As their husbands were inside the Fraternity Club voting whether to return to work on Thursday, a small group of Gujarat NRE Coking Coal miners’ wives gathered outside to tell their stories.
Expressing her frustration, and desperation, after five weeks without her husband’s wage, one woman wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘‘My husband works for NR-free’’.
‘‘I’ve never done anything like this is my life,’’ she said of her decision to stage the small protest outside the union meeting.
‘‘But our mortgage payment is due next week, and I don’t know what we’re going to do.
‘‘My part-time wage at least puts food on the table [and] we do have a hardship clause in our loan contract which will allow us three months of not making the loan payments.
‘‘But we’re still going to be charged interest, so everything we’ve worked for is just going to slide backwards.’’
While news of one week’s wage – at least for some workers – is likely to take the pressure off bill repayments, one woman held back tears as she spoke about the shattering effects five weeks without her husband’s pay had on her family.
‘‘I have a 17-year-old and an 11-year-old, and it’s coming up to Christmas and it’s [the 11-year-old’s] birthday in three weeks and he was having his last sixth-class party, but I don’t think we can do that now,’’ she said.
‘‘I can’t wait until my husband can go back to work, because it’s unbearable for him – the stress is breaking everything down.’’
The other women, some who had never met but came together through a Facebook group for ‘‘wives and families of Gujarat NRE employees’’, agreed the past few weeks had been unbearably hard.
‘‘My little fella has a birthday party to go to on Saturday, so we’ve got to find the money for that or tell him he can’t go to a birthday,’’ one mother said.
‘‘My son had to miss an excursion at school,’’ said another.
They admitted feeling ‘‘humiliated’’ for accepting charity – mostly in the form of supermarket vouchers or food – as the weeks have passed.
‘‘The first couple of weeks you tough it out, but now it’s at the stage where you just have to swallow your pride.’’
But the hardest hit family members had been the men who couldn’t bring home their weekly pay to feed their families, the women said.
‘‘It’s so depressing for [the workers], and they’re so miserable,’’ one said.
‘‘Their self-esteem is going down, and that’s what makes it really hard.’’
‘‘They feel they’re failing but there’s nothing they can do.’’