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|August 26, 1999
India Speaks/ Santan Selvaraj
'When I told my father that I will vote for the BJP, he abused me'
'I come from a large family. I have four sisters and two brothers. I was married six years ago and have three children. Last month my two year old son died of brain fever. Now I have only two daughters. I did not have money to take my son to the hospital. So we were treating him at home with medicines given by a doctor here. Nobody came to my rescue when I pleaded for Rs 1000 to take my son to the hospital and treat him there. I asked my factory owner for Rs 1000. He refused to give me the money. He said since I earn only Rs 800 per month, the factory can not give me such a huge amount as advance.
'I work from 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening everyday. I carry steel rods from inside the factory to the trucks. I have been working here for the six years and every year I get an increase of Rs 50. It is impossible for me to send my two daughters to school now because I do not have the money. Half my salary is spent on treating my father, who has been paralysed and bed-ridden for the last three years. My wife works as a maid servant and earns Rs 300 every month.
'I have been voting for the Congress all these years because my father has been voting for the Congress. My father was a security guard in my factory before he fell ill. So the factory gave me this job in place of him. My father has told me that Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi saved the country. He says our country is big today because of the Gandhis. My father has seen Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi when they came here for elections. But I have not seen them. My father told me that Sonia Gandhi is contesting elections from here and I should go and see her and her children when they will come for the rally.
'But I will not go because I do not feel like voting because of my son's death. Nobody has come to help me. I submitted an application to the local Congress office for money to take my son to the hospital. But I was told that there is no money now. Moreover, the local Congress leader Bhorpede Hoda treated me badly. Therefore, I will not vote for the Congress this time.
'So my friends in the factory are compelling me to vote for the BJP. They tell me that Sonia Gandhi is not an Indian. I have refused to believe this. I think they are trying to fool me because they want me to vote for the BJP. They tell me that BJP is a good party and Vajpayee is a nice pradhan mantri. But when I told my father that I will vote for the BJP, he abused me. He said if I am voting for the BJP, I should not vote. So most probably I will not vote this time.
'Politicians come here only during elections. I have not seen any political leaders here after elections. I have seen our MP K C Kondaiah only once during the last elections. After that he has not come to this village. They do not care for us when tragedy hits our families.
'We do not have roads here. My wife walks two kilometres to collect drinking water. We have been requesting everybody to give us a drinking water pipe in our village. They installed one last year. But it broke after one week. Last week, some Congress leaders came here and told us that they will install a new pipe here.'
Santan Selvraj is a labourer in a small steel manufacturing factory, Bellary, Karnataka
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