A sudden outburst of rain had dampened the concrete road meandering through lush paddy fields and leading up to Jayapur, a village that has the blessings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. About half a dozen men squatted on steel benches at a bus waiting shed at the entrance of the village while children played around. Street lights fitted with solar panels, a cell-phone tower, two banks, houses for Dalit families, an ATM, a post office — these are signs of the largesse that has showered upon Jayapur ever since it was adopted by the Prime Minister in 2014 under the ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’ – a programme that gets MPs to ‘adopt’ villages and turn them into model ones.
But beyond the glint and the glimmer lie clues of serious infrastructure problems that exist in the village. There is no denying that the small village of 4,000-odd residents has certainly attracted a lot of investments thanks to its VIP tag, but at the same time it still woefully falls short on critical development indicators.
The Swacch Bharat story
Deep inside the village near a cluster of huts with thatched roofs, a few men stood constructing a toilet, one among several dozens yet to be built in the village. And that’s the story of the Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) in Jayapur. Nearly two years after the launch of the programme, the PM’s adopted village is still not Open-Defecation-Free (ODF), a status when achieved indicates complete toilet coverage in a village panchayat.
SBM officials said around 650 toilets have been built, a majority of them under corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of companies, but deflected questions on why the village still does not have an ODF tag. They added that a door-to-door survey was underway to estimate the exact number of toilets built in the village. According to the SBM website, more than 70,000 villages across the country have the ODF tag, a majority of them in states like Kerala and Sikkim which are close to being declared with complete household toilet coverage.
At the same time, village officials said they were confident of achieving their target of 720 toilets by the first week of September.
Apart from coverage of toilets, there were also clear problems of their maintenance and upkeep. Several bio-toilets built near the primary school and the bus stand were found to have doors broken and filled with mud and garbage. There were also allegations that locals, instead of using toilets, used them to store things.
“This is the work of a few miscreants in the village who have a habit of destroying things,” said Subhash, a local. Narayan Singh Patel, the village head, echoed him and said there are bad elements in the village who want to spoil the image of the PM. “They want to ensure that Jayapur does not get any development,” said Patel.
Haphazard road to progress
A majority of the development projects have landed in Jayapur, courtesy of private companies who as one official put it, ‘were inspired by the vision of Narendra Modi.’ Ask anyone how these companies came to Jayapur and the name of CR Patil crops up. Patil is a BJP MP from Navsari, Gujarat and is the Prime Minister’s representative in the village. But the haphazard manner in which some of the projects have come up indicated deep fissures between Patil’s camp which oversees the work and village officials.
An official who declined to be identified said, “There is a lack of coordination between us and the companies which are doing the work. In fact, it’s a big problem.”
For instance, a road inside the village laid with tiles were found to be broken and in a dreadful condition when this reporter visited Jayapur. The road, which passes through a busy agricultural belt, is routinely used by tractors. The official said the road, which was commissioned by Patil, should have been concrete so that it can withstand heavy vehicles.
“Private companies did not coordinate with government agencies. If they had coordinated with us and talked to us, the work could have been better,” the official said.
Another example of the lack of parity was the way in which toilets, installed at public places, were in miserable condition.
“The companies came and did their work. The doors were plastic. Now there may have been children playing nearby who would have thrown stones at the doors and broken them. They should not have built the toilets at public places. If they asked for land, we could have given them options. Coordination was a problem,” he said.
The job crisis
Yogesh Kumar is one among several young men in the village who are unemployed, waiting for job prospects. He completed an ITI course in machinery and even worked at Maruti in Gurgaon for less than a year, before he was sent home. For the last one year, he has been sitting jobless, worried about the future.
“Educated youth are not getting jobs and that’s a problem. There are at least 25 men like me who have done ITI and are not getting jobs,” he said. At least 80 per cent of Jayapur’s 4,000 residents are , home to around 4,000 people, has mostly from agricultural families (80 per cent of them), with the rest engaged in other professions. With agriculture becoming a cost-intensive process, Yogesh and his likes clearly want to stick to white collar jobs with regular salaries.
“Look at all these men, sitting here jobless when they should be working,” said Vijay Kumar Verma, as he motioned towards the youth who had gathered around him.
Local politics still hold sway
Jayapur is not immune from the competitive inter-party politics that mars progress in much of India’s countryside. While the village’s pradhan, Patel, has been a BJP man ‘from the time of Kalyan Singh’, he has to contend with the influence of local Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Surendra Singh Patel, who is also a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government. Narayan Patel holds back no punches as he blames the local MLA for disruption in development projects in Jayapur.
“Local politics are is the reason why progress has been stopped in Jayapur. They misbehave with the company officials who want to invest here as they want to spoil the image of the PM. Congress and SP leaders have hand in this,” said Patel. When asked if Surendra Singh Patel is involved as well, he nodded yes.
There was significant criticism about Surendra Singh Patel among the locals too.
“People here are very angry with the SP MLA. In the election next year, you will see 99 per cent of votes from Jayapur will go to the BJP,” predicted Vijay Kumar Verma, a farmer.
In spite of its inefficiencies, there is no denying the fact that Jayapur is better off the other villages in the parliamentary constituency of Varanasi. “Would it hurt for the government to treat other villages in the same manner,” asked Ajay, who drives a battery-operated rickshaw.
While the rest of the villages hardly get 5-6 hours of electricity, Jayapur’s residents get as much as 12-14 hours of electricity in a day, thanks to two 25 KV solar panels installed by a private company. The village also boasts of a soon-to-be-inaugurated girls’ school, free Wi-Fi, banking facilities and tailoring centres for women. Although Dalits form a minuscule population in the village of mostly upper-caste Patels and Bhumihars, houses have been built for them under the Atal Awas Yojana.
“Earlier, we used to live in houses which would crash to the ground when there’s a rain. Today, we are comfortable and for that, we are thankful to Modi sarkar,” said Saraswati Devi, the mukhiya of the Mushahar community.
But not everyone is thankful for the fruits of progress do not grow beyond Jayapur.
Gaya Prasad, a contractor in building toilets, said his village Narsana does not have the same luck Jayapur enjoys.
“My village has no toilets at all. Women, children…everyone defecates in the open. We have spoken to the pradhan several times, but nothing happens. We feel ashamed to do this, but we don’t have a choice,” he said.
“Hamari majboori hai yeh (We are helpless),” said Prasad dejectedly as he continued plonking the sickle into the ground to build a toilet for others.