Ground Report: Alcohol, ‘disappearing’ girls and more… plastic sheets hide real Malkajgiri

Malkajgiri is the largest Lok Sabha constituency in India, and it hides its issues behind plastic covers though the slums provide crowds to political events.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published May 08, 2024 | 10:00 AM Updated May 08, 2024 | 12:31 PM

Dr Ambedkar statute in one of the slum

Reality hits hard like the nauseating fetidness of cheap liquor that engulfed the man who sought money at Anandbhag in Malkajgiri Lok Sabha constituency.

It seemed like he was expecting every stranger in the locality to bring in money so that he could down another round of liquor. He represents the present-day democratic reality, a paradox, where cash and liquor are exchanged for votes, especially in the slums.

In terms of population, Malkajgiri in Telangana is the biggest Indian Parliament constituency. It is also a microcosm of Indian political reality. He is not alone.

Dr Ambedkar’s statue and his quotes painted on the pedestal shone in the evening glow as several people, armed with their Aadhaar and Voter ID cards, crowded at a community hall. They were registering their names for the campaign meeting of a political party. They form the crowd at such events.

Political parties — or ideologies — matter little to them, paler than the ₹300 they would each get for attending a campaign meeting. The politicians roar to the “crowd” over microphones, make promises, blame others, and move on.

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Elections turn lucrative for Malkajgiri slums

“Are you here to give us money,” the man asked. He, apparently, has had one too much.  A girl, aged around 15, with downcast eyes, pulled him away.

The huts and lives of migrated people

A scene from Malkajgiri. (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

Filth has accumulated all over the place, the scattered shanties looking like heaps of garbage.

M Rajini, who was registering people at the community hall said the slum-dwellers relied on government schemes. “These areas need pensions, Anganwadi, and schools,” she said without pausing her job.

“These areas need pensions, Anganwadi, and schools,” she said without pausing her job.

“At least 700 to 600 women have enquired with me about the Free Silai Machine Yojana 2024 meant for women from lower middle-class families. We have also raised our voices while conducting meetings and during political parties campaigning. Only the votes remain our weapon to get things done,” Rajini said.

While they vote according to their choice, they attend election campaigns of any political party.

“Do we have a choice? We earn thousands while participating in the campaigns. If we had employment opportunities, we would not attend campaigns,” she justified.

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Social evils

A smokey, musty smell burned the nostrils. The man, who had sought money, could still be heard punctuating his babbling with occasional angry shouts.

The man has two daughters and a son. He was threatening the children for money, and had his way. “We have to compromise for the sake of the family,” the girl, who had pulled him away, sounded like a mature woman.

“If we don’t earn, who will give us food? Our parents have said that they cannot afford our education,” she added.

Alcoholism is rampant in the slums, where poverty reigns supreme. So are underage marriages and child labour.

Social activist N Manjula had just attended a celebration where she and a few youngsters cut a cake. A boy from the slum had cleared the Class 10 exams.

“The boy passed with a grade of 9.7 and has already started going to an air-conditioner, and cooler repair shop. His father forced him to go since there was no other earning member in his family. I requested his family to allow him to continue his studies,” she told South First.

Her request is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Manjula narrated another incident. “In February this year, a 13-year-old girl was married off to a relative in Karnataka. The child’s mother took her away from the tuition class, saying they had to attend an event. The girl did not return. Only the mother returned,” she said.

The social activist later learnt that the relative requested the girl’s hand in marriage. Her parents agreed, hoping for a better future for the child, and considering the possibility of one lesser hungry mouth to feed.

Manjula also spoke of a seven-year-old girl, who has been forced to work. Her alcohol-addicted parents share the drink with her and send her to collect garbage and work as a domestic help.

The area has fewer government-run educational institutions. Transport facilities, too, are inadequate. Parents earning less than ₹500 a day, could not afford to send their children to far-away schools or colleges, paying for their daily auto-rickshaw or private bus fare.

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Hidden Malkajgiri

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Anandbhag to attend a campaign rally of BJP candidate Eatala Rajender. Former AICC president Rahul Gandhi, too, passed by the area ahead of the November Assembly election, seeking support for Mynampally Hanumanth Rao.

Neither leader saw the reality — of poverty, alcoholism, child marriage, and labour — hidden behind plastic sheets stretched along the road, keeping the eyesore slums away from their sight.

A woman came out of her hut and spoke in a mix of Telugu and Hindi. “We are from Odisha where we did not get any job,” she said.

“Our children do not attend school since they don’t have identity cards to get admission,” the woman said.

The huts are temporary. “One day the landlord will come and kick us out,” she painted a picture of uncertainty.

In Dammaiguda, a woman selling tender coconut and sugarcane juice cursed the summer heat. “We earn not more than ₹20,000 a month in summer. During other seasons, we don’t have many customers. In Medchal, there is an increase in the number of private institutes and we have few government facilities for education.”

She wanted the governments to have a firm say in the fee structure. “If one child is given education, s/he can flourish and help several others. My daughter needs admission to a degree college,” the woman nodded towards her daughter in the shed.

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Demands galore

There are seven Assembly segments in the Malkajgiri Parliament constituency: Malkajgiri, Medchal, Quthbullapur, Kukatpally, Uppal, LB Nagar, and Secunderabad Cantonment.

All, but one of these Assembly constituencies — the Cantonment seat that fell vacant due to the untimely death of its elected representative — now have BRS MLAs.

The Lok Sabha constituency has a mix of migrants from Karnataka and Maharashtra. Mostly daily-wage workers, are demanding new ration cards, besides better roads and an extension of the Hyderabad Metro.

However, the biggest problem is unaffordable healthcare, especially for people living below the poverty line.

The Schedule Caste (SC)-reserved Cantonment Assembly constituency lacks basic facilities, its residents told South First.

The locality has a sizeable population of slum-dwellers, engaged in daily wage labour, vending flower, fruit, and vegetables, and garbage collection.

They want Cantonment to be merged with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, an act that would bring them a lot of advantages.

Second thought for Malkajgiri voters

A small crowd has gathered at the Friends Corner Shop for almond milk.

P Chandrashekar, shop owner speaking with South First (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

P Chandrashekar, a shop owner speaking with South First (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

The shop has been a local adda — or meeting point — for 11 years now. Its owner P Chandrashekar told South First that Cantonment was the most backward area of Hyderabad.

“I have been living here for 11 years, and we had backed five-time MLA Sayanna, whose daughter Lasya Nanditha won the Assembly seat last year but lost her life in an accident. Now, her sister is contesting to the Assembly in the by-election,” he said.

However, the outcome of the 30 November Assembly polls has made the voters have a second thought. The Congress grabbed power in the state, dethroning the BRS.

“The population here is planning to vote for Sri Ganesh, who contested from BJP but has now joined Congress. The state has Congress in power. So, if we elect Sri Ganesh, he can work better for us,” Chandrashekar explained.

Unkept promises

Issues concerning road construction and distribution of 2BHK houses — the latter promised by the previous BRS government in the state — continue to plague the Cantonment seat.

There are also elderly who still have not received their government pensions, Chandrashekar said.

Sathiamma was all ears when Chandrashekar spoke. When he mentioned pensions, she interrupted the conversation.

“I am not receiving the pension. I have a son but who will take care of elderly with health issues. The money will be utilized for buying medicines. There is no government clinic where we live. My neighbour has a disabled son and he also shares the same problem,” she chipped in.

“We filled the forms given during Praja Palana but I saw on television that only earlier beneficiaries are receiving the pensions and no new members have been selected,” she said.

Malkajgiri candidates

Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy represented Malkajgiri in the Lok Sabha, before he resigned. The Congress has fielded Patnam Mahender Reddy, a former BRS minister, who later joined the grand old party.

Eatala Rajender, who unsuccessfully to the Assembly from Huzurabad and Gajwel, is the BJP candidate. The BRS has nominated Ragidi Laxma Reddy as its candidate. Ragidi is known to the people through his social interventions.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).