This village has everything the “adopted village” of a chief minister can get — a new gram panchayat office with a cultural centre, a new zilla parishad school, a water ATM , five acres of afforested land, sewage treatment plant to supply filtered water, closed drainage and uninterrupted power supply. The list is endless.
In the last five years, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has lavished resources worth Rs 18 crore on Fetri village in Nagpur district, but there is one thing he has not been able to provide — jobs.
Deepti Laxmanrao Langde, a 25-year-old engineering graduate, said she has been looking for a job since she finished her course three years ago. She has been applying at private companies or for government jobs, but in vain. “There are at least 60 to 70 young graduates in the village who are unemployed. In this election, our only demand is that the government should help youths get decent jobs,” she said.
Located along the state highway, Fetri in Hingna constituency has turned into an education hub, with both private and government institutes in operation. In 2011, the village population was 2,700. Today, it is 4,500. The gram panchayat earns an annual revenue of Rs 27 lakh from water and property tax.
Sarpanch Dhanashree Thomne represents the NCP. Her husband Mukesh Thomne, who is active in village politics, said, “Although NCP was elected at the gram panchayat, the chief minister has never allowed party politics to come in the way of development of Fetri. He calls at least 50 per cent of the people by their first name. There is a special bond between him and the people of Fetri.”
At a newly built library for which Fadnavis allotted Rs 25 lakh, students spend hours daily to prepare for competitive exams. But the uncertainty over jobs dominates the conversation.
Homemaker Kusum Tikhe says, “I have two sons and two daughters. My younger son, Sandeep, is employed. Sachin, the elder one, is a postgraduate in commerce and is looking for a job.”
The common complaint is that there are no private companies or industries in the vicinity. The youth in Fetri said taking up jobs in Mumbai, Pune or Nashik does not make sense as they are offered between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month.
To help with the job search, the gram panchayat has prepared a list of unemployed villagers and their educational qualifications.
In the past, women often worked part-time in fields. Now, shrinking holdings have limited that option. The village sarpanch owns a tailoring centre, which outsources work to 10 to 15 women in the village, where women self-help groups are active. The sarpanch attributes activities of the self-help groups and village development to the proactive participation of Amruta Fadnavis, the wife of the chief minister.
The contest in Hingna is between sitting BJP MLA Sameer Meghe and Vijay Ghormade of NCP. Ghormade was a former BJP MLA.
“People will vote differently. But we believe Fadnavis should continue as CM,” said Tikhe.