Caste eclipses Bundelkhand's real issues

UP Assembly polls : Region faces farmers' suicide, illegal mining

Leaders of political parties may be harping on illegal mining, farmers’ suicides, potholed roads and shortage of potable water at their election rallies in the parched and arid Bundelkhand region but at the ground level, the candidates are focusing on setting the caste equations right to ensure their victory.

 Scheduled to go to the polls on Thursday, the residents of the region, that comprises the districts of Banda, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Jalaun and Hamirpur, feel that the real issues affecting Bundelkhand always get relegated to the back burner in the polls, whether it is Lok Sabha elections or the Assembly polls.

“No one bothers about the Ken and Betwa rivers, which are the lifelines of the region. Illegal sand mining has become so rampant that it threatens the very existence of these rivers. Those involved in illegal mining have become millionaires, while the rest of Bundelkhand region has slipped deep into poverty,” said Soumitra Kumar, a resident of Banda town.

Soumitra, a postgraduate student, said that the real issues were only discussed at election rallies. “On the ground level, it is caste that matters,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a mention of illegal mining in the region and said that technology should be used to check the menace. Though the state gets around Rs 500 crore in revenue in the form of royalty from mining companies, successive governments have paid little attention to develop infrastructure in the region.

There were also reports of deaths by starvation from the region, and in some areas people were forced to eat ‘bread made of grass’.  The Akhilesh Yadav regime provided food packets to the needy families but many feel that it came too late.

There was a time when the region sheltered dreaded dacoits, who also used to issue diktats during the polls and no one had the courage to defy their orders.

“Not many dacoit gangs exist now. There are a few gangs but they are small,” said a district official in Banda. The cry for a separate state of Bundelkhand, comprising seven districts of UP and some neighbouring districts from Madhya Pradesh, has also been made for quite some time, but that is not an issue in the polls.

Punit Tiwari, a businessman based at Banda town, also echoes similar sentiment. “Ultimately, during polling, it all boils down to caste,” he said, while speaking to DH Punit blames the lack of education for such a state of affairs. “People do not realise that they only harm themselves by not voting based on the real issues,”he said.

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