Recent reports have highlighted that development has created an enormous gap among the rich and the poor of one soil.
This is starkly evident in our own country, where, on one hand, the glamour of development shines in the spiralling steel and glass facade buildings of the cities, while on the other, discriminated hand, the surreal world faces a struggle for mere existence. This contrast is stark in many parts of India, more so in much-cited emerging economies like that of the state of Bihar.
Adjoining to the famous Gandhi Maidan, witness to the most visible political rallies and electoral promises is the 'chamar-toli' of Salimpora Ahra where the glitz of words is toned down by the callousness of everyday life. The Government has, undoubtedly, shown interest to develop the area as a part of the state policy. The presence of the government schools and Anganwadi kendras established in the region, long list of BPL card holders and the launch of several schemes intended to benefit the marginalized communities testify those intentions.
And yet, the situation in this colony in the heart of the capital city is worse than that of a forgotten village. The schemes are inaccessible for a large chunk of the area's population, creating disparity among people of the same locality. Most affected by this trend are the twenty five to thirty Dalit families living by the side of an open drain, risking their lives.
For those who cross this area with their noses covered, the 'only' perceptible risks these dalit families face are mosquito bites, lack of sanitation facilities and stench of the dirty water; but the ones living here know better. "During the rains, we stay awake the entire night. As the water level in this open drainage rises and enters our houses we raise the height of our beds. Of course, the rain dripping from the temporary broken rooftops cannot be escaped," said Ramsakhi Devi, a mother of four living in the locality.
The worst affected are the little children, especially since the number of children in each family in this locality is considerably large with no awareness on family planning issues. According to Ramsakhi Devi, "Many a times we have saved our children from drowning in this open nallah. We were lucky to save their lives at the cost of few injuries but till when their luck holds out is difficult to say."
This destitute lot has, on several occasions, requested Dharmshila Devi, the ward member of the area to get the drainage covered. If not the entire stretch, at least the section in front of their houses; but nothing has been done in the last five months. Dharmshila Devi was unavailable for comment but her husband, the "mukhiya pati" Mr. Ashok Kumar Yadav who lives in the same locality but in a concrete house covered from all sides, said that it's been only four months since his wife has become a ward member.
He promised that they would look into the matter. But the dwellers believe his promises don't count when the elected member Dharmshila Devi herself does not want to listen and interact with the public - the same public that voted her to power.
The Government has invested in large grants for these people living at the margins of the city, yet they continue to live in the filthiest of conditions. When asked about the benefits they have received from government schemes, they simply smiled, explaining how they did have the BPL cards but none of the benefits it was meant to provide. The Indira Awas Yojana follows a similar pattern. Clearly, promises by the government and the statistics showed in their annual reports are far from the reality these people live.
Time, the best teacher, has taught these people to live with these issues as they are now tired of trying - complaining, requesting and begging. They have learnt to live with the flow of the nallah - the continuous surge of miseries.
The Charkha Development Communication Network asks how else does one explain a mother's casual, chilling narrative about her little daughter drowing in this very nallah? Where is the shining Bihar?