Bhola was sitting along with ten other men who were all waiting for the work to begin that morning. It is a common scene in every Indian city where thousands of families migrate from nearby villages in search of work and become daily labourers in construction works, his story was no different. When he came five years ago with his wife he expected the city to embrace them with joy but till now city has only been an insensitive host for them. They were blessed with two children in the meantime; sadly it became a curse than blessing as he found it too harsh to feed four, in this costly city, by working as daily labour. Like every morning, today too he first went to the liquor shop to buy a quarter, drank it there itself and only then he came to work, hoping to earn some money so that his family gets some food.
Four cabinet Ministers were present in the meeting room and Finance Secretary was explaining them why the present hike in State excise duty is imminent. Such meetings are held every day in that State Secretariat but this one was more significant because a hike in excise duties will always be detrimental to governments.
“Why can’t we postpone this hike for some time and instead of hike we manage to reduce our expenditure on welfare schemes?” asked Finance Minister.
Other ministers immediately showed their displeasure to the idea of reducing expenditure on welfare schemes, while Secretary made a strong argument that welfare schemes are all in full swing and need continuous funding to earn the goodwill of people, also if they are not funded properly Government will be in trouble to explain why it is neglecting the poor.
“Government is already in trouble now. After our announcement yesterday to hike excise duties, Opposition has started raising public support against it and CM is asking me to handle the situation. What do you expect me to do now?” Finance Minister asked again.
The Secretary sighed and said “Sir, we both know well that Opposition is misleading people and are not actually concerned with people’s welfare. Hiking State Excise tax would increase cost of elite consumption products like alcohol and cigarettes which should not affect common man. We need not take Opposition so seriously”
Finance Minister, “We need to take it seriously Sir. Unlike you bureaucrats we politicians need to walk along with people and work for their votes but not for their welfare alone. Opposition is doing same and our party is worried now what to do.”
As always meeting ended without any common opinion.
“All of you, today the Opposition party has declared Bandh to oppose government’s decision to increase prices again, so no work will happen. You people can come to the rally organised to protest against the government and you’ll receive reward for your time spent” said the labour leader to all men waiting there for the work to begin.
Bhola and other men had no other option than going with their leader, holding the banners and placards given to them, which they cannot read, all men went behind the politicians who marched towards the State Assembly in protest. The party members were shouting slogans against government and hundreds of men following also lent their voice in support.
Because of large gathering, it caused severe traffic jam and Police after a formal warning, arrested the politicians. As the party cadres were causing havoc on arrest of their leaders, police had to open lathi charge and water cannons to wither the crowd. Men ran helter-skelter, few were injured too who were sent to hospital, luckily Bhola escaped unscathed.
In the late evening, all labours gathered at same place where they were waiting in the morning. Their leader came with smiles, took them all to a nearby motel where they all had food and drinks. Finally gave them each a bottle of liquor before leaving.
Late night Bhola reached his hut in BharatNagar, cursing his wife, in inebriated state and fell on his bed with a thud. His wife searched his pockets for any money but to no avail, there was only a half filled liquor bottle in his hand, half he must have emptied she thought. Both children were still awake and crying with hunger. She had nothing to give them to eat, took the half-filled liquor bottle from her husband and with tears running down her cheeks, poured a few caps full of liquor in the mouths of children. “Oh Lord! Forgive me for this crime, I can’t see them crying for food, by this poison liquid at least they’ll have some sleep for the night.”
Opposition’s ruckus went for next six days and government had to succumb to the pressure at last.
Next day a national daily published in front page the words of Finance Minister, “Owing to public pressure, we are taking back our decision to hike the excise duties; we strongly reiterate that for government nothing is more important than public welfare and we are always committed to do what benefits the common man. After all this is the Government for Common Man.”
There was another news in inside pages – “In one of the huts of BharathNagar slums a women and two children were found dead. People suspect it as suicide but no proper reasons were found as yet. The Police said they have registered a case and will investigate to find the cause of death.”
Note: It is a work of fiction.