Within days of taking over as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav threw open the doors of his official residence to the common man and even revived the practice of holding a janata durbar to address their grievances.
In spite of his efforts to address the grievances of all sections of society, an American woman working for the well-being of rickshaw-pullers in Varanasi failed to get an audience with him.
Joyce Elizabeth Jauer, 29, had travelled all the way from Varanasi to meet Yadav and discuss the plight of impoverished rickshaw pullers.
"My employer, SMV Wheels Pvt Ltd., works for the empowerment of rickshaw-pullers in Varanasi. I have been working there for seven months. Impressed by the CM's election promises, which displayed his concern for rickshaw-pullers, I decided to come down to Lucknow and make a formal appeal to him to do something concrete for them," she told reporters.
Joyce waited for three days but was unable to meet the CM.
"After failing to get an appointment with him, I chose to queue up at the fortnightly janata durbar, where I was told he meets everyone. But in spite of my four-hour long wait, I did not get me a chance to reach him," she said.
"What I found utterly disappointing was that as soon as I reached the threshold to step inside the hall where the chief minister meets the public, the gate was shut and we were told that the chief minister had gone for lunch," she said.
"After hearing me out, Lucknow District Magistrate Anurag Yadav was kind enough to listen to my presentation. He assured me that my request would be forwarded to Urban Development Minister Azam Khan, whose office will get in touch with me soon," Joyce added.
A Harvard University graduate, Joyce took up the cause of rickshaw-pullers in November 2011 when she joined SMV Wheels in Varanasi. The organisation was founded by Varanasi based social activist and entrepreneur Naveen Krishna
Speaking on what motivated her to come all the way from US to work for Indian rickshaw-pullers, Joyce remarked, "What inspired me was the utter neglect and apathy with which rickshaw-pullers are treated here. Even though they toil day and night, they are ill-treated by their owners, customers, the police and even by their own fellow-rickshaw-pullers."
She lamented, "Even though many rickshaw-pullers are educated, the majority of them get neither municipality passes nor health facilities. There is no mechanism to even teach them traffic rules."
SMV Wheels raises funds to procure rickshaws for the pullers, who then repay the organisation in easy weekly instalments of Rs 250 for a period of 12 months.
"We are also involved in equipping rickshaw-pullers with alternative means of self-employment for those suffering from old age or ill health," Joyce said.