Smart City Ludhiana’s dirty secret: Migrant colonies with sub-human conditions where no one comes to ask for votes

Not far from Old Durga Colony is Prem Nagar, where the situation is so bad that people pay from their own pocket to get mounds of soil thrown or cement platforms raised to stop gutter water and overflowing sewage from entering their homes.

A huge mound of garbage outside and knee-deep gutter water in his room, Abhay Kumar, a migrant from UP and settled in Ludhiana for years, is unfazed.

“Our children have grown playing amid pigs, rats and dogs running over garbage mounds and gutter waters entering our rooms…We don’t matter as voters because we are not vote bank… Who will come to ask for votes in knee-deep gutter waters here? No one…,” says Abhay Kumar, a local grocery shop owner in Old Durga Colony of Dhandhari Khurd of Ludhiana, where migrants from UP, Bihar and other states, the workforce behind the industry of ‘Smart City’ Ludhiana live in small rooms.

Except a few orange coloured posters for SAD candidate Darbara Singh Guru pasted on shabby walls, the Lok Sabha campaign buzz is hardly visible in Dhandari Khurd. The area’s two colonies — Old Durga Colony and Prem Nagar — tell the real story hidden behind Ludhiana’s Smart City tag. Here migrant workers live in small rooms paying Rs 1,000-1,200 as rent, without sewage, with unclean drinking water, overflowing gutters, and garbage mounds in every corner.

During the rainy season, children wade through the filth and the dirty water accumulated on streets — which are just stretches of dirt roads.

The subhuman living conditions are not the only tragedy here. Dhandhari Khurd is geographically a part of Ludhiana district, and falls under Sahnewal assembly constituency and under Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (MC). But as a Lok Sabha constituency, Sahnewal assembly constituency falls under Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha seat.

As it is part of Ludhiana geographically, the Lok Sabha aspirants from Fatehgarh Sahib hardly come here to ask for votes or show any interest in solving the problems of people here, more so because residents in these colonies all are migrants and few in numbers to make a dent in results.

Abhay Kumar, who does have a voter ID card, says, “I have been voting in Punjab for the past 15 years. This time also no one has come to ask for votes here. Why will they come? Who will enter this area — stench of garbage and gutter water…We don’t matter…we are poor people..there are just 150-200 voters in our colony.. we are thrown aside and ignored because politicians feel that we are meant to live like this only.” His constant complaints to Ludhiana MC to clear garbage and gutter water have gone unheard.

Migrants living here work in iron-cast factories, bicycle factories, automobile parts and hosiery units spread across Focal Point nearby.

Bhagwat Prasad, who earns Rs 7,000 a month, at a nearby unit, shows his room filled with gutter water for which he pays Rs 1,000 monthly rent. “Many of us are not even registered as voters here.. They don’t even come here to make new votes… If we submit application, it is never processed.. Every monsoons, garbage problem becomes unbearable and many die of dengue, diarrhea, malaria and TB.. Everyone is ill here.. having one or the other disease.. pigs and rats enter our homes..,” he says.

Gore Lal, another factory worker, points out, “Please see here too.. Is this how humans live? Just because we are not natives of this city? Don’t we contribute to this city’s economy? Why is it an industrial hub.. it is because we work here….”

Not far from Old Durga Colony is Prem Nagar, where the situation is so bad that people pay from their own pocket to get mounds of soil thrown or cement platforms raised to stop gutter water and overflowing sewage from entering their homes. There is no fixed place or site to throw garbage and it is tossed wherever space is left and then it is never picked by MC.

Asha Yadav, who have been living in Prem Colony for five years, says: “What elections? What votes? I and my family will be boycotting…Only we know how we live here each day…People fall ill often. No one has come to ask for votes yet. No party,” she says.

Twice residents from here dumped garbage at MC’s local office to protest but without any results.

In 2014, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Harinder Singh Khalsa had won from Fatehgarh Sahib and now he has moved to the BJP. He was suspended from AAP.

This time two former IAS officers — Darabara Singh Guru from SAD and Dr Amar Singh from Congress — are pitted against each other from Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha constituency. Also in fray are Manwinder Singh Gyaspura from LIP and Baljinder Singh Dullo of AAP.

Speaking to The Indian Express, local SAD MLA (Sahnewal) Sharanjit Singh Dhillon said, “We are aware of pathetic conditions at Dhandari Khurd and how workers are living there. We started work of laying sewage lines but process could not be completed as Congress took over. They are not being ignored but being an MLA in opposition, it is not in my hands now…I do not have funds…Even our councillor had resigned and we staged several protests to pressure MC but nothing is being done now….”

There are 2.5 to 3 lakh estimated migrant voters in Ludhiana constituency of total 16 lakh voters. But migrant voters in Fatehgarh Sahib are far less.

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