The bustling and hopeful Station Road, and the bustling and despondent Amroha Gate area
Moradabad: There are two Moradabads, the Station Road and Civil Lines Moradabad, and the Amroha Gate Moradabad. The Station Road side though lined up with small shopkeepers including those who deal in automotive spare parts, hardware, and woollens represent the expanding town which is growing rapidly. The Amroha Gate shop-owners are the Muslim lower-middle class and the poor.
On the one side you have Crossroad Mall, the 99-year-old Moradabad Club with its Princess Garden Restaurant, open to non-members of the club, and the Philips Memorial Methodist Church and quiet roads. And on the outskirts is the spacious campus of Tirthankar Mahavir University, a sign of the changing profile of the town. The Amroha Gate area is wholly a back alley, where small shops, almost all of them owned by Muslims, and vegetable vendors and horse-drawn carts crowd the narrow streets.
Pervez Ahmed, 53, who has a hardware shop on Station Road, says that the city has grown rapidly in the last 10 to 15 years, and that business is good. There are very good English medium schools. His only complaint is that paperwork has become cumbersome because of state government taxes. And he observes that the town is attracting people from other parts of Uttar Pradesh and even Bihar. Mohan Lal Chaddha, 60, Ahmed’s neighbouring shopkeeper, says that business has grown and so has corruption.
Saurabh Sharma, 29, who works in the electricity department, is from Chandhausi, 45 km away. He finds Moradabad a comfortable place. “Life is good here,” he says. Being a government servant he refuses to say more than this. But he notes that the medical facilities in Moradabad are not good enough.
Sunita, 48, owns a shop selling woollens. She says that earlier people from the surrounding towns and villages used to go to Delhi, but now they come to Moradabad. “Educational institutions have grwown,”she says. Her two sons go to school and she is happy with what is offered.
Mohammed Iqbal, 24, who sells biscuits on a pushcart, is from Kishenganj in Bihar. He came to Moradabad 10 years ago, and he finds the going good. His only complaint: The price of everything has increased. He says that 10 years ago he would buy a kilo of biscuits for Rs 12 and sell them for Rs 20. But today he pays Rs 60 to buy the kilo and sells it at Rs 70.
Munna, 65, at Amroha Gate, is a labourer, is the garrulous commentator, who is willing to speak his mind. The cautious shopkeepers who would not speak so freely as Munna nod vigorously in agreement with what Munna says. “There is no electricity, and there is increase in taxes,” declares Munna, taking a puff from the common hukkah placed at one of the shop.
He is most angry with Congress member of parliament (MP) and former India cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin. “He is not to be seen here. We need a leader who resides here,” he argues. “If there is trouble, there is no one here we can turn to. Azam Khan (the Samajwadi Party leader from Rampur) has to come all the way to sort things out.”
Munna has no party preferences. Anyone who puts in work for the people is acceptable to him. He says that there are enough Muslims around and you can see it in the bazaars wherever you turn. He hopes that the BSP candidate, who is a Qureishi, and from his own ‘biradari’ may do good if he wins because he is also rich and powerful. But he is willing to bless any leader who will help people, and he says that Sanjay Aggarwal of BJP was also good because he served well.
His final comment: “You cannot say who will in the election because we will make up our mind a few days before voting, which will take place in March.”