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“Dekh raha hai kya kya sapna raat ko sone waala
Ho sone waala
Yeh na jaane aankh khule to kya hai hone waala
Haa hone waala
( From ‘ yeh duniya nahi jagir kisi ki…….
Lyrics by Rajender Kishan in ‘Chowkidaar’ ( 1974)

(What dreams the person sleeping might have been dreaming
O! That sleeping person
It is unknown what would happen when eyes are open
Yes! What would happen
Free translation)

While one person is using ‘chowkidaar’ as a political tool to increase his popularity, other one is branding ‘chowkidaar’ as thief. But no one seems to be interested in knowing the plight of watchmen (Chowkidaar) and their hard- work. When the world sleeps these brave watchmen wake up not only to life and freedom but also save and protect many lives and property.

Unsecured lives

The daily life of watchmen is riddled with frustration and lack of security. “But for many watchmen, who are among the millions in India’s vast informal economy where workers are often poorly paid and barely protected by labour laws,Modi’s campaign is a political gimmick that is unlikely to improve their lives.( India’s watchmen question whether Modi’s embrace will improve their lot , by Zeba Siddiqui, March 23, 2019, in.reuters.com). A 37 -year old watchman from Utter Pradesh does not know why they started the campaign. He said that they have done nothing since the past four years.

The media mostly debated on the campaign and congress counter. An analysis of the subject(#primetimewatch: From Real Chowki dars to the Issues Swept under the Rug, by Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, 20 March 2019, thewire.in) indicates most channels deviated from the actual sufferings of watchmen. Only some programs like prime time with Ravish Kumar, NDTV.com (India) exposed the problems of watchmen and exploitation by employers and many instances of watchmen being paid very low wages.

Need for improving lives

Most ‘Chowkidaars’ come from poor families and migrate from villages. Many of them are from neighbouring countries like Nepal. The economic as well as social condition of these watchmen is precarious and vulnerable with lack of healthy living. They are often forced to perform duty for twenty four hours. Their difficulties can be estimated from various interviews conducted by media and journals in the country. In an article published by scroll.in , watchmen interviewed expressed the futility of such campaign and how they are forced to work in order to support their parents and family. (‘I would not want any one to be a chowkudar ‘ : watchmen across India respond to Modi’s campaign, March 19, 2019, scroll.in). Many are skeptical about any change in their lives.

Mere political gimmicks have do not have great impact on the welfare of watchmen. The need of the hour is providing them with safety and security, decent wages, concern for their health, protection to their families and providing education facilities to their children. Proactive measures for their empowerment are essential but praising their courage without doing any substantial assistance may not serve any purpose. All the political parties should be made to hear their grievances and work for solution but the mainstream parties are using them as a ‘ political capital’. Real lives of chowkidaars are very tough and loaded with risks which the leaders have failed to address so far with sincere commitment.

Sheshu Babu is a political commentator

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