There are many who feel that slum dwellers just do not matter, except when it comes to election time. There are some who feel that having the power to vote, puts them in a position of strength at least for a day. But the women who lives in shacks on the footpath outside the Government Colony fall in neither category. They have votes, they duly exercise their right to franchise, but they hold out little hope of benefiting from it.
The only thing they are sure of is that things are unlikely to change any time soon. They have been living in their shanties on the footpath for a little over two decades and continue to face a host of problems. Laxmi Jadhav and her family have been regular voters, yet they feel little has been done to ease their lives. For years, they have been facing hostility from the government colony and they would like to move, but where, is what they would like to know.
They spoke freely to Spice Enquirer, one of them declaring that the MLA, Prakash Sawant, whose death led to a by-election that brought his wife Trupti into the position, was really the only one who had helped them.(Said one of them, “Baba really helped us.” Said another, “Not even Sawant madam helped us. She only kept telling us that she will help but then we just remained waiting and no action was taken.”
Their problems are across the board, including water, food, shelter, toilets, hygiene and hospital facilities. Sushmita, 15-year-old girl suffering from Down’s syndrome, is a case in point. Says her mother, “My daughter couldn’t even walk before and I had to take care of her all the time. No one helped us, even though I was working. I had to leave my work sometimes just to take care of her.”
Naseembanu Gulabkhan was even more vociferous. She complained loudly about everything, but particularly about floods which have become an annual feature of their lives. There is also the little matter of having to pay Rs 5 for every visit they made to the public toilet.
Resigned she added, “But we continue to vote, even though these people just make promises. Almost we expect nothing from them”.
Written by Journalism students Annet Anandraj and Martina Bhoya
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