By Abhishek Jha and Amitabh Bhushan, PRIA
15th of March 2013 Chief Minister of Bihar was in New Delhi to demand from the center a Special State Status (SSS) for Bihar. Indeed the Govt. of Bihar argues that the state needs exceptional funds to catch up in terms of development with rest of the nation. Four months ago when the same event was organized in Patna (Bihar), PRIA tried to capture some reflections of urban purr communities regarding this so called ‘Adhikar Rally’ (“a rally for demanding the rights”)
Patna, November 2012
Patna, the capital city of Bihar has gone green these days, but unfortunately it is not the trees which are making the city green. It is rather the color of the posters, banners and billboards of the ruling party (JDU) which have been greening Patna (since green is the party’s symbolic color). Just a stroll down the city is enough to give a glimpse of the city’s new found greenery. The whole capital of Bihar has been decked up, and many raths, processions and events are being taken up for making the rally a success. It is noteworthy that this rally is different from all rallies and ‘railas’ (term used by the previous government) which have been organized in the state of Bihar till date, as it for demanding special status for the state of Bihar enabling it to ace access larger funds for bridging the gaps in development. In other way it can also be looked upon as politicization of development.
A general view of Patna these days
Every person who is related to the ruling party in some way or the other is leaving no stone unturned to maximize participation of people in the event. Subsequently a question automatically arises who are the participants who make such rallies and events a success by participating in large numbers. Undoubtedly, the people belonging to affluent classes or those who live on the upper part of the societal pyramid do not participate in large numbers in such events unless they have some vested political interest in it, the majority of the participants are those who belong to socially and economically weaker section of the society and the urban poor living in the slums of the city are no different.
These are the anecdotes from the interaction with people living in the slums of Patna and their perceptions about the ‘Adhikar’ Rally. The first interface was with the people belonging to Mushar community (‘musshar’ literally means rat eaters and this community is considered as most socio-economically vulnerable). This slum is called Morcha Road Mushar Toli and just the entrance of this slum proves the pathetic condition in which people live. The slum altogether has 75-80 households and if we trace the history of this slum, it is almost six decades old, when there existed a river stream and these people lived on the bank of the river, but with the passage of time and city being transformed into a concrete jungle, only a drain is left in the name of river. After having a series of discussions with the community, about their survival strategies in past 60 years, when they were asked who all are participating the upcoming rally, people unanimously said they all are looking forward to it. When further inquired, what makes them keen to participate in the rally, they said 5 large buses will be coming to pick them up from their doorstep and all the 80 households will fill the buses just because ‘it’s a half day engagement and they are providing us (to all our family members, who will be participating) a day’s meal, this a will save a day’s meal of the whole family what more could we have asked for”.
A view of Morcha road slum
Another interaction was with the slum dwellers of Postal Park, which comprises of multiple groups (caste wise) and were economically better off in comparison to the previous slum. Interface with the community helped us understand the whole process of slum formation in this area and how they have survived various demolitions till date and how they have been living with the fear of eviction even now. When they were posed the similar question about their participation in the ‘Adhikar’ Rally, the participant’s straight forwardly denied their participation in the rally. This community had a very clear cut idea and they boldly stated that “this ‘Adhikar’ rally is not for our ‘Adhikar’, it is for the ‘Adhikar’ of the politicians ruling in the state so that they can accumulate more and more and our conditions will remain as it is” they further informed they had negated their participation in the rally to the local leader who had approached them.
Now, if we analyze the above two cases its notable that politicians still succeed in mobilizing the emotions of these vulnerable communities in the name of development ( with no concrete plans for them) as key strategies to upscale their political stature and influence inspite improvement in literacy levels, political awareness and consciousness among the marginalized communities in Bihar. On the other hand it is unfortunate that such huge participation of these marginalized sections are not witnessed in any social campaign designed exclusively for their betterment be it for housing, PDS, Social Security etc. Another pertinent question which arises at this point of time is that do our social campaigns (the ones taken up by CSOs) have such penetrating capacity for mobilization of marginalized population? The social campaigners need to rethink now.
- Are the campaigns run by CSOs coordinated to such extent?
- Do the volunteers of social campaigns have such a large outreach?