'Powerless' villagers near Delhi to boycott polls

Noida: Villagers ride on a boat to travel across the Yamuna, at Dalelpur village in Noida, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Dalelpur is the only village in Noida which is part of UP but falls across the Yamuna on Haryana side. The village doesn't have proper road

With high-rise apartments, office complexes and malls, the signs of progress are all around, but Dalelpur village, a heartbeat away from the national capital, has dropped off India's development map into a nowhere land that has no modern-day facilities -- and no visits from politicians in poll time either.

Trapped in a time warp, the small village on the banks of the Yamuna falls in western Uttar Pradesh's Noida area and its angry, weary residents say they are powerless, both literally and metaphorically.

They have decided to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls to signal their protest over the apathy by governments and administrations over the decades.

Their reasons are many.

The 250 odd villagers say their village has no power, no healthcare and education facilities, no road connectivity and no documents like Aadhaar card, driver’s licence or pension card for the elderly.

The only way to access the village, which falls in Gautam Buddh Nagar constituency, is on boat. After crossing the river, visitors have to traverse a dirt track for about three kilometres to reach the village.

Of the 250 residents of Dalelpur, about 100 are voters, down from 200 in 2014, say villagers, uncertain over how many will finally figure in the electoral list.

Though the constituency goes to the polls in the first phase on April 11, nobody from the administration has reached out to them for any awareness programme and the villagers say they can't be bothered either.

To reach the polling station in Gulawali village, the centre for voters in four nearby villages, they have to cross the polluted and stench-emanating Yamuna on a boat or take a circuitous 70 km road route through Faridabad and Delhi.

“What if we drown and die in the river? Will the government look after our families and feed our children?” asked 42-year-old Satbir Tyagi.

“Why should we risk our lives for people who have never come to see us?” he said.

Dalelpur’s woes are historic, and many.

Locals say it is the only village, which is across the Yamuna but falls in Noida in Uttar Pradesh. Geographically, the area is closer to Haryana.

Mahendar Singh, 56, who owns farmland in Dalelpur but has shifted to Yakutpur across the river, says the village was part of Haryana till 1982 and before that in Punjab.

Now it is bordered on three sides from Haryana and one side by Uttar Pradesh, that too across the river.

There is only one boat that plies between the two banks of the river, Dalelpur on one side and Yakutpur on the other, and even this has been arranged by the villagers. Locals also contributed to build sewerage lines in Daleli.

Balkishan Sharma, 75, says he remembers being in the village since 1952, the year when independent India held its first general elections.

“It was a bigger village. There was an epidemic a few years later which claimed several lives after which only a few families remained here,” he recalled.

Union minister Mahesh Sharma of the BJP won from Gautam Budh Nagar in 2014 and is contesting again. The Congress' Arvind Kumar Singh and the BSP-SP joint candidate Satveer Singh are also in the fray.

“Even the candidates don’t come here. I don’t know who is who. I went to vote last time but I don’t know who was the candidate I was voting for. I knew only about the party,” said Ghanshyam Sharma.

The 72-year-old, who cultivates land taken on lease, says he will go to vote if others from the village are willing to come along and if they are provided some logistical help to reach the polling station.

“When they have not helped us so far, what will they do now? Let’s see,” he said, dejected but not giving up all hope.

His younger son Sanjay, 22, dropped out of school after Class 10 and helps his father in the farm. The elder son is in third year collage but stays with his aunt in Noida because Daleli is so inaccessible.

Asked why he gave up studying, Sanjay said, “What else should I have done? The school is in Mahawatpur (Haryana), about five to six kilometres away.”

The young man uses a smartphone but with no proper power supply in the village, it’s difficult to even run phones.

“Sometimes I use my tractor’s battery to charge the mobile phone,” he said.

Villagers admit they illegally draw power from a supply line connected to a nearby construction site of L&T. The illegal line, they say, gets cut every time the private operator gets to know about it.

Satbir Tyagi's daughter Aastha is in the same position as Sanjay.

The frustrated father says she she participated in power-lifting games at the National and Asia levels but he doesn’t see a future for her due to the situation in his village.

“There is no facility locally for me to train or practice. Earlier my father used to take me to a coaching centre in Faridabad, about 30 km from home, for training,” 18-year-old Aastha said, spreading out a dozen odd certificates.

Tyagi says they have approached a former district magistrate with a request for a bridge on the Yamuna and met local leaders but nothing has happened.

“Digital India, Make in India and Clean India campaigns ... Nothing has reached this village. There are no toilets made from government support. Even polio vaccine teams have stopped coming since 2015 because they don't know whether we fall in Uttar Pradesh or Haryana," Tyagi said.

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'Powerless' villagers near Delhi to boycott polls

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