April 14, 2009 1:53:04 am
It is not all Maya and Mulayam in Mirzapur. There is also Modi and migration,both from and to Mirzapur.
Thousands from Mirzapur go to Gujarat to earn a living. And,hundreds of expert stone cutters come from Rajasthan to work on the machines which carve out blocks of pink Chunar sandstone for the memorials the BSP government is building in Lucknow.
In an effort to make the most of this Gujarat connection,the BJP brought in Narendra Modi to seek votes for its candidate Anuragh Singh last week. Modi immediately made a personal connection,assuring people that “your children” are safe while they work in Gujarat.
On Monday,when Mayawati addressed a public meeting,she did not mention the subject despite choosing Chunar sandstone for her favourite projects. Nor did she mention the backwardness of the area and its numerous problems which compel people to migrate. Instead,she tried to sell the dream of a new Poorvanchal state,but the crowd wasn’t really responsive. Maybe it was the hot weather,or the long wait.
Agriculture in Mirzapur is dependent on rain. Its crockery and brass industry fell on bad days long ago. Employment from NREGA is irregular. Inevitably,Surat,Daman,Ahmedabad offer the promise of a better life,despite the industrial slowdown.
Samar Bahaadur,who has just come from Surat to attend his nephew’s marriage in Naidini village,said: “I am a fruit seller,but I manage to earn good money there. I have built my own house.” Mamta,whose three sons work in a textile unit in Gujarat,said: “Life is much better there. She is happy with Modi’s Gujarat and says she will vote for the BJP.
The mining of Chunar sandstone,the only economic activity Mirzapur has seen in a long time,has created a class of the new rich,although BSP candidate Anil Kumar Maurya claims,”About a lakh people have benefited from this.”
Ram Singh Vagheesh,a social activist,who is supporting SP candidate Bal Kumar Patel,said the stone business was controlled by a small number of people. “The government has pumped huge money into Mirzapur to purchase stones,but where has this gone?”
Vagheesh said Patel was asking these questions and trying to unite the voters on this issue. Incidentally,Patel is the brother of dacoit Dadua,who ruled the crime world for over three decades from UP’s Bundelkhand until he was killed by the police in July 2007.
Shashi,a tea-stall owner on Jamui-Aharaura road,said the Lucknow projects need big blocks of stones which can be cut only with machines. So there aren’t many jobs for the locals. “A few who had bicycles could purchase motorcycle. But their number is very small,” said another local.
“This is a big issue for us now. Only those who are close to power have benefited from the stone business,” says Ram Yagya Dwivedi,election in-charge of Congress candidate Ramesh Dubey,a sitting MP who was denied ticket by the BSP.
Anuragh Singh alleges that the influential contractors have now started forcing people to sell their land to set up stone plants.
Although these issues are important,the caste factor is nevertheless in full play. Singh,who is the son of BJP legislature party leader Om Prakash Singh,faces the problem of two other candidates from his own Kurmi community SP nominee Bal Kumar and the Apna Dal nominee Jagdish Patel.
Anil Kumar Maurya,the BSP candidate,is banking on the Dalit and Brahmin combination.
“But Brahmins are unhappy with the BSP because of the denial of ticket to Ramesh Dubey. If they go to the BJP,it would damage both the BSP and the SP,” said S P Singh,a Obra local.
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