It is very difficult to keep up to date with information on the cost of living in Tamil Nadu and the following information has not been updated since 2008. At that time the government was giving a rice allowance of 10 kilos of low grade rice to the very poorest families and this rice could also be purchased for as little as Rs2 per kilo. Low income families do therefore have a rather monotonous diet of rice and lentils (dhal). They will only have vegetables when they can afford it and meat rarely. ‘Cholam’ which is a gruel made from millet is drunk, with some pickle to give it flavour, for breakfast and lunch by very low income families. It is considered to be food for the very poor and some families reject it for that reason.
As in the UK local factors affect the cost of provisions and utilities and the devastating flooding in Chennai in 2006 made the cost of many vegetables prohibitive for local families and caused hardship within the community. In 2008 the problems with bird flu had a dramatic effect on the price of mutton and beef in the village. Chicken has remained at Rs60 per kilo but mutton had risen from Rs 120 per kilo to Rs180. More surprisingly the cost of beef more than doubled. This used to be a cheaper option, at Rs30 per kilo, for low income and Christian families who were prepared to eat beef but it rose to Rs70!
The following chart may be useful as a rough guide to the cost of food and other commodities in 2008. It may be possible to make some comparisons between the UK and K.V.Kuppam. Exchange rates have fluctuated over the last few years between 75 and 83 rupees to £1.
|STAPLE FOODS||Price per Kilo unless otherwise stated|
Government sponsored low grade rice
Seeraga Samba rice
|Woriad dhal (makes Dosi [pancakes])||Rs60|
|Iddly rice (ground rice for Dosi)||Rs15-20|
|Peanut oil||15kg costs Rs1300|
|Sugar||Rs15-25 depending on how refined it is|
|Jaggery –unrefined sugar made from sugar cane||Rs15|
|Milk||Rs12-20 per litre|
|FRUIT AND VEGETABLES||Price per Kilo unless otherwise stated|
|Yellow bananas||12 bananas for Rs15|
|Sweet bananas||12 for Rs25|
|Green bananas||Rs25 per kilo|
|Oranges -rare||4 small ones for Rs12|
|OTHER FOOD AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS|
|Cup of coffee||Rs5-7|
|Cup of milky tea||Rs3-5|
|300ml bottle of ‘7 Up’ or ‘Sprite’||Rs15|
|Malted milk biscuits||Rs15 per packet|
|Locally made Indian sweets||Rs100-120 per kilo|
|Indian sweets made in Vellore||Rs200 per kilo|
|Indian sweets made from Ghee (clarified butter)||Rs400 per kilo|
|Washing powder||Rs20-60 per kilo depending on quality|
|Jasmine flowers for hair decorations||Rs10|
|Roses from Bangalore||Rs3 each|
|Saris||From Rs200 for cotton, Rs 1000 for silk.
Silk wedding saris can cost thousands of
|Salwar kameez||From Rs 200|
|Large metal cooking pan||Rs 200|
In 2008 a skilled tradesman could earn up to 100 rupees a day but work is not available every day and many agricultural and unskilled workers earn 50 rupees or less. Again work is often seasonal. Professional people such as nurses and government teachers could earn from 6,000 – 8,000 rupees per month but non- government teachers much less, about 2,500 rupees per month.
By 2008 many families had electricity which cost about Rs50 per month to supply light and TV for two small rooms. If the family had more lights, electric grinders, sewing machines, music systems, etc it could cost Rs150-200 per month.
In 2008 the DMK government led by M Karunanadhi had started fulfilling their election promise by giving a Kilo of Rice for Rs.2 in the ration shops and also providing free colour televisions for the people who didn’t have TV in their homes. They had also begun to provide an allowance for LPG gas in a few areas.
Many families will have only a couple of sets of clothes. Twice a year, at Pongal and Divali, they will spring clean the house thoroughly, replace old equipment and purchase a new set of clothes for each member of the family. These clothes have to last for the rest of the year but the women will often borrow a sari from family or friends for a special occasion and they will have two or three sari blouses which match a sari to add variety. The women of Tamil Nadu take great pride in their appearance and unless they are in mourning they will also usually have fresh flowers in their hair.
It is now possible to view K.V.Kuppam on Google Earth and Vellore, the closest large town to K.V.Kuppam. From Vellore follow the road north towards Katpadi and then follow the tree lined road and the railway line west from Katpadi Junction. The road heads north over the railway bridge and then turns sharp left towards Gudiyattum. This will give children the opportunity to see how the landscape changes quite quickly from urban to rural. They can also see how arid the area is other than coconut groves, fields of paddy and other crops that have been irrigated from bore holes or wells. The monsoons have failed badly over the past years and although they have had some rain it is never enough to make the Palar River flow again. Its dried up bed is also clearly visible. Drinking water is pumped from below this river to the village of KVK.