Bangladesh in St Joseph Constituency-a political target
Does Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley have a heart? This is the question the residents of Farm Road, St Joseph are asking. (The residents do not like their place of residence to be referred to as Bangladesh. Their mailing address is Farm Road, St Joseph). Members of WWW.ICDN.TODAY visited Farm Road on Sunday November 12, 2017 and interacted with the residents to get their views on the proposed plan of the government to relocate them. One social activist said: “The intention of the Land Settlement Agency and Rowley to relocate the people of Farm Road is to grab this prized land to give to their big boy friends and families and the 1%. “ He continued: “This is prime property … close to Curepe Junction …the hospital, the police station, St Joseph Secondary School and Valsayn right there. Rowley can live but we cannot.”
Omar, a youth, said that in the 2015 General Elections he helped mobilise the youths for the PNM. “PNM get more than 250 votes in Farm Road,” he said. I asked if the residents had taken their concerns to their Member of Parliament Terrence Deyalsingh and Omar replied: “After winning, we never see or hear from Deyalsingh.”
The elders in the village said that they have been living in Farm Road for more than 40 years. An old lady told me that she had been living in Farm Road for the past 60 years. “I am 79 years old. Where am I to go?” a lady asked.
Omar is an African who escorted us through the settlement. There was no racial tension and everyone seems to be at peace with each other. One lady boasted that “you can leave your house open. No one thief here. We like one big family.”
Nandlal Prashad, a retiree, settled in Farm Road after coming from Guyana. He has two adult sons. Both Nandlal and his sons have Deeds of Comfort. His son Khemraj said: “This is the only place I can call home. I living here since age 12 with my family,” he said.
The area has water, electricity and fire hydrants. There are newly built box drains. The residents also benefit from a home postal service and garbage collection. Given the location of their homes their children have access to schools, hospitals and other services. “Where they want us to go?” Khemraj asked.
“It was former Minister Carlos John that paved the roads for us. Kamla also did a lot for us and Jairam Seemungal, who was the Minister for Land Settlement,” a resident reminded.
One villager said : “Under Seemungal and Kamla we get Deed of Comfort.” Villagers were only too happy to display their Deeds of Comfort. “It was Kamla that give me this,” said one lady proudly, trusting the document to me to look at it.
“My faith is that Kamla will fight for we. She is a mother to us and would not abandon us. She is our only hope,” said another resident. Others present nodded their heads in agreement.
While the residents have been regularised and many have Deeds of Comfort to safeguard their houses from unlawful ejection, the villagers continue to live in houses and shacks made of wood and rusting galvanise. Despite this depravation, the residents have their back yards planted with a wide variety of fruit trees-mangoes, coconut, caimite, neem, etc. The fronts of many homes have beautifully cultivated flowers.
The people of Farm Road are poor but there is a certain degree of communal harmony. All of them appear to be looking out for each other. I did not sense any tension or rivalry in the community. I left envying them because they were sitting on the culverts chatting with each other while children run and play, others ride their bicycles, some walk the roads going on errands to the neighbourhood parlours.
Not surprisingly, anthropologist Dr Kumar Mahabir, mused that “Farm Road is a fertile ground for anthropological and sociological research. I want to visit this community again. I like the communal intimacy and interaction. It is the Indian version of the ‘yard’ in the African community. I want to compare this community to Beetham. These people have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. They have not depended on Governments for hand-outs, grants, etc. by blocking roads and burning tyres. They are also not involved in robberies and shootings like their Beetham counterparts.”
If Farm Road is found to be “backward,” it would not be of their making but the connivance of public officials-including politicians-to manipulate the system to deny the many and to benefit a few. The people of Farm Road have made a huge sacrifice by themselves to reach this far and we would be failing if we don’t intervene to ensure these people are treated like people.
Their big fear is that all they have worked for and achieved over the decades would be snatched away from them.