Indira Kalyan Vihar is a slum colony in South-East Delhi. It is located in Okhla Industrial Estate, which has hundreds of big and small companies. Large number of residents of this colony are workers. The residents face a lot of problems and are deprived of the basic necessities of life. This meeting was to raise the demands for the basic rights like water, sanitation, access to schools and healthcare facilities, etc. The meeting was organised by the Lok Raj Samiti of Indira Kalyan Vihar and was held on 5th July 2015 in the evening.
Youth of the area had made all the preparations for the meeting – decorating the stage, making seating arrangements and mobilizing the residents to come and take part in the meeting. Young and old, men and women came to attend the meeting from the local area. The meeting was conducted by Shri Santosh Kumar who had contested the Assembly elections from this area and was addressed by the Lok Raj Sangathan President, Shri S Raghavan and the Delhi Convener, Shri Birju Nayak and several other speakers. The banner on the stage called on the residents to unite for their rights.
Opening the meeting, Shri Santosh Kumar welcomed all participants and read out the petition sent to the Chief Minister of Delhi by the Lok Raj Samiti, which highlighted the major problems in this slum colony. These included absence of piped water supply, government schools and a dispensary, and also the presence of a large and dirty nallah. The nallah flowed right in the middle of the colony and apart from smell and disagreeable sight, it is a source of all kinds of diseases. It is extremely dangerous and presents a special hazard to the children there. Santosh pointed out that the government is refusing to address the piped water supply, which causes the residents to spend several hours of their time on waiting and filling their daily requirement of water from the tanker water supply. There is a large opportunity cost of this as workers are not unable to work to their full potential and children are unable to do their studies to ensure they get this essential item. He said that the political parties promise the solution to all these problems at the time of elections but are not at all interested. Even when the people remind them after the elections, they say that no water is available. Santosh pointed out that this was not true. Less than a km away there is the five-star Crown Plaza hotel which alone consumes as much water as half the residents of Indira Kalyan Vihar! He urged the residents to rise above party affiliations and other divisions based on religion and caste, etc. and come together to demand their common rights.
Shri Birju Nayak said that the problems of Indira Kalyan Vihar were similar to the problems of other slum colonies. He related his experience of meeting with the Delhi Jal Board official in 2005 when he was leading the earlier round of struggle for water supply. The CEO of DJB told him that if water supply problem is sorted out the stranglehold of the political parties over the people will be over. Also, they don’t want to provide water because then they are afraid that people will demand other necessities like sewage system, parks, schools and healthcare facilities, etc. In other word, the governments deliberately want to keep the workers and toiling people in deprivation. He pointed out the hollowness of the Cleanliness Campaign which urges the people to have toilettes in their homes but the necessary sewage system has not been provided by the government. He pointed out that even the companies in Okhla area do not provide toilette facilities to their workers causing a lot of problem to workers, especially women workers. Birju said that the Health Dept. says that there is no space available to make a dispensary, but acquiring the space is their work and they cannot give that as an excuse. He also talked about the pathetic condition of the schools in slum colonies. He told that in Manipur Khadar village in South-East Delhi, there are 150 students in a class! How is it possible for a teacher to even look at the work of the students? In conclusion, he said that working people cannot think of the big party leaders as their leaders since these leaders have no concern for their plight. They will have to unite together to fight for their rights.
Shri Raghavan contrasted the earnings of the owners of the factories in Okhla in crores of Rupees with the meagre earnings of the workers of these factories who generate the wealth in the factories. He asserted that every human being has rights. All the political parties who vie for power promise the toilers that they will fulfil their basic rights before elections, however, afterwards they do nothing to fulfil these promises. This is the reason why LRS has started the campaign for tights. It is being run, not just in Indira Kalyan Vihar but in all the slum colonies of Delhi. We want to unite the people so that we can demonstrate in front of the Chief Minister that so many people are deprived of rights. Our experience shows that we achieve nothing without a struggle. LRS is publicizing these initiatives through its website and through the social media. Our experience also shows that the big political parties work for the big companies and not for us. This shows that we don’t have real power and we are limited to only voting once in so many years. LRS is fighting for a system in which people will have political power to affect changes in their lives. For this it is essential that we unite and shed all illusions that anything can come to us through voting in the elections. We have to fight for our rights by joining this campaign. Only if people join in large numbers in this campaign, we will be able to succeed in getting our demands.
Shri Lokesh Kumar recited a few lines from a Bhojpuri song, which meant the leaders get all sorts of privileges including food subsidy while the workers have very little income have to spend many times more for inferior food. He recounted his interaction with the member of the Parliament from the area when a delegation had gone to meet him a few years ago. MP Ramesh Bidhuri told the delegation that there was no water to pipe. Lokesh said that then they filed RTI applications to get information about the amount spent on tankers to provide water and the number of bore-wells that were there. It was an eye opener that the Municipality spent 1 crore 64 lakhs every year to provide water to Sanjay Colony (another slum colony in Okhla) where 64 tankers are sent daily. There are supposed to be 36 bore wells but when the residents searched for the bore-wells in the colony, they found out that there were only four! Obviously, huge amount of money is being siphoned off by the leaders and people are not getting even the basic facilities. Lokesh said that so many people come to Delhi from villages in UP and Bihar with the dream that their children will get educated and earn enough money for them to go back to their native place and live comfortably. But the reality hits the people and dreams are shattered. People become cynical and start to accept their situation. Lokesh asked the audience, "Is this the future we want to leave for our children?" He said that we cannot remain divided between parties but have to come together to solve our common problems. We are told, he said that "intazaar ka phal meetha hota hai", but we have seen that "intazaar karne se kuch nahin hota hai!" He ended his address with another Bhojpuri couplet which urged the people to unite to bring change in their lives.
Among the other speakers, Shrimati Sucharita said that we had waited enough. Now we are getting together to win our rights. She said that workers produce all wealth in society but have no rights or basic facilities, whereas the capitalist owners enjoy the fruits of workers’ toil. She explained that this was so because the capitalist class wielded the political power and decided which government should defend their interest in any elections. What we workers have to understand, she said, is that in this system only capitalists have rights and workers have no rights because the political power is with the capitalists. She exhorted everyone to fight for a better future for their children. We have to challenge this system; we have to be able to select the candidates who are allowed to stand in the elections. We have to keep the elected representatives in our control and recall them if they fail to defend the interest of the toilers. All these mechanisms don’t exist today and we have fight for these so that we have a life worth living. If we don’t join the campaign and fight for our rights, then our children’s life will be even worse than our own lives, she concluded.
Shri Santosh invited the residents to give their views and come forward to join the campaign. He clarified that everyone was welcome to join the campaign irrespective of which party they belonged to. He asked the participants to give their contact details so that they could be invited for the actions in the future. Several hands went up and volunteers took down their contact details.