ATRI/WAZIRGANJ (Gaya): In Bihar’s high-stake political battle, Musahars – an influential group of dalits within the 16% Mahadalit voters in the state – continue to survive in terrible living conditions, without even enough food and clothes.
A drive through Banganga-Atri road off National Highway 82 (Nawada-Gaya), reveals that Musahars, an extremely poor community of mostly landless agricultural labourers, are largely deprived of the benefits of all social engineering their political masters have been planning for decades to get their votes.
The politicians are back fighting for Musahar votes. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, chief minister Nitish Kumar, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi have held rallies in the two assembly segments and promised change once again. Before elections, almost nothing happened at the ground level to improve the plight of the Musahars which is aggravated by abject poverty, lack of foods, clean drinking water, pucca houses, irrigation facility, skills and jobs. The condition of Musahars in the two constituencies, which have a sizeable population of Musahars, is the real story of the Mahadalits beyond the political drama being played by politicians of all hues.
In 2014 when he was chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi visited Dashrath Manjhi’s village, a predominantly Musahar village, and was flooded with request from people for getting them pucca houses. “The huts look better,” Dashrath quoted Manjhi as replying to locals.
The Wazirgaj-Fatehpur road is dotted with Musahar settlements. It is tough to find villagers who have got Indira Awas among all the settlements. Some houses are also made of tarpaulins. “My father works as a loader in the bazaar,” said Subodh Manjhi, 13, a school drop-out who works at a tea stall at Mamarchak in Wazirganj assembly constituency.
The state government’s Mahadalit Mission has also done little to improve their life. Gaya district welfare officer of the Mahadalit Mission Sanjay Kumar said the mission is working at the ground level. But in the Musahar settlements no one knows what Mahadalit Mission is all about.