Monday, November 26, 2012

The Story of Sonu, Leh

this is a small case study i could make from the recent tour of Ladakh
its the story of Sonu, a 15 yr old Bihari boy, whom i came across just like scores of other Bihari labour working on Border roads. only that i met this individual in our guest house mess, and could chat up some details, which i found interesting ...




Native Place-Ghoda ghat, Gaya, Bihar

Presently- working as a server in one of the mess, Leh

Family- Father, Mother, Sister

why he came here- the story is as folows.


Sonu's father who was working at Kolkata suffered an injury in leg and was bed ridden. his medical expenses and lack of any other source of income pushed the family to poverty. So as the sole male member of the family apart from his father, Sonu had to step in.


here at Leh, he gets rs4000/month, all of which he sends home as he's fed in the mess. i asked, what if he falls ill. he said , he goes to the nearby army hospital but has2 pay for his medicines, money for which his superviser lends and cuts from the salary.


About education, he says he never has had the opportunity, but confides that his sister goes to school. quite understandable as according to him he has already worked in a hotel in Manali, with Tibetans at Dharmashala and at a farm at Lahaul Spiti ( where he was only paid rs 500/month!!, + child labor)


i asked him if they were landless...they should be having some land. he was shy while saying that he didnt know the exact term with which they measure in proper Hindi..he said they had 12 'Bhiga' land near Gaya. i asked them why didnt they cultivate..he said with a shy smile ' paani bhi to hona chahiye na saab'... i was not ready to accept that the area around Gaya should be scanty in water, and being aware of the 'water-politics' prevalent in villages, i probed further... i was right, Sonu told me that the Dabangs in village were blocking the water upstream.. he said the Rajputs in the village demanded money in return for water and a share in the crop as well. sometimes they asked for a part of land for them to cultivate...which obviously didnt go back to the debt ridden farmer but in turn the farmer was compelled to pledge his remaining farm too...this way, the Dabangs had aggregated a large parcels of land.. usury was in vogue, and poor farmers were easy meat for land sharks.

Sonu beamed while saying this, obviously proud of being knowledgeable in this isuue and that they were able to withhold in he face of pressure against any such practice. 


i asked him, why didnt they complain to the authorities.. he smiled and said what will happen with that..he said his village didnt have a proper road connecting to the main road and it was still not electrified, so even if they wanted to go for complaining, it was difficult n costly. he said , there is no one who listens to them hence they dont go..previously there used to be a 'good' officer called Mandal. i asked him if it was a Tehsildar or an SDM.. he said it was a police officer. it was surprising! i asked him why didnt they go 2 the Tehsildar or SDM.. he was sarcastic when he said 'woh sab hamari kaha sunte hai sahab'.


i asked him about, Jan sunvai...a designated day wherein u get2 meet any officer directly with ur problems... Sonu was unaware of any such thing.


i asked him about NREGS...why didnt they go to work there.. he was dismissive at this..he just questioned 'payment'? i was left 2 imagine the possible deductions out that one word... either

1. it was erratic

2. too late

3. not easy to get

4. far less when compared to what he earns now, and not guaranteed.


i asked him from where else workers usually came..he replied from all over, 'Ladakh,Bihar, Kolkata'...'and UP?' i asked, he said 'yes, and Punjab also'..i asked 'MP?', and he said yes! he said two of his colleagues in the next block were from MP..but didnt know where exactly they were from...or why exactly they landed here


our conversation ended here...


i was left thinking regarding the several factors that can land an individual into poverty in our country, robbing him of his basic amenities...

-Medical expenses

-Village politics


-Lack of governmental sensitivity

-failure of grievance redressal

-over exposure of Govt machinery to the elite and under exposure to the downtrodden.

-downright insensitivity on our part 2wards our countrymen...not only as officers, but also fellow countrymen..


it is said great edifices are built upon many sacrifices...ofcourse, it has to be...nation building is a veritable thing and each one of us should give sacrifices, be it in terms of civil liberties or building border roads..