Dalit women in Rae Bareli wait for Sonia in vain

September 27th, 2008 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiRae Bareli (Uttar Pradesh), Sep 27 (IANS) While Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday was busy discussing welfare initiatives with her party’s activists from her Rae Bareli constituency, hundreds of Dalit women kept waiting for a chance to meet her and narrate to her their woes.”We are waiting here since 7 a.m. but those accompanying our village head, a Congress leader who reached here just now, have been escorted inside,” said Phoolmati, an aged widow from Balapur village, as she stood behind the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) guesthouse.

Gandhi stayed overnight at the guesthouse and earlier Saturday met many voters from her constituency to address their problems.

A group of women raised slogans against her and the Congress after an endless wait under the scorching sun frustrated them.

“It is because of our (Dalit) vote that she is winning from here. Let us see how her party wins this time in this region,” said Gutta Devi, another voter waiting to meet Sonia.

Meanwhile, most villagers who had gathered to have a glimpse of Gandhi, did not know that the central government was the nodal agency for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s flagship initiative.

Under the NREGS, a villager is entitled for a daily wage of Rs.100 and work guarantee of 100 days a year.

“We are thankful to Behenji (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati) that we get at least Rs.60-70. The rest is being siphoned off by those close to local Congress middlemen,” said Ram Sanehi, a villager of Kuchariya, 10 km from this district headquarters.

Gandhi received many suggestions on the scheme in the meeting with her party’s district vigilance and monitoring committee.

“We demanded relaxation in the rules fixed under the NERGS for the distribution of wages. A person is supposed to dig 80 square feet land per day to earn the wage but how do you expect a person of 60 years to work on a par with a 20-year-old,” said Narendra Singh, the head of Chatoh block.

Some also demanded granting financial powers to block heads.

“At present, sanctioning money for any kind of developmental work comes under the block development officer. We should also be involved in order to bring transparency in the system,” said Hassan Rafiq, block head of Bahadurpur.

During the meeting, party workers accused the state government of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of lethargic approach to implementing the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY).

Under the scheme, the central government has sanctioned Rs.110 million (Rs.11 crore) and the state government was to give 35 percent as its share.

“However, the state government has released only Rs.65 lakh (Rs.6.5 million) till date which is a bare minimum amount. Gandhi promised to look into the matter,” a senior Congress office-bearer, who attended the meeting, told IANS requesting anonymity.

Gandhi also asked the district congress office-bearers to educate masses about the benefits of the India-US nuclear deal and the central government’s welfare schemes.

She did not interact with mediapersons and left for Lucknow on way to New Delhi.

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