Waste Collectors Kept Playing the Lottery. Finally, a Big Win

11 poverty-stricken women in Indian state of Kerala win $1.2M prize with ticket they chipped in on
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2023 11:02 AM CDT
Waste Collectors Kept Playing the Lottery. Finally, a Big Win
A lottery ticket vendor takes care of a customer in Kochi, in India's Kerala state, on July 30, 2020.   (AP Photo/R S Iyer)

A group of 11 women who build public toilets and collect non-biodegradable waste from homes in Parappanangadi, an Indian town in the state of Kerala, typically bring home the equivalent of $3 a day for their efforts. Now, these sanitation workers can relax a little about their bills after hitting it big in the local lottery. The BBC reports that the 11 women sometimes pool their cash to pick up a lottery ticket, and last month was one of those times. Nine women pitched in 30 cents each for a $3 ticket, while the two remaining women split a contribution, ponying up 15 cents each (one woman lent the other money so she could play). Last week, the women discovered they'd hit the jackpot, a whopping $1.2 million.

"We agreed we would get an equal share if we won anything," one of the women who handed over 15 cents says. "We didn't expect to win such a huge amount!" After taxes, the group will take home about $765,000, which means each of the women will receive just over $75,000 (except for the two women who paid 15 cents each—they'll split $75,000). The New York Times notes that, unlike America, where lottery jackpots often stretch into the hundreds of millions—even billions—even a measly $1 million is a "colossal fortune" in India. And indeed, the head of the sanitation consortium that employs this group of women says the win was huge.

"They are living in very humble households fighting harsh realities of life," she tells the PTI news agency, noting that many have medical bills or daughters whose weddings they need to pay for, per NDTV. Just because their wallets have became more full, however, don't expect the women to quit their gigs. "We will not leave this job because it was this collective that brought us prosperity," one tells the BBC. She adds a dose of reality as well, per the Times: "There won't be much left once I pay off all the debts." (More uplifting news stories.)

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