A significant part of the Jamshedpur parliamentary constituency, around 1.5 lakh people, lives in slums. These mostly comprise tribals, Dalits and people from other backward communities. The people here have always voted, but their situation has never changed.
In these Lok Sabha elections, people from this region, including hundreds of new voters from the slums, exercised their franchise in the second phase on April 17. There has been 63% polling in the area, whereas the average for the entire constituency was 65%.
Both the BJP and the Congress have had strong support in Jamshedpur. However, in the by-polls held in 2011, former IPS officer Dr Ajay Kumar contested on a Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) ticket. In these elections, 15 candidates are in the fray, including Nirup Mohanty of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Dr Ajay Kumar of the JVM and the BJP’s Vidyut Varan Mahto. The Jamshedpur parliamentary constituency includes Bahragoda, Ghatshila, Potka, Jugsalai, East and West Jamshedpur assembly segments.
Jamshedpur city administration
Jamshedpur parliamentary constituency is divided between the land taken on lease by the Tatas and the rest of the township. The city administration/civic administration has been divided into many parts keeping this in mind. The Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee has two divisions. This includes 41 sq km of the Tata Utilities and Service Company and the rest with the Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee. On the other hand, Maango Notified Area Committee administers 18 sq km and Adityapur City Council administers an area of 49 sq km. Other areas are administered by the Jugsalai City Council and Gamhariya Village Panchayat.
Children's education: the dream and worry of every home
The main demands of the people in the slums include rights to housing, water, electricity, health, education, getting a below poverty line (BPL) card, etc. In the last elections, the slum dwellers united and voted for JVM candidate Dr Ajay Kumar. People had hoped that their lives would change, but much didn’t happen. Hence, this time around, this vote bank is a divided lot. Usha Mahto has been working for the children in the slums for the last 18 years and is connected with the Adarsh Seva Sangathan. She says as the lease is in force, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is required from the company before government schools can be opened in these slum clusters, which has affected the education of their children.
The incomplete Rajiv Gandhi Awaas Yojana
Jamshedpur has been included in the central government’s ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Awaas Yojana (Rajiv Gandhi Housing Scheme). It envisages that slum dwellings in the Maango and the Jamshedpur Notified Area Committees as well as the Jugsalai City Council will be properly constructed and housing rights will be given to slum dwellers. The scheme also includes provisions for water, electricity and other social structures. This scheme, which was implemented in 2011, envisages making Jamshedpur slum free by 2018. At that time, the newspapers had been full with the news that the slums would be replaced by multi-storied buildings. The Jharkhand Space Centre had even prepared a map of the area. But the dreams of the slum dwellers remain on paper.
Voter IDs made on war footing
During the parliamentary elections, the slum dwellers got fresh voter ID cards made in huge numbers. The situation was such that many of them got a new voter ID card issued on the day of polling and then went to cast their votes. These people considered themselves fortunate to be able to vote for the first time in their lives. Now, they worry whether anyone would even remember the problems of these slums after the elections.
Darkness under the lamp
One of the much-anticipated projects for the slum areas of Jamshedpur is the plan to build a Marine Drive, like the one in Mumbai, on the banks of the Swarnarekha and Kharkai rivers, complete with skyscrapers and malls on the river fronts.
The slum dwellers, however, are ignored and there is no one to listen to their problems. Julie Kumari of Nirmal Nagar-A says the slums are seen as dumping grounds for the city’s waste. The people who live here are born like insects in dirty drains, and die in the slums in the midst of the civilised city people. The children here grow up picking up the iron pieces from the slag dumps and heaps, and their only employment is to sell these iron pieces to earn a living. There is no one to channel the energies of the youth from these slums, even though they are part of the same society and country. They too have an equal stake in the country’s development.
Binoo of the Siddho Kanhoo Sector-2 slum points to a couple of broken walls which comprise the school in her slum, and says children study there where it is in shade. As the sun changes its course, the children, too, have to change their places. These children have suffered because the contractor did not begin construction on the land given by the company. He started constructing the school elsewhere and then abandoned it midway. The children have to suffer the apathy.
In Jamshedpur constituency, people who live in darkness ponder over their future, and wonder whether the vote they cast would bring change to their lives, or whether it would remain a mere chant they utter in their dark surroundings.