Glowing for Gold : News of treasure hunt in Unnao village goes around the globehttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/glowing-for-gold-news-of-treasure-hunt-in-unnao-village-goes-around-the-globe/

Glowing for Gold : News of treasure hunt in Unnao village goes around the globe

Daundiya Kheda pradhan’s husband is fielding calls from across the globe about the treasure hunt.

The 1,000-tonne whiff has not just lifted Daundiya Kheda and a sadhu out of obscurity. Its pradhan’s husband is fielding calls from across the globe,handing out instant solutions.

News about gold travels. News about a thousand tonnes of it travels faster. News of a dream about gold and an excavation following it goes around the globe.

And so has discovered Ajay Pal Singh,the ex- but de-facto pradhan of Daundiya Kheda village in Unnao district,where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is currently digging for what has been called the answer to India’s financial woes. With his wife Sheela,the actual pradhan,keeping gratuitously in the shadows,Singh these days is fielding calls from around the country as well as Dubai and the US.

“It all happened after the media aired my clipping at the panchayat bhavan. My phone number was written on the wall. Now from morning till I go to sleep,they call me up.”

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The callers include even children,he says. “Have you seen the gold?” they ask. “Did you know about it before hand?” “Can we get some antique ornaments?” “Do you know sadhu Shobhan Sarkar?”

The last one he can answer. He has known Sarkar — who claims to have dreamed of 10 lakh kg of the yellow metal lying in the remains of the fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux,near a Shiva temple in the village — since 1997.

Showing a call from a Dubai number on his cellphone,Singh expresses surprise at the regular calls he is getting from the Middle East and America. “Some people have even offered to purchase land near the fort campus.”

Clearly enjoying all the attention,Singh adds: “I get calls from government officials. District Magistrate Vijay Kiran and Superintendent of Police Soniya Singh gave me their numbers. I give the day’s information to them.”

Even before,Singh was a known name in Unnao. “The post of pradhan has been in my family since ages,” he smiles. “My grandfather was pradhan till 1972 followed by my father,then me and now my wife.” He was the pradhan of Daundiya Kheda between 2000-2010,and when the seat was reserved for women,it seamlessly passed on to his wife. “I still carry out all the work,” Singh gushes.

Sheela says she has “full faith” in her husband,though she did make a round of the fort. Admitting that the gold rush keeps him out till late,Sheela adds that she has no objections. “He tells me everything.”

Singh’s day starts early these days and mostly to the sound of his ringing phone. By 8 am,he is at the excavation site. “Today,I had to make arrangements for food for the staff (at the excavation site). I can manage everything fresh as all people know me,” he shrugs.

Another problem that day,involving construction of a new barricade on the fort campus to take care of the porous points,is dealt with as quickly. He sends his two sons — he has six children in all,two of them daughters,who are all postgraduates — to the local market to get ropes and deputes villagers to cut some bamboo. “Officials are not aware about the topography of the fort. I know it well as we have all roamed here while grazing cattle.”

Earlier that day,he organised a tent for security forces at the fort site. “They were short of some material. I managed it in no time from the local market,” he says.

Handling such requirements is part of Singh’s daily routine now,with the village panchayat bhavan serving as the ASI’s camp office.

Officials at Daundiya Kheda,including of the ASI,Provincial Armed Constabulary and local administration,acknowledge his help. The ASI wants his presence while giving some tips to labourers — “an hour’s task for me”,says Singh. “The ASI was worried that labourers may leak the secrecy of the excavation.” He got the issue settled by warning workers that they could face a police case should any information leak.

Even the workers from the village have been hired on his recommendation and guarantee.

Singh’s sons now spend entire day at the site,helping any way they can. “Politicians including Sunil Yadav (an Unnao leader and adviser to the state government,enjoying minister of state status),MLAs Kuldeep Sengar,Udai Raj Yadav came to me. Even Union minister Charan Das Mahat (on whose recommendation the dig was reportedly initiated) met me… Today some BSP leaders are coming in the evening and I have to accompany them,” he says,getting up to attend another call from ASI officials.

Some of that gold sheen has rubbed off on Daundiya Kheda as well. Singh says the politicians have assured “any help” for the village. “I called up the PWD official for the poor road and the very next day the contractor was at my residence asking for inspection. The pending electricity work in my village has been sorted. Power officials knew me and responded quickly,” he says.

Amidst all this,Singh is also a constant source of information for eager journalists. “Everybody came here and interacted with me. They still call me up and four-five of them come daily,” he says,showing the visiting cards he has collected.

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To this too,Singh has adapted fast. “Now I realise the important things,so I have started writing these down for them.” He keeps a systematic list of the people visiting Daundiya Kheda,the extent of the excavation and the artefacts recovered so far. “I know,” he says,“they ask the same questions every evening.”