Archive for November, 2011

Mangla Ram being carried on a stretcher by volunteers of the Dalit Atyachar Nivaran Samiti in Barmer, Rajasthan.

(First published in Governance Now, issue dated September 1, 2011)

Three magic wands–Right to Information, social audits and the Lokpal–have been offered as the means to fight corruption in the largely urban middle-class discourse. However, the question is, have these solutions worked for Mangla Ram?

Now who is this Mangla Ram and why does he matter to the anti-corruption discourse? He is the face of the invisible poor in India. He is one of those millions who wage everyday battles against the corrupt for securing their entitlements. He is a 37-year-old truck driver from the dusty village of Bamnor in Barmer, Rajasthan. He hails from the Scheduled Caste Meghwal community whose members have traditionally worked as labourers in the farm fields of the rich Muslim landlords here.

An overnight train journey from the national capital, Barmer has acquired fame of late for the rich oil fields that were discovered here. But not even a fraction of that wealth has reached its far-flung villages. Bamnor, which falls on the National Highway 15, is relatively nondescript, distinguished only by the undulating sand dunes that greet one’s eyes en route. Most of the poor residents of the village are forced to migrate to neighbouring Gujarat in search of better jobs.

Mangla was eligible for a below poverty line (BPL) ration card and funds under the Indira Awas Yojana but was struggling to get both. People in his village were also irked with the anganwadi that rarely functioned, the high school where one teacher managed 300 students and the rural development schemes in which they hardly ever were employed.

So, to set the things right, Mangla decided to exercise his right to information.


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