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'I Vote According To My Will. I Don't Listen To Anyone'

Last updated on: May 27, 2024 10:23 IST
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In a poor village of daily wage earners in Siwan, Bihar, people speak about their hard lives and why they vote.

IMAGE: Uma Devi from the village Dumri in Siwan. All Photographs and Videos: Rajesh Karkera for

In Dumri village that lies in the Siwan constituency of Bihar, Uma Devi is sitting with two ladies outside a thatched hut.

It is hot, but the breeze and the abundance of trees helps in making you feel cooler than what it really is.

Three-four children are sitting on the ground beside her; one is a toddler. There are flies on his face and inside his nostril, but he sits without showing any discomfort.

The boy is not Uma Devi's son. He has been left there to play with other children. Once in a while, Uma Devi cleans his nose of the flies.


Dumri is a village of the poor. People earn a living working as daily wage labourers, earning Rs 400 to Rs 500 a day. They work as brick loaders, soil diggers and do odd jobs that come their way.

The village is inhabited by Rajputs, Ahirs [Yadavs], Binds [mallahs or boatmen] and Dalits who are locally still referred to as 'Harijan' or 'chamar' -- both these terms are prohibited from usage by the government because they are demeaning to human dignity.

But here, they are.

IMAGE: A view of the village Dumri.

Uma Devi who does not know her age has four children, one cow, one buffalo and two goats. Her youngest son is in Class 1. She sends him to a private school and pays Rs 400 as monthly fee.

Her husband climbs up palm trees to tap toddy every morning and evening which is then sold, almost as soon as he gets off the tree. He makes some extra 100-200 rupees from that during toddy season time.

In a corner of the hut are earthen pots that her husband uses to collect toddy. The women here call their husbands 'maalik' which literally means owner. It is noon and Uma Devi's husband is fast asleep on the bare mud floor inside the hut.

The sound of his wife's voice at the door or of the children does not make him stir.

There is no electricity connection inside the house. There is no toilet. The family uses the fields to defecate. A mud chulha outside is where meals are cooked. At night, the family sleeps on a string cot outside the hut.

This is the life of an average voter in Dumri village.

The two development positives that Uma Devi mentions is the concrete road that connects the village to the main road to Siwan, and the 5 kg free ration distributed every month which is a central government scheme initiated by the Narendra Modi government.

"I vote in every election. It is my decision. I don't listen to anyone who tries to persuade me. I vote according to my will," says Uma Devi in a loud voice with an assured confidence, a telling statement about the understanding that the Indian people, especially in rural India, have about the value of their individual vote -- and the dedication they show towards casting their vote in every election.

IMAGE: Residents of the village.

Siwan voted on May 25. The three main candidates are Vijaylakshmi Kushwaha of the Janata Dal-United which is a constituent of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, Awadh Bihari Chowdhry of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a constituent of the INDIA Alliance bloc, and Independent candidate Heena Sahab, wife of the late don-turned-politician and four time MP Mohammad Shahabuddin.

Shahabuddin died of Covid in Tihar jail in 2021.

Heena unsuccessfully contested three Lok Sabha elections in the past as an RJD candidate. This election she is in the fray as an Independent. On Tuesday, March 21, she came campaigning in Dumri village and urged the villagers to vote for her.

"She is the only candidate who has visited our village this time. No other candidate has come. She gave her speech and left," says Uma Devi.

"No one really asks us what our problems are," she says and goes on to say that the whole village had voted for their candidate who won the mukhiya election, but he did not do anything for them.

"This is my house, this is where we live along with our cattle -- and have to manage with Rs 400-500 a day that my husband earns as a for our saag, sabji and feed our cattle," she says taking us around the hut made of grass, bamboo and brick.

Her cattle are tied behind the hut under a very large tree that provides shade to animals and humans alike.

"This is our life."

IMAGE: Goats and buffaloes tied at the village.

WATCH: Uma Devi, the labourer in Dumaria, Bihar


'No sarkar has done anything for me'

IMAGE: Rajdev Yadav, the daily wager.

Near a bamboo grove at the other end of the village, Rajdev Yadav is looking to buy some bamboos. He is a daily wager, but today he has set out to get some bamboos needed in his house.

"Neither the RJD or any other Sarkar has given anything to me," he says though he later agrees that he has received the 5 kg free ration from the Modi Sarkar which he did not get by previous governments. People are in agreement that they receive the grain and attribute it to the Modi government.

But Rajdev Yadav's grievance is rozgar or employment and lack of factories that could have provided livelihood options. "We would not have had to go outside looking for work as labourers," he says.

It would help if some small factory could be set up nearby which could provide employment to us and our children in the future, he feels.

He has worked as a mason in Delhi and Gujarat and says he built a house with no help from any government scheme.

Standing under a mango tree with mangoes almost touching his face, he rolls tobacco in his palm and says there are no toilets in the houses in his neighbourhood either.

"It is up to the Pradhan and mukhiya to ensure that we get these government projects, but they don't. Yet, they come asking for votes with folded hands at election time," he says joining his hands together in a Namaste like netas do.

When asked whom will he vote for, he says, "I will listen to my heart."

WATCH: Rajdev Yadav, the daily wager


Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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