Zulfikar Ali Bhutto popularized the slogan “ROTI, KAPADA aur MAKAN” ahead of Pakistan’s general elections in 1970. In 1974, Manoj Kumar alias Bollywood’s Bhaarat Kumar produced a movie named “ROTI, KAPADA aur MAKAN”. Although we knew about our bare necessities – food, clothing and shelter, we formally studied it in civics. My sole point behind recollecting the history of this very phrase is as follows:

The other night I was at the Virar,Mumbai railway station waiting outside the ATM for my turn. While I was waiting, I clicked these pictures.

The picture shows some people sleeping on a raised platform. Initially I thought that they might be travelers, but on inquiring the security guard of the ATM I came to know that these people are hawkers who sell various things like fruits, flowers etc at the railway platforms.

These people probably had two basic necessities with them – Food and clothing, but surely, the third one – Shelter was missing. The only shelter they had and have is this railway station, which is not only their shelter but also their source of income. I was repulsed at the condition they were sleeping in. Mosquitoes hovering all over the place, air engulfed in pungent smelling ammonia because of the urinals just 10 meters away, flickering tube lights over their heads and the dampen floor due to settling dew.

What caught my attention was the poster hanging right in front these homeless people. The poster read “HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION” – Protecting human rights. Irony of the whole scene was very unsettling. Protecting human right- Really?

According to 2011 census, 78 million people are homeless in India. The fact that mendicants are homeless and on roads begging is still understandable but the hard working classes like these hawkers being homeless is a little hard to digest. People like these are sustaining and surviving the stifling heat of Dante’s Inferno, daily.

The dream of me getting in a good B-school, getting a decent package, owning a house “MAKAN” suddenly seemed like some fairytale where everything around me was so good and vibrant. Within moments I was brought back to the reality by the security guard at the ATM who suggested that I go and withdraw the money and not think about these people…. He said in hindi “Madam, aap jao paisa nikalo… inko aadat hai aisa rehne ki!!”(Madam, you go and withdraw the money…they are used to living this way”)I looked with sheer shocked at the apathetic attitude this guard had.

The problem was not only with this guard but it was generic. Had it not been for this poster that hung on this platform, I would have not realized the truth that we pass by everyday i.e. “ROTI, KAPADA aur MAKAN are not the rights of the people but they are the privileges that one gets in India.”

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