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Not far from Mulayam’s village,a pump is the only reason to vote

With days to go before they vote on February 23,however,the 300-odd villagers have not yet guessed who the “ideal candidate” is this time.

Written by Sanjay Singh | Etawah | Published: February 22, 2012 3:45:39 am

Barauli,the last village in the ravines of Chambal on UP’s border with MP,is gifted two hand-pumps whenever the candidate it selects goes on to win the Etawah Assembly seat. Every election,the villagers pick out the candidate likeliest to win and bargain with him or her for the hand-pumps. They have got more than 20 but feel they can do with a few more.

With days to go before they vote on February 23,however,the 300-odd villagers have not yet guessed who the “ideal candidate” is this time.

Etawah is the home district of Mulayam Singh Yadav,and Barauli is just 55km from his native village,Safai. That village competes with many UP towns in terms of infrastructure,thanks to the facilities established by Mulayam during his three tenures as chief minister. Safai has a big hospital,concrete roads,huge buildings that house institutions from primary schools to postgraduate colleges,and a stadium with an astro-turf.

For Barauli and 35 other villages in the Chambal region,even drinking water is a problem.

“We know politicians can’t solve all our problems. So,we just ask for two hand-pumps in every election,” says Ramadhar Singh,74. Since the water table is deep,villagers cannot install a pump themselves.

A number of villagers own land but the government has not installed a single tubewell for irrigation. “In the absence of irrigation facilities,our agricultural land is covered in wild growth,attracting more and more wild animals,” says Ganesh Singh,who says he owns more than 150 bighas in the ravines.

Only two or three bighas of that can be used for agriculture,he says,because rainfall is poor. “I last had crops on 50 bighas three decades ago,” Ganesh said.

“My family has more than 20 bighas,” says Suresh Rajawat,one of five brothers,“but more than 15 bighas is barren.” Barren or fertile,the fact that they own so much leaves villagers ineligible for the benefits under anti-poverty programmes.

Villagers say agricultural land in the neighbourhood costs no more than Rs 15,000 a bigha. Since the terrain does not allow use of tractors,farming is manual.

“Mulayam did not do us justice,” says Manoj Singh. “He could at least have ensured a government tubewell for irrigation.” Singh,incidentally,was kidnapped in December 2004,allegedly by the Manoj Lodhi gang,and released after his family reportedly paid Rs 80,000 as ransom.

Villagers here feel their plight is as bad as that of those in Bundelkhand. “If Rahul Gandhi can highlight the plight of people in Bundelkhand,he should also spare some time and visit this village too,” says Ravi Singh Bhadauria,who has studied up to Intermediate level.

Barauli has seen migration on a large scale in the last two decades,to other towns of UP as well as to MP,with many of its former residents now settled in Gwalior and Etawah. “There is no enthusiasm for the elections,” says Bhadauria. “No election can bring any change to the hard life villagers lead here.”

Mobile phones have caught on here too and many villagers have one,but they use it only when they cannot avoid it. “We have to pay roaming charges even though we are in UP,” says Bhadauria.

The village has a primary school and the government has posted a Shiksha Mitra here. “The teacher rarely turns up,” says a villager. Beyond Class V,children have to go to Pacchayan or Karail Ki Madaiya,each 6km away.

Even the Safai hospital is difficult to access,say villagers. “If anyone needs treatment there,you need first to speak to someone (with connections),” says a villager.

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