absence. In the evening, they all assemble and calculate the day’s income, and divide the sum equally among themselves, irrespective of their share in the work. Their motivating principle is that no member should lose their earning in case of any personal exigency or unforeseen issue. 

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Updated On : 9th Mar, 2020

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