How are the girls in NIT Patna

A look at India on Misereor Lent Sunday: a land of contrasts between modern companies and people who live in hard-to-bear misery. Right in the middle: people who cannot come to terms with suffering and hardship.

"About three to four people are run over by the train every month." Sister Dorothy tells this more casually while the next overcrowded regional train rushes by. Not even two meters behind the poor huts made of bamboo, wood, plastic and corrugated iron.

Sample project of the current fasting campaign

And behind the children who were literally playing on the tracks and only jumped to the side when the train driver pressed the piercing alarm signal several times. "Only three or four?" one is almost inclined to ask back.

The people live directly on the tracks in the east Indian city of two million Patna. In one of a total of 28 slums that Sister Dorothy and her staff look after. The 65-year-old Catholic religious is the founder and director of the JKGVS ("Association for Welfare and Rural Development"), which works with the German development aid organization Misereor.

An example project of the current fasting campaign, which is being organized for the first time together with the Church in India and which culminates with the collection in all Catholic services on March 18, Misereor Sunday.

Go to the fringes of India

Pope Francis keeps calling for people to go to the margins. "And there are a hell of a lot of them in Patna," Sister Dorothy experiences anew every day. When she makes her rounds through the slums and listens to where the fire is and how she might be able to help.

And it burns all over the place. The danger on the tracks is just one problem among many. It is similarly life-threatening in other slums right next to busy streets.

In addition, most people have no toilets, no electricity and little or no access to clean drinking water. Here in the dust next to the tracks, for example, there is a single water point for around 500 residents, where they wash themselves and their clothes and where they also get the water for cooking and for their dogs and cows.

Humble desires of the people

The people here are day laborers, street vendors, rickshaw drivers. Without a regular income they live from hand to mouth. "I would like to send my children to school", reports one of the women, "but far too often my husband comes back in the evening without money because there were simply no jobs that day". In a low voice she says, barely audible: "We are forgotten by the whole world. Nobody cares about us - except for Sister Dorothy."

The wishes are modest. Hardly anyone dreams of wealth, a car or a brick house in a more beautiful area. "We just want the security that we can stay here," adds an older woman - "and that the fear will finally end that tomorrow the bulldozers might come and wreck everything so that new apartments can be built for the rich."

Her granddaughter nods and explains how she envisions her own future: "I would like to work at a bank one day. Then I will earn my own money and can support my family and help others here in the village how they can handle money."

Hunger strike to stay

A few kilometers further: the next slum. Almost 250 families live on a swampy wasteland on the edge of a small river between two main roads. Where river is a very woolly description for the pathetic trickle, which, on closer inspection and smell, is also reminiscent of a sewer.

Not without reason, as a look at the poorly cobbled together outhouse on the edge reveals: a few poles, boards and tarpaulins over a hole that ends directly in the "river". But the cluster of huts, which at first glance appears so desolate, is home to the people here: "For some it has been for 40 years," reports Rukmini Mato. The 62-year-old and her three-year-old husband Gulabo are among them. For more than 20 years she has been the "village elder", the elected head of the community.

And whoever listens to the charismatic woman in the light blue sari for a moment knows exactly why. "We'll never let ourselves be driven out here, no matter how often the city tries," she explains fiercely. And then reports on a hunger strike a few weeks ago when she demonstrated with two other women 48 hours in front of the city administration's house - with success. Once again, they have prevented the city from tearing parts of the site under the nail.

Legal advice and training for the slum dwellers

Sister Dorothy and her colleagues also help with this: "We get lawyers and provide legal advice. And above all, we train people so that they not only know their rights exactly, but can also enforce them themselves." The successes are obvious, as Rukmini emphasizes: "The authorities took our first jointly built meeting room away from us in no time to set up our own offices there. That won't happen to us again!"

They have long since built a new assembly building where children from three can attend a kindergarten and later a kind of preschool. In the afternoons and evenings there are sewing courses and training courses, for example to become a beautician. In addition, older children and young people offer tutoring courses for the younger ones.

Rukmini and her people have even built their own school out of the swampy ground. This also arouses desires in the city of Patna, but Rukmini and the other slum dwellers - including their two children and five grandchildren - know how to defend themselves. Thank Sister Dorothy and her people.

Many of the protégés are casteless

Two poor neighborhoods out of 28 that the organization oversees. In a city of over a million people, where two out of three people live below the poverty line. Many are Dalits, that is, casteless or "untouchables" on the lowest fringes of society. And yet most of them look to the future with hope: "I learn a lot at school and later become a teacher or doctor to help others," enthuses one of the girls.

"It would be nice", her mother grins, then quickly added: "In any case, our children will finish school and thus have better chances than we do - we fight for that with everything we have!"

Testimonies that also move the German Misereor Bishop Stephan Burger during his on-site visit: "It is also crucial that the poorest here are not just recipients of aid, but are put themselves in a position to fight for their rights and their dignity and their own To improve living conditions. " So that as soon as possible nobody gets under the wheels.

Gottfried Bohl