Life on Track

Kolkata, India.

Kolkata’s name comes from Kolikat, one of the three villages that occupied the present day Kolkata’s area. Its history begins with the establishment of the East India Company in 1690.

Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the state of West Bengal. During the British colonial era it became the largest city in India and its importance grew to the point that it became the capital of India from 1772 until 1911.

The loss of the status of capital and independence of India (1947) made a significant change in the structure and the wealth of its society, losing gradually its middle class and its cosmopolitan features. The decline in Kolkata was also followed by increasing poverty that led to the relocation of most of its industries and the rise of Marxist-Maoists movements. These movements staid in power for long, contributing to the repression of the once vibrant city’s economy.

In present days, Kolkata is the principal centre of culture, commerce and education of eastern India. Due to this, people of nearby eastern states including people from Bangladesh, get attracted towards the economy of the city, and this often leads to overpopulation in the countryside.

Kolkata’s slums on railway track are the most densely inhabited areas of the city. The immigrants are  living there for many decades with their families. These people came to Kolkata city from far remote areas from different locations of India in search of better profession and lifestyle, unfortunately when they do not get any proper work and shelter than they settled on both side of railway tracks near the Hooghly River of Kolkata.

In these slums, young men generally work as a daily labor with different warehouse near Hooghly River and some work as hawkers in Kolkata city without any fixed payment or future prospect in their life. Women and children mostly spend their entire day on railway track cooking and doing other household works. Whereas adolescent boys and girls roam around nearby their so called home. Some adolescent boy and girls are forced to work as a labor to support their families, and due to that many of them stop going to schools to support their families.

Because of their uncertain future and family’s economical conditions they are prone to human trafficking as a sex worker and bonded slaves to various parts of India. Which will not only make them suffer all their life, but also encourages many illegal activities in society.

And apart from these facts, they are living on a railway track, where in every 15 to 30 minutes local trains passes by with its normal speed, which lead to many accidents and deaths. But still they are used to it and living their life on these tracks. Some people spent entire 50 years of their life living this way. Many women are psychologically abnormal because of such uncertain lifestyle and their alcoholic husbands.

Interviewing some of the resident, it came to light that few years ago, NGOs tried to help them to change their lifestyle through various basic support and education for their children and also to provide them voting card as their identity, but it seems it was some sort of political drive to get their votes rather than help them to live a normal human life.

If they spent half of their lifetime without any fixed and legal residential address, without proper profession, education and a normal life. Then to whom they will vote to get a better life?