Youth Icon’s Fight for Rights Among India’s Destitute — Global Issues

Pooja Shukla may have lost an election, but the 25-year-old activist is determined to make sure the poor are served and women are protected. Credit Mehru Jaffer / IPS
  • by Mehru Jaffer (luckynow, india)
  • Joint press service

The day after the results were announced on March 10, Shukla returned to a lively reception in her constituency in North Lucknow to thank her supporters for voting for 1,04,527 vote for her.

She is again with everyone on March 18 on Holi, the annual festival of colors to celebrate the end of winter and welcome new beginnings.

Shukla told IPS she hopes to win. She’s frustrated, of course, but the electoral defeat won’t stop her from continuing her fight for economic and social justice for the people of her constituency.

Although Shukla belonged to the upper caste community of the Brahmins, she worked hard to develop a personal connection with a section of people living in North Lucknow, one of the city’s nine constituencies. city. Lucknow is the capital of UP, the country’s largest, but economically and socially it is one of the least developed states. More than 400,000 voters are registered in North Lucknow, nearly half of whom are impoverished women.

The constituency is home to upper-class Muslims, Hindus and thousands of impoverished communities that have lived for decades in makeshift homes, often on drain bank. Some are daily wage earners, and others have no paid work.

Shukla won hearts because she knocked on every door in North Lucknow and continued to spend time with the people.

Shukla adds: “I have visited house by house in every neighborhood in North Lucknow. I will continue to do so because I truly care about members of all the communities that reside in the area. my election”.

This first-time contestant had to face Dr Neeraj Bora, a seasoned politician of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party. Despite the formidable challenge, Shukla took the lead on vote counting day. She took the lead before her opponent finally beat her with 33,985 votes by noon.

Of the 403 seats in the UP-state parliament, the socialists won 111 seats. The socialist Samajwadi (SP) party has fallen far short of the BJP by 255 seats, but it has emerged as the largest opposition party in UP.

Shukla believes this is a golden opportunity to cement democracy by translating the SP’s numbers into a viable opposition to the ruling party. There needs to be a meaningful, vocal protest, she said, as the ruling party seems to want to wash away all its social responsibilities in favor of outsourcing businesses and privatizing even services. essential services such as education, health and employment opportunities.

“Democratic values ​​are reinforced when the opposition to the ruling party is strong,” says Shukla, who believes that elections are held to elect representatives who will provide housing. affordable education and medical facilities for voters.

Shukla feels that socially conscious people don’t have to be Marxists to dream of social justice. The desire to see all citizens being cared for by the state fairly and equally is the desire of all decent human beings.

Shukla is the youngest candidate in the polls, nursing a constituency that is a sprawling cluster of universities, chaos, traffic jams, markets pouring from every nook and cranny, and rows of slums with sewers drainage overflows and swallows life when it rains.

Her dream is to invite educators to open model public schools for the poor majority in her constituency. She wants affordable houses for the poor and free medical services. She said that time is on her side. She will find even more opportunities to run for office.

“To win the election is important to me because I want to be a legislator and make sure that people-friendly legislation is passed in parliament to protect the interests of the people,” said Shukla. the most vulnerable people in the country.

Until she gets to parliament, she plans to work tirelessly to improve literacy in her constituency and reduce poverty rates. She wants clean drinking water, cleaner sewers and better roads. The safety of women was her top priority, as was fair and regular wages for many artisan communities such as potters and weavers.

Shukla has seen the police compel citizens who dared to apply for government jobs. Activists have been jailed, stoned around and beaten for participating in protests and questioning the government in UP. There are countless cases involving terrible crimes committed against women.

Most political parties want women’s votes but are reluctant to share power with them. Thus, politics in UP today is a constant struggle for any woman to enter the male-dominated world of politics. Shukla’s greatest strength is her belief in herself.

The daughter of a small real estate agent, Shukla, learned fearlessness from her mother Beena. At first, Beena wanted her to marry a suitable Brahmin boy. However, the constant calls to get married turned off after she decided to run in the elections.

Her parents suggested that Shukla choose a more respectable profession like teaching instead. Parents were devastated when she was jailed in 2019 and countless criminal cases were filed against her for participating in street protests.

Shukla is the eldest in a family of three sisters, and she feels responsible for her siblings. Her family reminds her to be a role model, but she refuses to give up her politics. Now, her determination to continue to participate in public life is less worrisome. At least her family members and neighbors are supportive. She was no longer considered a black sheep in the Brahmin community, which considered itself particularly respectable.

Shukla started to gain attention in 2017 when she and her students waved black flags towards the convoy of those in power. She was part of a student group protesting against the use of Lucknow University funds for a political party event.

She was angry when she was jailed for peacefully protesting. After 20 days in prison, the University denied her admission to pursue graduate studies. Shukla started a hunger strike and forced the University to allow all students to continue their studies.

Today she is an icon of youth. She has emerged as a leader and a role model not only for her siblings but for thousands of young people, students, women and some other male members of society.

Shukla says she represents a democratic, secular and inclusive India. How will she fulfill her dream in a fierce political culture where all that matters is power and money?

There is no substitute for commitment and hard work, she said with a smile.

Report of the United Nations Office IPS

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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