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|February 4, 1998||
'Sonia looks nice,... but who are Vajpayee, Khalap, Rane?'
Satyawan Nipanikar, 42, shoeshine man, Panaji, Goa
I have been staying in the neighbouring village of St Cruz, hardly five kms away from the capital, Panaji. My father was a shoemaker. Nowadays, shoemakers can't make a living, so I have been doing this job of polishing shoes in the city for the last 30 years.
We are five brothers. No one could complete their education. I dropped out after studying till the third standard. But I can read well. I read newspapers, if I find a little time and a free copy anywhere. I don't know anything about the politics you talk about.
You know how difficult it is to live in today's world, with an earning of hardly Rs 40 to Rs 60 a day, when I have to feed my wife, old mother, and two children -- a 12-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. Both of them are studying.
But this government is not allowing us to earn our living peacefully. Now, it seems, that Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane has made a new act. He wants to clean up the city and make it like Singapore. The police come and harass us. They want to evict us from the pavements. Where do we go?
Finally, we went to the Panaji Municipal Council chairman. He allowed us to stay there. We pay the municipal council Rs 3 per day as a rent. But still we are not sure how long this will continue. The municipal council says the chief minister wants to clean up all the pavements, to make Goa another Singapore.
We are told that Rane wants to attract more tourists by making the cities clean. But where do we go? And what do we get from these tourists? They don't even come to us to get their shoes polished!
I have no house of my own to stay. I stay in my brother's house. I had applied 10 years ago for a place to build house, under the 20-point programme of the government. But those people in the mamlatdar's (official concerned's) office say there is no land available. But we hear that many big people come to Goa and buy huge amount of land. How do they get it?
I went to my village sarpanch. He never says no, but does not bother. It seems he is a Congressman. Let him come now to ask for our votes. We have four votes in our house. I will tell him straight -- you give me the house, I will give you my votes. Otherwise I will not vote for anybody. Why should we bother about them if they have no concern for us?
I attended Sonia Gandhi's rally the other day. She looks nice. God knows whether she would also work nicely like her husband. It seems her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, was a nice person. He gave houses to many poor people. But now nobody is providing us shelter.
I really don't understand what you talk about. I don't even know these people -- Vajpayee, Khalap, Rane, etc. For me, the major issue in this elections is a house for me. You give me one house and take my votes. I don't care for anything else now.
As told to Sandesh Prabhudesai
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