BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Modi-baiters may be involved in air-punching each other over #maibhichowkidar and #chowkidarchorhai, respectively. However, the cyber bout has brought some elation among the rank and file of the actual chowkidars on the ground — the community of security guards. It has made them swell with pride for being acknowledged at a national level, because it is not often that a ‘chowkidar’ becomes the buzzword for an election, a general election in particular.
Kamalesh from Muzaffarpur in Bihar feels euphoric that the Prime Minister of the country calls himself a ‘chowkidar’. “Even when we open doors for people in cars, they hardly acknowledge us. However, someone like Modi has given us recognition. Yes, we are chowkidars!’’ he said with pride. The hashtag started trending when Prime Minister Modi claimed to be the chowkidar of the nation, protecting it 24/7. That triggered a reaction from the opposition which countered it with #chowkidarchorhai. This, in turn, led to BJP ranks hashtagging #maibhichowkidar to demonstrate solidarity with their leader, Modi.
Although rhetorics have been flying both ways, the real chowkidars that The New Indian Express interacted with, are going about their jobs while expressing mixed reactions about their own role — rather duty — in voting in the forthcoming elections and the problems they face.
Chandra Kumar Pandey (32) from Uttar Pradesh has been working as a chowkidar (security guard) at Lalit Ashok for the last six months. Pandey, who earlier worked at a T-shirt outlet in Delhi, moved to Bengaluru to work as security guard for a better pay. “My uncle works as a chowkidar in Bengaluru too, and he called me here. I used to earn `10,000 in Delhi, but now I get `17,000. I miss my family, but it’s okay,’’ he says, adding he would like to go to UP to cast his vote, but isn’t sure if he can, owing to his duty schedule.
Like Pandey, every year, thousands of people from modest backgrounds in North and North East India come to Bengaluru for better jobs, leaving behind their families in their native villages. With salaries ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs15,000 (depending on experience), they are able to visit their villages only once a year. They stay in a small shed or room, shared by four to six people. There are more than 3.5 lakh security guards working in over 600 security outsourcing agencies. They work in apartment complexes, hospitals, malls, private companies, ATMs and other places.
Ejipura resident Benjamin, hailing from Tamil Nadu, who works as a security guard at an ATM, has a voter ID card. “We too have suffered during demonetisation. Despite that, I see hope in Modi,’’ he said, adding: “I am proud that I am a chowkidar, protecting people’s money at an ATM.”
Harish Babu, who works as a field security officer, is an ex-army man. “Most of the security guards working here are from the north. They come from poor backgrounds. Flooding, natural calamities and the need for better livelihood force them to move out of their native places and come to urban centres like Bengaluru,” he said.