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Thursday, August 18, 2022

After 75 years of independence, a Dalit Basti in UP is still without electricity and paved road access

Even after 75 years of independence, a village settlement had neither road nor electricity. Many people have died after being bitten by snakes and scorpions. Children study by the light of a lamp-lit by diesel. After sunset, daughters become caged at home because of the fear of untoward incidents.

Jhansi— You must have heard the spin about the development model of Uttar Pradesh [UP] from the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, and the Chief Minister and Cabinet ministers of Uttar Pradesh. You must have also many times seen pictures of UP’s development model on TV and in the newspapers. But The Mooknayaknow brings to you such images of the UP model from the district of Jhansi, where village daughters and daughters-in-law do not go out of the house after sunset. The main reason for this is that even after 75 years of independence, a village settlement is still deprived of electric power and an access road. That is, even after 75 years of independence, no electricity connection has been installed in the houses of the people living in the Dalit Basti. There is no paved road connecting the Basti to the main village.

Local people provided information that due to lack of power in the village, many deaths have also occurred following bites from poisonous animals such as snakes and scorpions. The youth in the village colony study under the light provided by A Dhibri [a tin lamp] lit with diesel [one kind of lamp used for illumination in villages]. To charge their mobiles and batteries, the people go to houses of acquaintances in Kakwara village, about a kilometer away from their Majra [village/area]. The food that is prepared by housewives in the morning is eaten by the whole family at night as well.

Learn more about the details of the matter

Kakwara village falls in Mauranipur tehsil of Jhansi district in UP. Onecolonyin this village is known as the Siddhpura Dalit Basti. This Dalitbasti comprises about 50 houses and about 300 people live here. According to local residents, this village settlement has been there since before independence. Due to the lack of electricity in the Basti, the local residents have to deal with a variety of challenges. In the evening, after the sun sets, the daughters and sisters, and daughters-in-law of the village do not step out of their house. Local villagers believe that daughters and daughters-in-law are not allowed to go outside the house after dark for fear of any untoward incident happening.

Only dirt [kutcha] roadprovidesDalit Basti access to government services

Siddhpura Dalit Basti has situated about 1km from Kakwara village, with only a dirt road connecting the colony with the main village. Kakwara village has a government community health center and a primary school. The government facilities in Kakwara as well as the village itself have a power connection, but the Dalit Basti remains without any electricity connection. Also, since the road here remains unpaved, the situation becomes even worse during the rainy season. The danger from poisonous mammals also increases.

Vivek, a resident of Siddhpura Dalit Basti in Kakwara village is an intermediate student. Vivek explains, “At night, we light a diesel Dhibri to study, and to charge the mobile phone, I go to my dad’s [paternal grandfather’s] house in Kakwara village. Dada’s house is at a distance of 1km from the Dalit Basti.”

“We feel scared to step out of the house at night. Because of the darkness, we can’t make out snakes and scorpions. In the past three months, four people have died due to snake bites,” Vivek told The Mooknayak.

The Mooknayak also spoke to Kasturi Devi (55), a resident of Siddhpura Dalit Basti. Kasturi Devi’s husband died eight years ago, and she alleges that at present even the widow pension is not being given, due to which it is difficult to run the house. Kasturi Devi has two sons with families. She tells us, “My sons are somehow managing to feed just their families by finding work as daily labourers.” She herself is spending her life living in a hut. She has not even been allocated a house through the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana. Regarding the issue of electricity, Kasturi Devi says that “Girls are not able to get married. Children are not able to study. Kerosene is no longer being offered on quota. For how long will a person be able to light a lamp with the expensive diesel? Politicians only come around at the time of elections and for the sake of our votes they call us mother and sister and even touch our feet before they go, but after that, they are nowhere to be seen.”

Due to the lack of a power connection, Kasturi Devi cooks food in the dark. [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]

Fed up with the issue of no electricity, Kasturi Devi continues, “After the elections, where is the Prime Minister, where is the Chief Minister… no idea. All the MLAs here, they all come here and touch everyone’s feet, even if a person is living surrounded by rubbish, but later on, they don’t even bother to come to just check whether a person is living or dying.”

“A 20-year-old boy has died. He had completed high school. His marriage had been fixed. But he died because of a scorpion bite. A 15-year-old girl, Kavita, has died. There was a boy of 10-15 years, he too has died. Three men died but no-one is listening. Huge snakes come out in the dark. Everyone went to the authorities. But no-one listened to us then and no one is listening to us now,” said Kasturi Devi, recalling her pain. She further elaborates, “Kerosene is not available anymore. Children cannot study. What should we do with these children, where should we abandon them, shall we throw them into the well or feed them drugs [poison]! If there is no light, then how will the children study? For 50 years there has been no power in the village.”

“There is no road between Kakwara village and Siddhpura, nor is there any culvert. Due to the lack of paving, the dirt road becomes quite bad in the monsoon. If in a house a woman is pregnant, and her health deteriorates or delivery has to be done, but due to the rain the dirt road fills up with water. It then becomes difficult to take her to the hospital,” Kasturi says.

Madhuri Devi, who also lives in Siddhpura Dalit Basti of Kakwara village, says that because there is no electricity, it is difficult to prepare and eat food at night. Children cannot study. We used to get kerosene oil, but that too is no longer available.

Kamal, who is about 60years old and a resident of Siddphura Dalit Basti in Kakwara village, says, “There issue of electricity is a huge problem for the village. We have not seen any electricity in the village since childhood.”

Another resident of the village’s Siddhpura Dalit Basti, Avadhesh Kumar Ahirwar (50), says that ever since this Basti was established, there has been no provision for electric power there to date. Kerosene oil used to be available, but that too is not available anymore. Diesel is expensive. We live our lives in the dark. Children play here and there in the dark due to lack of electricity, and four to six children have died after being bitten by snakes and scorpions. But still, no provision of power has been made.

Vivek, 16, who also lives in Siddhpura Dalit Basti of Kakwara village, is a Class XII student. He wants to become a soldier in the army. Regarding the issue of electricity, Vivek says, “Every day, one has to study with the light of a diesel lamp. To charge a [battery-operated] light, one has to travel 2km. Some let you charge it, some don’t. Sometimes I study with a battery-operated light and sometimes by lighting a diesel lamp. We buy diesel from the petrol tank there. Diesel has become expensive, and sometimes when I don’t have money in my pocket, I can’t buy the diesel. In the monsoon, because of the lack of paving, one has to wade through the mud.”

Student Vivek studying with the help of light from a torch and lamp [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]

Vivek further explains, “The authorities have visited the village many times. DM [District Magistrate] sir has come, MLAs have also come. Everyone just shoots a video and goes away with it. During elections, MLAs come to seek votes before they go they touch the feet of Dalits. After becoming ministers, they don’t come to see how the children are studying. I have two brothers and a sister, they also similarly study in the light of a lamp.”

The Parichha thermal power plant.
The Parichha thermal power plant.

Parichha, Jhansi, supplies electricity to all UP

In 1985, the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation [UPPCL] set up the Parichha thermal power plant. The power generated at this plant at Parichha supplies electricity to the whole of UP. But no power connection has been given to the houses in Siddhpura, a Dalit Basti in Kakwara village just 70km from the plant. The plant’s unit number 1 with an installed capacity of 110MW was shut down in July 2016, while unit number 2, also of 110MW capacity, was shut down in January 2020. At present, two units of 210MW and two units of 250MW are running in the plant, from where power is being generated.

The Chairman of the Kisan Congress Committee demonstrated to raise the issue

On June 3, Shiv Narayan Singh Parihar, chairman of the Kisan Congress Committee, participated in a protest at the village along with the people of Siddhpura Dalit Basti. The slogans “Modi Bijli Do” and “Yogi Sarkar Murdabad” were raised. Shiv Narayan Parihar said, “There are several villages here where there is no electricity even today. As of now, he has obtained connections for many villages by fighting with the administration. Even in the case of this Dalit Basti in Kakwara village, written memorandums have been submitted to the Chief Minister and the Energy Minister as well as the administrative authorities, but to date, no one has taken due notice.”

Power-house is about 1km away

Brij Kishor (40), a resident of the Dalit Basti in Kakwara tells us, “Two years ago, at a distance of about 1km from this village, a new powerhouse was built between the villages of Revanand Berwai. It supplies electricity to Revan, Berwai, and Kakwara villages. Before this, electricity was supplied from the Maurani Powerhouse. The Dalit Basti’s access to government services is via the dirt[kutcha] road.”

Pradhan too complained several times to MLA and administrative officials

Sarvesh Rai, the present pradhan [head] of Kakwara village, informed us that the village has had a pradhan since 1987. Until now, six pradhans have completed their tenure, but this problem has not been resolved. The village pradhan Sarvesh Rai complained about the administrative officials saying, “Three years ago, I myself had put in a complaint to the SDM [sub-division magistrate] and former BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] MLA Bihari Lal Arya, but there was no response. In 2005, poles were ordered for arranging light in the village. Even today those poles are there lying to one side.

Understand the attitude of the responsible authorities

The Mooknayak both phoned and messaged the Divisional Commissioner and the MD [managing director] of UPPCL on their CUG numbers on this issue of the village. Neither of them picked up the phone, nor did they reply to the message.

On Sunday, June 5 at 2:36 pm the District Magistrate of Jhansi was contacted on his CUG number, and the call was diverted to his residence. The call was answered by a phone operator. He said, “Sir has gone out somewhere. Let me know your problem and I will make a note of it.”After saying this he hung up the phone. Following this, at 2:44 pm, The Mooknayak messaged the District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar on his CUG number about the matter:-

“Kakwara village falls in Maurani tehsil of Jhansi. There is no electricity connection in the houses in the Majra of the Dalit Basti even after 75 years of independence. About 50 families live in the village, which has a population of 300. People are there making a living by the light of diesel Lamp. Your phone has been contacted but the call is being transferred to your residence. Please let us know what you would like to say in this matter.”

About four hours after the message was sent, at 6:22 pm, the District Magistrate’s residence contacted The Mooknayak and said that the District Magistrate wanted to talk to us. District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar said, “A Janata Darshan is held on Tehsil Diwas [tehsil day], but no person has come forward and approached us on this issue, nor has it come to my notice, I will get it looked at.”   

However, Shiv Narayan Singh Parihar, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Kisan Committee, refuted the District Magistrate’s statement on the matter, saying, “On November 27, 2020, a memorandum, letterhead with letter number -20/Mau/1-3/200 was submitted the Chief Minister, the Energy Minister, the Divisional Commissioner, the District Magistrate and many other officials.”

The Mooknayak’s queries create panic among officials

After we contacted all the officials via calls and messages, an officer posted the whole matter on the Jhansi district administration’s WhatsApp group, which created a stir among the officials. Almost all of the Jhansi district administration officials are present in this group. Regarding the matter, S.K. AgrawalSuperintendent of Police (Rural) [SP Rural] contacted The Mooknayak on June 5 at 9:03 pm and asked for full details of the matter. The SP Rural Jhansi said, “You have made a complaint to the DM sir? Maurani is under me. We will send a team today and get a survey done. Let’s see where, and how something is done. The GM of the Jhansi Electricity Department has posted a message on the WhatsApp group. So we picked it up immediately.”

Watch the video story here:

यहां हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें: आज़ादी के 75 साल बाद भी यूपी के इस दलित बस्ती में ना पहुंची बिजली, ना ही पक्की सड़क!

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

Satya Prakash Bharti
Satya Prakash Bharti
Satya Prakash Bharti, Journalist The Mooknayak

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