North East Delhi: a Lok Sabha seat where migrants hold key

Migrant workers from eastern U.P. and Bihar residing in Delhi now decide the outcome of every election in this constituency; their main demands include regularisation of colonies, job security, access to affordable housing and clean drinking water

May 06, 2024 01:33 am | Updated 01:33 am IST - New Delhi 


Knocking on the Capital’s doors from States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, north-east Delhi is the first address that many migrant workers familiarise themselves with when they arrive here to settle, and in the search of jobs.

Over the years, a large number of them belonging to eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, popularly called Purvanchalis, settled in the area, turning into a crucial factor that now decides the outcome of every election in the North East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.

Keeping their strength in mind, the mainstream parties – the BJP and the Congress – too have fielded the candidates who belong to the Purvanchal belt. While the BJP has once again reposed faith in Manoj Tiwari, the only Delhi MP it has retained this time, the Congress has picked former JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar to challenge him.

Mr. Tiwari, who is looking to secure a third-term from the constituency, said infrastructure building is a priority for him. “For the next term, my agenda would be to ensure that roads are in a better shape,” he said.

Mr. Kumar said his fight is for the welfare of people. “It is not a question of making someone a Prime Minister or forming the government of one party,” he said.

However, many residents said even after spending several years in the Capital, they are treated as “second-class citizens”. They mostly live in small accommodations, lacking basic facilities.

They hope that the winner of the May 25 Lok Sabha poll from the seat would make efforts for the regularisation of nearly 270 unauthorised colonies in the 10 Assembly segments falling in the constituency.

Job security is another demand as most people work as daily wagers, depending on their luck to find jobs.

Unequal access

Fifty-four-year-old rickshaw puller Abdul Subhan said he was only seven years of age when he joined his cousin in the city.

“My village in Bihar was flooded and parents had died. Delhi gave me the hope for a better life, and eventually it became my home,” he said. However, Mr. Subhan said the city is now grappling with overpopulation.

“It has become very crowded in the past two decades. Access to affordable housing, electricity and drinking water has emerged as a major challenge,” he added.

Farming woes

Several residents said they were involved in agriculture back home.

Reshma, 67, said she came to the Capital along with her husband almost 15 years ago from Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri as farming became unprofitable. She, however, longs for a life of dignity as a resident of Delhi.

“We put up our shops, police officials remove them. We are treated like a burden,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said it is still better living in the Capital than back home, where societal pressures narrowed the choice of work they could take up.

However, many still miss home, “We can go anywhere for work, but if there is an opportunity back home, I will return,” said Manoj Sharma 46, a driver from U.P.’s Pratapgarh.

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