Concern is growing, nothing else is

When Mohammad Israel found himself drifting into the role of an imaam, no one among his family and friends told him that he was choosing a path of chronic economic insecurity.

Twenty years after becoming the imaam of Hakeem Baqaa mosque in Old Delhi’s Chawri bazaar area, the 38-year-old father of two is feeling the heat.
As an imaam, he gets Rs 5,000 in monthly stipend from the Waqf Board (which used to be Rs 2,800 a month till June 2009). Add to this Rs 3,000 which he makes by supplying packing material in Chawri Bazaar.

Besides his sons, studying in classes one and four, he has his wife and two younger brothers to take care of.

Grocery that would cost him Rs 500 six months ago now costs around Rs 800. A five-litre pack of edible oil is now Rs 130 dearer.

“Hisaab simple hai,” he says. “Parliament main baith ke toh kuchh bhi bol do. Unhe kyaa pata ghar kaisa chalta hai.

“Savings are out of question. I don’t know what I will do in emergency,” says he.

“Sharad Pawar said that the price of sugar went up because the sugarcane crop was less. But how was that possible? There was no drought in Uttar Pradesh or any other state where they grow sugarcane. It is nothing but black marketing.”

His anger for the government rises every time he meets the grocery shopkeeper who tells him that all this is controlled by politicians.

What puzzles him no end is why the prices of all essential commodities are going up at once. “Thousands of migrants are living in Delhi. If the prices continue to rise, these people will go back to their home states. But what about people like us who belong to Delhi? Where will we go?” wonders he.

It was only after his marriage nine years ago that Israel started selling plastic packing material. He thought the profit, along with his salary as imaam, would be enough to feed a family of six.

The idea of changing his occupation occurred to him. But that’s easier said than done, because as an imaam, he can
do only jobs which allow him to lead the prayers five times a day.

After some head-scratching, he comes up with an idea that might make things easy. “One of my brothers is pursuing graduation and the other is in class 12. If the situation continues, then I will ask one of them to stop studying and get some job.”

This appeared on governancenow.com April 24, 2010

Mohammad Israel

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