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Gaddipur and Boudhini are two Ambedkar villages under a special programme in UP

The road is narrow,but paved smooth. Set amid mustard and sugarcane fields,the village looks picture perfect as you approach it. Inside,the lanes are cemented,the drains channel away waste water from houses,and there are public toilets,hand-pumps for water,streetlights and a primary school. A safai karamchari,say villagers,cleans up the lanes,usually every day.

Welcome to Gaddipur,one of the thousands of villages where the Mayawati government claims to have provided basic facilities and services under a special programme,named after B R Ambedkar and targeted at villages with a substantial Dalit population.

After the Lok Sabha elections in 2009,when the BSP was pushed to third place behind the Samajwadi Party and the Congress,the Ambedkar village programme was given a fresh push. Senior officials were ordered to visit these from time to time to monitor the progress of work.

Gaddipur is part of Sitapur Assembly constituency,which the Samajwadi Party won in 2007. In April last year,the BSP government declared it an Ambedkar village and work started. Cementing of some of the paths and drains is still going on.

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“No one ever did so much for us,” says Kamta,who owns about two bighas and does odd jobs in Sitapur town,8km away. Many others agree.

Gaddipur has about 800 families,a little over half of them Pasis and Koris,both Scheduled Castes. Kamta is a Kori. About 100 families are Yadavs,who appear sympathetic to the Samajwadi Party.

It is a place where the Mayawati government’s NRHM scam,the scandals that led to the exit of her half a dozen ministers,or the criminal atrocities of her partymen — all of which have provided opposition parties so much ammunition — look irrelevant.

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The main complaints and grievances here are,rather,about the lack of jobs. Land holdings are getting smaller,and work under MGNREGS is not available all year,villagers complain.

Durvijai says many in the village haven’t got old-age pensions. Chameli Devi reels out names of widows left out. And an old man interjects,“There is a price for everything; you pay the middlemen and you get it: Rs 1,000 for old-age or widow pension,Rs 5,000 for an Indira Awas.’’

Besides the middlemen,whom everyone seems to know but no one wants to name,they accuse pradhan Arun Kumar Maurya — now away in Sitapur — of picking and choosing. Whether it is old-age pension,widow pension,Indira Awas,everything requires the pradhan’s recommendation. And since Maurya belongs to the BSP,for some villagers he is the face of the corrupt BSP government. But most prefer not to stretch it that far.

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Kamta agrees that nothing gets done without greasing palms. But when asked whether he will still go to Sitapur when Mayawati addresses her first rally on February 1,he is emphatic. “Yes,yes,definitely.”

The other face

Twenty-odd kilometres from Sitapur is the pilgrim town of Misrikh where sage Dadheech,as a popular legend goes,gave his bones to the gods so that they could forge a weapon to defeat the Asuras. Just 4km away is Boudhini,another Ambedkar village. Here too,the approach road is paved smooth. But that is the only similarity with Gaddipur.

Inside,the lanes are brick-paved,but uneven and potholed. At many places,dirty water has accumulated and there is a stench in the air. There are some hand-pumps,and a school too,but no streetlights because there is no electricity.

Villagers say the government had declared Boudhini an Ambedkar village when Mayawati became chief minister for the second time in 1997,but not much work was done.

In the absence of electricity,people try to wrap up the day’s business before sunset. Students read in the dim light from kerosene lamps. Some houses have TV sets that came as dowry and remain useless.

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“When there is an interesting cricket match,we go to Misrikh and hire batteries to run the TV,” says a student. “It costs Rs 20 a day.”

Some have bought batteries to light a bulb so that children can study,but every few days these have to be taken to Misrikh for a recharge.

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Incidentally,Boudhini is part of Misrikh constituency where the SP won in 2007,although many in the village say they had voted BSP,hoping that Mayawati would ensure that the village she had declared an Ambedkar village would get electricity.

“There have been several surveys,but no government has bothered to give us electricity. All they have to do is erect a few poles from that government tubewell,” says Shivpal Singh,pointing towards a structure a few hundred yards away in the fields.

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Like Boudhini,several villages in the area are without electricity,and most of them are Ambedkar villages,says Chhail Bihari. Many don’t even have an approach road and one has to walk through the fields to reach them.

While the absence of electricity is an issue about which the entire village of about 700 families feels strongly,the Scheduled Castes and the Backwards,who constitute about one-fourth of the population,have another grouse: Boudhini is missing from the BPL list. This means no Indira Awas,no BPL cards,no benefits under various poverty-alleviation programmes.

The state has a Mukhyamantri Garib Arthik Madad Yojna,under which the poor who are not covered by poverty-alleviation programmes are entitled to Rs 400 a month. It also has a 50 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes,but people in the village say they haven’t heard of it.

Incidentally,the part of the village where Pasis live — and they form the largest chunk of the Scheduled Castes — is the dirtiest and stinks the most.

Who’s to blame?

How does it feel being neglected in a regime headed by an SC woman?

“How can she be blamed? It is the mischief of those below,” retorts a woman whose daughter,Rajni,a class XII student,had got Rs 10,000 under a scheme to promote girls’ education; Rajni had also got Rs 15,000 and a bicycle in class X.

Rajni wants to study and her family is supporting her education in spite of its modest income. She does not want to talk politics,but says the village should get electricity so that students like her could devote more time to their studies.

Rajni’s mother seemed to be in a minority in Boudhini,where not many have kind words for Mayawati.

First published on: 01-02-2012 at 11:52:26 pm
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