From Bihar to Delhi, why not Mumbai?

By Manisha Singh | Last Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 21:46
Manisha Singh

Many years ago, I took the train from Patna, my home town, the capital of Bihar to the capital of my country, Delhi, with dreams in my eyes and excitement in my heart. I knew that it was time for me to fly and for a better education and a better career prospect I had to leave the comfort of my home and my family.

I must admit that when I left my home state it was not the best of times – Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Bihar was in the news for all the wrong reasons – education system was in a mess, industry and agriculture was non-existent, there was hardly any job opportunities except in the government sector, the corporate sector was not ready to invest there and to top it all it had almost become the crime capital of the country with criminals ruling the roost. So we came in hordes to the national capital jostling to find a place for ourselves in the city’s vast expanse.

Things have turned around now with the incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the helm and Bihar is on the path of progress, ironically now being in the news for all the right reasons. However, people from my state still migrate in huge numbers to different towns and cities – they may be students, professionals or labourers. The reason is simple – it is the choice that they have made and it is the ambition that they have which pulls them to cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Fact is that small towns and cities do not offer you the same kind of openings that a big city would.

I have no qualms in accepting the fact that I would not have had the same kind of higher education and I would not have worked in the same kind of organisations that I did in Delhi. I also have no reservations in accepting that encountering the challenges that came my way upon my arrival in the big city and competing on my own merit has made me the confident personality that I am, even though the seeds of it were sown during my formative years in school.

The moot question is – If I can come to Delhi from Bihar and make it my second home, why can’t people from Bihar go to Mumbai and do the same? If the constitution of the country allows us to live and work anywhere, than who are the politicians to question that right?

I too am a migrant in Delhi. If I could get admission in one of the best colleges in Delhi University, pass out as one of the toppers there, live in the ‘big bad city’ on my own terms, work in the best media houses due to my competitiveness, why can’t the people from Bihar be allowed to do the same in peace in Mumbai? I have worked hard to achieve whatever little I have achieved. People of my state are doing the same in another city and another town. If you are better than us, then take our jobs and we will go back. Otherwise, the time has come to simply shut up.

So, when one hears the irrational ranting of the Thackeray brothers – Raj and Uddhav - against Bihari migrants, one is simply disgusted. Mind you, the shock value is over as the same scenario has been repeated innumerable times in the past. And the disgust is not at their crazy diatribe but at the level to which the modern day politicians of our country can stoop to for vote bank politics.

Come on, Mr Thackerays, identity politics has a limit and the kind of identity politics that both of you indulge in, definitely has its limits, especially with new age voters increasingly voting on the plank of development and growth. To woo and lure one community to garner votes, political parties and political organisations cannot be allowed to target any community, either verbally or physically.

Sample some of the venom that the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief and the Shiv Sena executive president spewed on the ‘Biharis’ who were trying to eke out a living in the city of dreams.

On the one hand, Raj Thackeray threatened to brand ‘Biharis’ as ‘infiltrators’ and throw them out of Maharashtra, on the other hand in a bid to match his cousin, Uddhav Thackeray said that a ‘permit’ system should be implemented for ‘Biharis’ who want to live and work in Mumbai.

Raj’s trigger was as lame as it can be – this was his way of warning authorities in Bihar not to take legal action against Mumbai policemen who had picked up one Abdul Qadir in relation with Azad Maidan violence from Sitamarhi district. The Mumbai police had done so without informing their counterparts in Bihar.

Anyone with even a little bit of knowledge about this country’s politics knows that the Shiv Sena and the MNS have no base outside Maharashtra. It is, as they say, their ‘karambhoomi’. But it would benefit the people Maharashtra if they channelised their energy for the development of their state and not on playing the game of hate politics.

Their ‘Marathi Manus’ plank did not really work with the voters in the last Assembly elections, who voted for the NCP-Congress combine. And if they continue with their polarising politics, it may not work in the next polls too. After all a city like Mumbai is hardly a city of Marathis anymore. Gujarati, Sindhi and Punjabi community have been doing business there for years. The same is true for professionals, civil servants, labourers and taxi and auto drivers from North India, particularly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The place is as cosmopolitan as it can be.

I agree with the concerns of authorities that the so called migration in huge numbers do lead to a burden on the infrastructure of a particular city. But this has been a trend in all big cities across the world – whether it is London, New York, Tokyo, Delhi or Mumbai. Migration cannot be stopped but the government and those in power can definitely work towards creating a better infrastructure to tackle the problem.

I must add here that crime or criminals – be it from Bihar or any other state of the country - must be dealt with in accordance with the law. No compromises there. But there is no way that you can stereotype people from a certain state in a certain bracket.

In a diverse country like ours people from different regions have different traits and one is proud of the region that one comes from. For example, I have always worn my ‘Bihari’ identity with pride on my sleeves and have never hidden my roots, even though I am an Indian first. And why should I? After all we are a community who have excelled in almost all the fields – be it bureaucracy, media, engineering, medicine and so forth – simply on our merit. But to say that the graph of crime is going upward because of people of a particular state is to challenge people’s basic intelligence. Good and bad, criminals and non-criminals exist everywhere – whether it is the state of Bihar or the state of Maharashtra.

Amidst all this, I just want to mention the sleepy NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra who let the Thackerays run a sort of parallel government there. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was right when he said few days back – “Congress has outsourced governance to Thackerays. It is shameful that they have allowed somebody else to speak for it”

China is stockpiling its arms at an alarming pace, our neighbour Pakistan is a habitual troublemaker and the environment in the Indian sub-continent is as volatile as it can be. At a time like this shouldn’t we be more concerned about perceptible threat from outside that we face, rather than give divisive statements, which only polarise our polity? Do the Thackeray brothers have an answer to this?

<i>Post Script:</i> When I first came to Delhi, ‘Biharis’ were referred to in not so flattering terms. In what was purely abominable, they were called ‘Harries’ by a section of the so called elite, the same way that the students from North-East were called ‘Chinkis’. But I took those head-on who dared to say it on my face. In the same way, Mr Raj and Uddhav Thackeray, stop your brand of politics otherwise the people of this country will take you head-on in their own way. I am sure you have heard of the term – ‘a taste of your own medicine’.

First Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 21:46

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