Bulk of Ramnavami processions over, Congress sitting Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay’s wife Rekha, a television and theatre personality, got back on the campaign trail with a sprinkling of star power.
Taking Bollywood and TV actor Lilliput (remember Dekh Bhai Dekh?) and Marathi film director Nitin Jagdish along with her, Rekha bhabhi reached one of the most neglected slums of Ranchi, Madhukam, in ward No. 36.
The trio met around 100 women, all members of different self groups, in a kind of informal mohalla gathering.
In general, the ward, with a population of 30,000 spread across a 2km radius on the capital’s western part, has poor demographic indicators. Despite its sizeable population, it has only six government-run primary schools and one high school.
Only 2,000 households have water and power connections. Only 70 hand pumps can be seen dotting the ward, while only 60 work.
But in a ward where drinking water is scarce, the scope for water-borne diseases is aplenty. During monsoon, the westward flowing Bajra river inundates low-lying mud homes.
Off the record, residents say some 40 per cent people are illiterate and crime rates are high.
Ward councillor Bimal Sandip Kachchap admitted Madhukam was one of the most underdeveloped wards in the capital with some of the “worst demographic indicators”.
But the outspoken women of the self-help group proved that no hardship could dampen their spirits.
One of them, Kamla, said: “We know we must raise our voice. Anyone who becomes MP must address the issue of Bajra flashfloods every monsoon.”
Addressing Rekha directly, the woman continued: “As you are the first woman to visit us, we want you to convey to your husband that when we raise our issues and talk about development, he should support us. Elections happen every five years.”
An impressed Rekha later said: “I am happy that women here, despite braving odds, are so intelligent and strong.”
Actor Liliput only told the gathering not to be confused in the name of change. “Keep your morale high and vote for the right person,” he said.
Marathi filmmaker Jagdish demonstrated a paper clip trick demonstrating the power of unity. “Be with the hand,” he said.