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1.8   Livelihood

As stated earlier, Yeravas were praedial slaves in the olden days. Those who were not slaves, worked in plantations as kulis. At present, based on their employment, Yeravas may be classified into two groups: those who work in the forests as assistants to the forest officials and those work in the plantations.

The forest activities involve felling of trees, weeding of plants, setting fire and controlling of the fire from spreading, heaping of the timber and loading of the same to the trucks. They work under the supervision of the forest guards. They are paid the daily wages @ Rs. 7.50 a day for a male worker and @ Rs. 6.00 a day for the female worker. Once in a week the payments are made to them by the officials. This is done nor­mally on the shandy day. During the week, some times, the Yeravas may take some advance money from the official in 'kind', mainly rice. While paying cash to the Yerava at the end of the work the advance money paid to him is deducted from his wages and the rest is paid. With that money, he buys supplies like betel leaves and are canuts, vegetables, oil, and other essential commodities required in the house for the next week. Most of the Yerava men and women spend their money in drinking arrack. One can see Yeravas on shandy days, shouting, quarrelling and coming home in the late evening in a fully drunken state. They are found not to save anything for any purpose. The concept as well as practice is not found. Whenever a need arises, like marriage or death, they appeal to their employers.

Normally, children of 12-14 years also go with parents forwork. They are paid Rs. 3 to 4 per day. The children at home or people who fail to go for work go for fishing. If the catch is good all would eat: if it is less, before others come, they roast the fish in the fire and eat. Similarly the children and those who do not go to work collect roots and wild fruits from the forest for eating. However, this in no way supports the livelihood of the family. Yeravas claim that in earlier times they were good athunting the animals like deer and wild goat. And now, the art of hunting is almost forgotten by the community. They cannot hunt now because of forest regulations. However, if they find an opportunity to catch a forest cock or a rabbit, still try and succeed.

Another important activity contributing to their livelihood is paddy cultivation. The forest Yeravas normally live in aplace where there is water source; they live in places where twohillocks join. The plains are used for paddy cultivation. In these government lands Yeravas grow paddy through rain-fed irrigation, once in an year. The old people who do not go outside for any work look after the paddy cultivation. All the members of the family work in the paddy field for sowing, etc., and at the harvest time also. The children keep birds away from the paddy. In many instances the government has given he-buffalos to Yerava families for cultivation purposes free of cost.

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