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Decade Decoder

Sixty-two-year-old Ram Lakhan Singh stays with 10 members of his family at Civil Lines colony in Sasaram town. He has a transport business and his life has changed in the past 10 years. His eldest son Binay Kumar Singh now looks after the family business and is virtually the head of the family.

The family owns four buses which are used for commercial purpose and three trucks for goods transportation. Their approximate yearly turnover is Rs 12 lakh.

Born and bought up in Sasaram, Binay looked happy and was found playing with his two children — son Rohit Singh, 15, a Class X student at St Paul’s High School, and daughter Kriti Singh, 12, a Class VIII student in the same institution. Theirs is a joint family — all four brothers stay together under one roof. Two of Binay’s younger brothers, Vikash Singh and Amit Singh, are married whereas the youngest sibling, Ravi Singh, is a corporate advocate in Chandigarh.

Binay says they had to struggle a lot and in the past 10 years, several changes have taken places in their lives, mostly for the better. The one-storey house has turned into three-storeyed now. The family gives the credit to improved law and order and better electricity supply. Binay recalls a time when the electric switch had to be turned on 24 hours so they could know when power had been restored. Their standard of living has equally changed — from a Bush television, they have shifted to a flat screen television, not one but three. At the same time, Binay expressed disappointment over rampant corruption and said that quite often they face a problem when government officials ask for a bribe to get things done.

Name: Binay Kumar Singh, 40
Profession: Transport business
Education: MA, political science

Family: Ten members. Father Ram Lakhan Singh; widower, wife Meera Devi, two children — a son and a daughter. Three brothers — Vikas Singh, married to Nikki Singh, Amit Singh, married to Suman Singh and Ravi Singh, unmarried. Sister Soumaya Singh is married to a bank employee in Mumbai

Place: Civil Lines colony, Sasaram, 2km from Rohtas collectorate, 165km west of Patna

Decade Decoder is an occasional election feature that seeks to bring out through a question-and-answer session whether lives have changed for the better or the worse in the past 10 years

Do you earn more or less, compared with 2004?

More. Income in 2004: Rs 8 lakh per annum. Income in 2014: Rs 18 lakh per annum

Do you save more or less compared with 2004?

More. Savings in 2004: Rs 1.5 lakh per annum. Savings now: Rs 5 lakh per annum

What things does your house now have that it did not have in 2004?

Flat screen television, inverter, marble flooring and automatic washing machine

How did you travel then, how do you travel now?

Motorbike then, now by car

l Do you usually travel by train (class) or air? How did you travel in 2004?

Train, AC-2. In 2004, I used to travel sleeper class

Have you travelled abroad? When was the first time?

Never

Do you own a car? Model? Did you own one in 2004? Model?

Yes. Scorpio 2010. In 2006, purchased a second hand Maruti 800

Where do you buy your grocery from, malls or the corner store? Were there any malls/ stores like Spencer's in 2004?

Corner store, no malls in 2004 but a few have come up in last two years like V-Mart.

Do you shop round the year or only before Puja, Chhath, Diwali etc? Has this changed over the years?

Earlier we used to shop only during the time of festival but it has changed and now very often I do shopping for my family members.

Do you own an AC? Did you own one in 2004?

Yes. Not in 2004.

Do your children go to school? In your family, did children go to school earlier? If it's a govt school, then has there been any change in standards/infrastructure?

Yes — They go to private school.

Will you continue to educate them?

Yes, I would continue their education. For better higher education, I would like to send them out of India, if possible

Is there any difference in the food you can afford now and what you could 10 years ago?

Today I can afford to have pizza, burger and Chinese food, which was not there 10 years ago.

Have you got an Aadhaar card? Why? How does it help?

No. I do not know much about the benefits of Aadhaar card so never showed any interest in getting it made.

Do you encounter more corruption or less in your daily life? Can you cite from personal experience areas where you are directly affected by corruption?

I do encounter corruption, as being in transport business. Last year one Motor Vehicle Inspector had asked for Rs 5000 bribe and I had to give him.

What was the last movie you have seen and when?

Chennai Express, one month after its release.

Do you know how much a CD or DVD cassette costs? Do you own a CD/DVD player? Do you hire them?

I have no idea about how much a CD or DVD cassette costs but my younger brothers know, Yes, I do have a CD/DVD player.

When was the last time you ate outside home with your family?

Three months ago. At Rohit International hotel in Sasaram, which has a good family restaurant

Do you have a cell phone? How old is it? Did you have one before you bought the current one?

Yes. A Samsung Galaxy Star. Bought it eight months ago.

What do you do with the cellphone? Do you use it most to converse or do you listen to music? Do you see movies on the phone?

I use it for conversation and also the calculator. But I am not too friendly with the other applications of the phone.

Do you go on holidays/ pilgrimages? How often do you go?

I go for pilgrimages, twice a year. We go to Tara Chandi temple, one of the oldest temples in Sasaram.

Do you run out of money to buy food towards the end of the month? What do you do then?

It used to happen earlier but have not faced any such problem in the past 5 years

Do you have more or less pairs of clothes compared with 2004?

More pairs of clothes compared with 2004.

Describe the biggest changes in your life since 2004.

Improved law and order and better electricity supply.

What is your biggest regret in the past 10 years?

Not able to make my passport. It's sheer laxity on my part

What is your biggest achievement in the past 10 years?

My struggle has paid off and have been able to convert my one storey house into three storeys.

Are you happier or sadder now? Why?

Very happy because we have a joint family, my brothers have settled and I do not bother my father any more.


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