Sonia Gandhi’s constituency lacks basic amenities (Letter from Rae Bareli)

May 18th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by admin  

Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi
Rae Bareli, May 18 (IANS) The plight of farmers in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency leaves little doubt that the urge to sanction the Rs 600 billion farm loan waiver in the budget could easily have come from here. Gandhi, who was here Wednesday, is still grappling with issues like providing sufficient water for drinking and irrigation. The union government sanctioned Rs 100 million for cleaning of the local Purwa canal in December but the situation has not improved.

“The canal has been blocked in the middle now as the funds meant for desilting it were siphoned off by the Uttar Pradesh government,” said Raj Kumar, a farmer. Gandhi had said during her December visit that many local farmers had migrated to Punjab and other states to work as farm labour as farming was no longer lucrative here.

Fertilizers have not been provided to the farmers though the union government claims it had sanctioned the state’s share.

Farmers’ woes are not the only ones plaguing this constituency. The short journey through the district does not give any signs of a VIP constituency: bad roads, no power in shops and homes, health centres without adequate facilities, ill-equipped schools and nearly barren fields.

Indira Gandhi represented it in parliament for decades, and its present MP is chief of India’s ruling coalition. But Rae Bareli is as backward as one can get in Uttar Pradesh.

It is just 120 km away from Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh and boasts of a population of around 2.8 million.

Congress functionaries routinely blame the Uttar Pradesh government for the sorry state of affairs. Others say there is more to it.

Ashok Kumar Singh, a Congress legislator from Sareni, one of the assembly constituencies in Rae Bareli, explained why the district was still so backward.

“Soniaji is like a mother to us. She has started a lot of programmes and development policies. But the Uttar Pradesh government does not implement them,” Singh told IANS.

Singh cites the example of the central government picking the district for its share of DAP (diammonium phosphate) fertilizer distribution among farmers. “But the state government has not given the fertilizer to farmers,” he complained.

Many concur with Singh and feel that Gandhi has done her bit.

She recently opened a branch of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in the district. There is a government-owned flying institute for pilots. In addition, the constituency boasts of a sugar mill, a cement factory and a paper mill too. There is a thermal power project. But except for NIFT, the others were established ages back and offer no new avenues for employment to the young.

A railway wagon factory is to be set up in the district. “But the land required for it is still to be acquired,” said Rahul Dev, a local leader.

Rae Bareli’s economy is mainly agrarian. Animal husbandry and some small-scale industries are the other sources of employment.

On Dec 18, after 30 years, locals got water from the Purwa canal that is connected to Sharda Project. Indira Gandhi had launched the project.

But the fact remains that Rae Bareli still has plenty of problems. There are hardly any industries or other ready avenues of employment.

Bad roads are ubiquitous everywhere in this constituency. Congress sources say the Gandhis have pumped in a lot of money for road construction, but successive state governments have not done their bit.

Power availability is no better.

Gandhi herself regretted in public that power was supplied for only nine hours under the Rajiv Gandhi Electrification Project, when her constituency needed a 14-hour supply.”This is sad,” Gandhi said.

Health facilities left much to be desired. Gandhi promised her consituency services of Lifeline Express train, the mobile health service.

Not everyone here buys the Congress argument that the state government is to blame for the mess in Rae Bareli.

“You cannot blame the Uttar Pradesh government for everything that goes wrong here. Some of the Congress office-holders have also pocketed welfare funds,” said Vidyadevi, a local.

(Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi can be contacted at rakesh.m@ians.in)

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