From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to former CM Mayawati, all political leaders have stressed the need to develop villages during their campaigns in UP. The Indian Express visited three villages — one each chosen by the governments of these three leaders for rural development projects — in Shahganj, which votes Wednesday. In all three, villagers complained that little of the promised work has been done, and even that little has created resentment because of alleged discrimination.
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Adopted under Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojna, NDA govt, 2014
Population: 4,608, including 575 Dalits
Burhupur was adopted by the BJP’s Jaunpur MP, Krishn Pratap Singh 2½ years ago; villagers say very little change has changed.
“This road hasn’t been properly repaired in 20 years,” says Chandrabhan Gupta, pointing to the connector to the main Sarai Mohiuddinpur-Jamuniya road. “Only a few holes are filled now and then, and they resurface in a few days. The water is knee-deep during rains.”
In most of the village, no new drains have been built. The older drains are choked and water flows either on the road or collects in small pits the have formed inside localities. “Adarsh vadarsh kuch nahin hai (there is nothing model about this village), bhikhari gaon hai yeh,” says Heera Mani Nishad, 50.
The population includes some 1,000 Muslims and 1,000 Nishads, besides 575 Dalits. The government school has up to class VIII. The nearest higher school (up to class XII) is in Jamuniya, about 4 km away, but not many villagers go there. More than half the villagers — 2,460 — are illiterate.
The villagers count what has been provided after the scheme: a 500-m road of interlocking tiles, LPG connections to 40-odd persons under the PM Ujjwala Yojana, nine solar lights and eight hand pumps, an overhead water tank in progress, a cooperative sales centre for fertilisers. “The fertiliser centre has been of the most help. Villagers no longer have to go to Sarai Mohiddinpur,” says Mohd Taseer.
“Our houses are scattered over a 3-km stretch. Many are yet to get electricity,” says Udaibhan Gupta.
Singh, the MP, says he has visited the village six times, distributed blankets and organised two kisan melas. He accuses the state government of causing delays.
“The main road is 3 km long and cannot be built under PMGSY or the MP’s Local Area Development Scheme. I have written to the state government for the road but it has not acted on it,” he says. “The central government has sanctioned Rs 1.5 crore for electrification and replacement of old wires, but the state government has not started work yet.”
The BJP has given the seat to its ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. Most Nishad villagers say they would prefer the new Nishad Party. “Some people will vote by caste, some in the interest of the country, some for their own interests,” says Ram Teerath, husband of the village pradhan. “Very few will vote for development.”
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Chosen under Lohia Gram Vikas Yojana, SP, 2012-13
Population: 1,486, including 458 Dalits
Lacking in repair, the main road leading to Rasoolpur gets filled with water during the rains. The village’s only electric poles are by the side of this road; those living away have to route electricity through wires as long as 1,000 m.
Most localities have no drains. “This road has not been repaired since it was built 15 years ago. When drainwater runs from the road, what is the need to build drains?” says Jokhulal Bind.
He says under the government scheme, whatever has been done has been limited to a few Dalit bastis and areas where Yadavs live. The village has 458 Dalits and about 400 Yadavs and 200 Nishads. There is a primary school while children in higher classes go to Jamuniya. Out of the population of 1,486, 647 are illiterate.
Surendra Yadav, brother-in-law of village pradhan Sudama Devi, says they are related to local SP MLA and candidate Shailendra Yadav. Surendra insists a lot of work was done: “four cemented roads, help to nine persons to build houses under Lohia Awas scheme, a 1 km tar road and nine solar lights”.
He says poles were not erected in localities because people did not want naked wires close to their homes, and drains were not built as residents did not give land.
One of the four cemented roads leads to the house of Manoj, a Dalit, but it is not wide enough to accommodate a four-wheeler. Manoj says one of the solar lights fitted outside his house has not worked for eight months. He also got Rs 9,000 to build a toilet but says the work stopped midway after an argument. “There is no pit beneath this toilet. We have not been able to use it even once.”
A neighbour says Dalits will vote for the BSP while Yadavs are likely to stick with the Samajwadi Party.
Chosen under Ambedkar Gram Sabha, BSP, 2007-08
Population: 1,465, including 137 Dalits
Dhandwara Khurd was chosen under the scheme soon after Mayawati formed her first majority government. At its entrance, it does present itself as a model village — a road, paths paved with interlocking cement tiles, drains running underground. “We have never seen open drains. They have been under the road since my childhood,” says Shamim Akhtar, 60.
This part is where the better-off Muslim families live. A different story unfolds about a kilometre away, in the Dalit basti on the other side of the canal, and at the farthest end of the village where the poor backward castes live.
Here, drains are open and release into an open nullah. Beyond stand the houses of Rajbhar and Dharkar families.
Virendra Kumar, a Dharkar farmer, says he has not seen any pavement being built outside his home.
Shiv Kumar, 60, a former pradhan, says a small brick kharanja was all his locality got in the name of Ambedkar Gram. No electric pole connects to his house.
Close to the Dalit basti is a village school, up to class VII. Out of 1,465 residents, 600 are illiterate. The Dalit population is 137.
In their basti, the old brick pavement is no longer visible. The rocks covering the drains shake when one walks on them. There are no lights on the pavement.
“No work was done here after the village became Ambedkar Gram. The cement-tile pavement was to be built here but you must have seen where it ended up,” says Urmila, a Dalit. Says Rajpat Gautam, a small farmer, “That was not the fault of the BSP government. The government passed the orders but others did not follow them.”
Dalit villagers allege that not even BSP politicians have ever visited them. “We had called the BSP candidate (O P Singh) but he did not come. Most of us will still vote for the BSP. Kuch aur nahi toh apni jaat pe hi vote karenge,” says Anarsi, 60.
At least one Dalit, however, says she will go for chhari (stick), symbol of BJP ally SBSP that addresses Rajbhars.