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Photograph: Josy Joseph
'What is the use of voting?'
NAMES: Harpool and Saroj, Haryana

When Harpool and Saroj reached Gurgaon in Haryana from Rajasthan, a decade ago it was was thickly wooded. Dust from the single-lane road blanketed the trees. They set up a roadside stall that sold pottery to homeward bound Delhi-ites.

Today the trees are gone and skyscrapers have taken their place. Gurgaon these days is a flag-bearer for a resurgent India. At this township life is on the fast track. Flashy cars and mobiles are evident just about everywhere. Folks around here spend their time at the fast food places eating American-style burgers and pizzas or shopping at the fancy malls.

The main road has become double-laned and will expand further on either side of its manicured divider to become part of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dream project -- the Golden Quadrilateral linking four metros of India.

As Gurgaon -- invaded by an expanding Delhi -- grew, so did Harpool and Saroj's family. They now have nine children. The youngest is hardly a month old. Two dogs share the shade of the hot tarpaulin cover with the family. In front of their tented home a huge range pottery -- some of it Rajasthani and some Khurja -- is on sale.

Harpool, 35, who says he does not have a surname, has not voted in 10 years. Saroj has never voted. The radio and the black and white television set in their tent blares election news but it is of no interest to these pottery sellers.

"India is ruled by a man called Atal Bihari," Harpool tells you to show his knowledge of politics. "But what is the use of voting? Everyone says they will do good for the poor. They have only built this road and helped the people in those buildings," he says, pointing to Delhi's fashionable outskirts, where call centres, Ranbaxy's research centre, Ericsson's swanky offices, DLF homes, multinational corporations, cinemas and malls are located.

Harpool and his enormous family are being squeezed in between -- on one side is the expanding road and on the other an expanding Gurgaon. He is too poor to send his children to school. Then too there are only schools for rich children around here. "We cannot ever dream of them. If my sons sell a few pots more we would have better food tomorrow," Saroj says.

The hundreds of posh apartments and villas coming up have given them better business compared to the days when this area was deserted. "Sometime [on a day] we sell pottery worth more than Rs 1,000, but sometime it is down to just Rs 100." Their daily profit is about 20 percent to 30 percent of that.

But Harpool and his family find it more and more difficult to survive by the side of the road. "The police and other officials harass us very often. We don't know where to go and what to do," Saroj says. "Our energy goes in finding food for our children each day. We don't know what could happen tomorrow."

The elections have no meaning for them. They have no house, no plot, no bank balance and no leaders.

Like thousands of Indian families that live by the wayside, this big family struggles. India doesn't shine for them. Nor do they feel their India is going to change after a hot summer of elections.

Harpool and Saroj spoke to Josy Joseph in Gurgaon, Haryana

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How We Will Vote

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