The Paswan family members make their ends meet by doing odd jobs
Amita Shah
In this hamlet of thatched huts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message of Digital India is far out of range.Under the shade of lemon trees, where Shivraj Paswan and his family are just beginning the day’s chores, life has not changed as governments come and go. Oblivious of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US tour which had dominated television news space, leave alone his meetings with Apple CEO Tim Cook or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, they are still waiting for a political messiah who will at least return to them after being elected.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Humra pait bharat naahi, TV kahan se leube (we are not able to fill our stomach, how will we buy a television),” says Paswan’s wife, as she prods her husband to take the goats for grazing so that he gets Rs 100, an amount too big to lose.Less than 50 kms from Patna, the village falls along a well-paved road. “Nitish Kumar has done a lot of good work. But, nothing has changed our lives,” said Paswan pointing to the three generations of his family. He also resents the fact that Nitish Kumar tied up with RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.Just eight days ago they got a notice from the bank asking them to return Rs 15,000 of the loan of Rs 25,000 they had taken 15 years ago. “Lalu Prasad Yadav had promised in 2003 that it would be waived off,” said Paswan.Like most from their community, amidst the cynicism and fading hopes, they have made up their mind to vote for “Modi”, the face of the BJP-led NDA of which Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP is a constituent. The dalits in Mahua are upset with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a mahadalit leader. Ironically, they may end up voting for Ravinder Rai, the former JD-U leader and sitting MLA, who is now with Manjhi’s HAM.But, the Yadavs will vote for Tej Pratap, Lalu’s eldest son who is making his debut this election. Mohd Kalam, a local RJD leader, claimed that the party had an edge because of the dominance of Yadavs and “anti-incumbency” against Rai. According to him, of the 2.66 lakh voters, 50,000 are Yadavs, 40,000 Muslims, 15,000 mahadalits and 10,000 Kurmis.In the busy Mahua town, along the dusty broken road, lined with several mobile and service provider shops, it’s a different story. But, here too, the development slogan is lost in the caste cacophony.In another village, Singhana Tara, which also falls in Mahua segment of Vaishali district, Shivji Rai’s story is similar to that of Paswan. Running a tractor, he could not afford to educate his three sons and two daughters. Two of his sons run rickshaws in Patna.Around 45 kms from Mahua, in Alampur village of Sarairanjan assembly segment which falls in Samastipur district, the Musahars, who belong to Manjhi’s community, are fighting for water. Denied water from a government hand pump, they have to go to a nearby school to get water. They are familiar with mobile phones but computers.As the BJP’s candidate, Ranjit Nirguni leaves after talking to them, they say the vote is a right they will exercise for their “saviour” — Manjhi. Aware that Manjhi has joined the NDA, they have decided to vote for BJP. Asked if Manjhi did anything for them when he was chief minister, Ram Pratap Sada said it was because Nitish Kumar denied him a chance.His father sat plucking corn to make sattu, roti or bhanja. He has voted in every election. Ram Pratap said life has changed from begging to doing labour for a paltry sum. Samastipur’s literacy rate is 62.81 per cent, one per cent lower than that of Bihar and around 12 per cent less than India’s, which is 75 per cent.

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For the mahadalits of central Bihar constituencies, Digital India is not even a pipe dream