‘India First’ and ‘Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas’ slogans echoed across the nation as the Narendra Modi government completed four years in office. There is, however, a growing debate whether the government which promised ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ or ‘development for all’ has actually lived up to its promise.
A glance at the present state of affairs in Gahirwa village of Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur district, around 750 km away from the national capital, helps us have a close glimpse of the commitment made during the 2014 general election and the way forward. Two Centre-sponsored schemes – the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – brought about a drastic change in the lives of the locals in the village.
According to 2011 census, the village is home to 388 households comprising of mainly labourers, small farmers and peasants. Gahirwa earlier lacked basic amenities like good roads, potable water, healthcare and schooling let alone other luxuries.
The locals lived Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Swades” moment in real life as their village got electricity and gas connection for the first time ever in 2017. “Kisi raja (head of the government) se hame ab tak kuchh nahi mila. Is sarkar ne kam se kam hum tak roshni aur cylinder to diya (We got nothing from any ruler. This government, at least, gave us electricity and LPG connection),” says an elderly villager with hope in his eyes.
“Mujhe kabhi nahi lagta tha ki apne is janam me main apne ghar me bijli jalta dekh paunga (It was beyond imagination to even think about having power connection in our homes),” adds an elated Girjesh Tiwari standing in his veranda.
Gobre, a labourer in his fifties, echoed similar sentiments stating that even his ancestors would be on cloud nine this day had they been alive.
“Hamare baba dada bijli aane ka khwaj liye is duniya se chale gaye. Hume bh iis bat ki koi aasha nahi thi. Aise lagta hai jaise koi sapna sach ho gya ho (Our ancestors passed away dreaming about the electricity. We, too, didn’t expect it could happen. It is like coming a dream true),” he states.
Despite a change in governments both at the Centre and in the state, it took 71-long years post independence to lit up this remote village.
Advancement in communication technology was yet another new challenge for the locals. Villagers in particular faced problems in running their mobile phones as they had to travel 30 km to neighbouring Chorghatia village to get their phones charged.
The Siria river surrounds this village and the locals face the monsoon wrath as there is no bridge on it which would assist them in moving out. The village is cut off from the outside world during this time of the year. The villagers hope the scenario changes this monsoon.
The villagers had been using diesel-powered pump sets to water their fields. However, some of them have now begun to use electric motor powered pumps to water their fields. This has cut their crop production cost whoppingly.
Ramzan Ali, who owns around 10 bighas of land, says the use of electric engines has helped them save money.
“Earlier, it cost around two-litre diesel to water one bigha (17,424 sq ft), we are now saving that money by using electric engines,” he adds.
Until May 1, 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, possessing an LPG connection was a distant dream for the natives of Gahirwa. Till then, only a few rich households had his luxury.
The scheme, lauded by the WHO, reached out to them and scores of households got free LPG connections. This made their lives easier.
Malti Devi, a woman in her late 40s, admits it was almost impossible for the poor like her to have the connection on our own as it costs roughly ₹6,000.
“Bhala ho Modi ka jo unhone hamara dukh samjha (Hail Mr Modi who adressed out plights)”, she says.
“My husband is a daily wage labourer, who leaves early morning for work. I take care of household works as he returns late night. Arranging fuel for cooking used to be the toughest job of my daily life given the fact that this village has very less number of trees which are owned by big farmers,” she adds.
Another local Badka Tiwari’s husband is a truck driver, who remains out for days. She has the same tale as Malti’s but the new connection has brought a smile on her face. Badka, who has studied till class 3 only, was earlier dependent on Uplas which releases smoke when it burns. She gives the credit for the Ujjwala scheme to Modi and says, “we have got a major relief now. I’ll definitely vote for Modi in the next elections.” However, she doesn’t know when the election will happen.
Although Rashida (changed name on her request) also got the LPG connection. Her tale is slightly different from that of Malti and Badka.
She says she couldn’t manage to get the cylinder re-filled ever.
Rashida is the sole breadwinner of her family as there are no whereabouts about her husband who left the house some four years ago. She operates a tiny Pan-Masala store in her house.
Venting her ire at the successive governments for not addressing their woes, she asked the Modi government to ensure that the needs of the poor are also met.
“I received stove and cylinder with the launch of this scheme, but the government must address our concerns in toto. This scheme is proving to be useless for me as I am broke.”
“If Modi ji has provided us with this pomp and show then it his duty as the head of the government to ensure that the LPG connections are refilled free of cost,” she laments.
It is aptly said better late than never. The launch of these schemes have to some extent brought ‘ache din’ for this village and the locals now look forward to good days ahead.