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Special Report On Bundelkhand Package

As part of Bundelkhand package, betel growers of Chhatarpur district in Madhya Pradesh were supposed to receive Rs. 30000 each


Cobrapost - June 30, 2018

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Betel Farming

As part of Bundelkhand package, betel growers of Chhatarpur district in Madhya Pradesh were supposed to receive Rs. 30000 each. But before the relief could materialize, each would-be beneficiary was asked by the functionaries of district administration to shell out Rs. 5000 as part contribution to government effort. They would be issued a receipt against their contribution, the poor betel growers were told. It was, however, a ruse which cunning corrupt government officials used to skim the gullible farmers who in their desperation saw a ray of hope in this proposition and forked out Rs. 5000. As happens with almost all government relief schemes, which promise moon but deliver little on ground, the betel growers never saw the promised money coming. Instead, what they received in the form of aid was some pieces of outdates tools and equipment.

Kamlesh Chaurasia, Pipat, Bijawar Tehsil, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh

Kamlesh Chaurasia, a betel grower from Pipat in Bijawar Tehsil, is one who district officials skimmed of Rs. 5000 in the name of providing him a relief of Rs. 30000 for planting betel in his fields under Bundelkhand package. While speaking to Cobrapost reporter Deepak Kumar at Pipat of his experience, the revelations Chaurasia makes are testimony to the audacity and apathy of the corrupt officialdom. Accusing one Mr. Saxena, a Gram Sevak, Kamlesh does not mince words when he says, “Wo hum logon ko Saxena ne bola tha ki tees tees hajar rupaye ka … paan ki kheti ke liye paisa diye jayenge. Paanch paanch hazar tum log chhe hazar rupaye do kisi se paanch hazar rupaya chhe hazar rupaya unhone … ke taur par liye. Hum logon se pehle kaha ki hum raseed denge, raseed toh hum logon ko kisi ko di nahi. Hum logon se paise liye saman diya net di ye dawai … machine di ek motor di paani daalne ke liye. Kuch log aise hain unko kuchh bhi nahi mila hai (Saxena told us that we will be given Rs. 30000 each to grow betel. First, you will have to give me Rs. 5000 each, he said. This way people paid him Rs. 5000 each, while some paid Rs. 6000, as … A receipt will be given to us, we were told. But we never got that receipt. Thus, they took money from us and gave us stuff like this net, pesticide … machine, one motor for watering the plants. There are some farmers who never got anything).”

And when the betel growers confronted Saxena, the petty village officer, according to Kamlesh, had this to say: “Bole jisko sunana hai sunana hai suna doh. Main paise leta hoon toh paisa adhikari ko bhi khilata hoon. Mera kuch nahi hone wala jisko jahan par sunana hai suna dijiye.’ Hum log bahut shikayat ki Collector Sahib ke yahan gaye, SDM sahib ke yahan gaye kai baar, Mukhyamantri  sahib ko fax kiya lekin kuch nahi hua. Wo ek mahine ke liye suspend hua tha fir bahal ho gaya. Wo toh kehta tha humne doh crore sattasi lakh rupaya kamaya hai. Kitna lega koi jitna lega hum de denge. Humara koi kuch kehne wala nahi (He (Saxena) challenged us to file a complaint with any official. If I take money from you, he said, I share it with other senior officials as well. Nothing will happen to me. You can go to anybody and complain. So, we filed a complaint many times, approached the District Collector and the SDM. We also informed the Chief Minister of this by sending a fax to his office. No action was taken against him. He was suspended only for a month after which his suspension was revoked. He used to claim ‘I have earned Rs. 28,700,000. How much they will ask for? I will pay them whatever they ask for.’ He went scot free as there is no one who would listen to our grievance).”

According to Kamlesh, about a dozen farmers who had to shell out Rs. 5000–6000 got nothing in return, forget the relief of Rs. 30000 promised to them. An example of open loot.

Dinesh Chaurasia, Pipat, Bijawar Tehsil, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh

There is a ring of truth about what Kamlesh claims as Dinesh Chaurasia, another victim of this state-managed fraud the Cobrapost reporter met at Pipat, relates the same story.

What Dinesh claims is self-explanatory: “Jo ye sab Bundelkhand package ke tahet … kissan ko shasan ke dwara madad di jaani thi wo tha ki hitgrahi swayam samagri kray karega aur shasan usse bank draft ya cheque ke madhyam se tees hazar rupaye ka bhugtan karega. Lekin aisa nahi hua. Vibhag dwara pratyek vyakti ke dwara paanch–chhe hazar rupaye anshdaan ke roop mein liye gaye aur kaha gaya ki aapko iski raseed di jayegi, aap ye pehle jama kijiye aur uske baad vibhag ne swayam ghatiya kisma ki quality ka saaman kray karke hitgrahi ko diya (Under this Bundelkhand package, the administration was supposed to pay Rs. 30000 to the beneficiaries either by a demand draft or by a cheque to help them buy required tools and equipment. But this did not happen. Instead, each beneficiary was asked to deposit Rs. 5000–6000 first as part contribution, telling him a receipt will be issued. After the cash was deposited, the department bought stuff of poor quality and distributed it to the beneficiaries).”

According to Deepak, the stuff was of such poor quality that it all has gone to waste, leaving the betel growers high and dry at a time when the forces of nature too have come beating them down. Bemoans Deepak: “Paan ki kheti ki stithi toh bahut kharab hai iss baar kyonki ek baat toh ati varsha huyi usase nuksaan hua. Uske baad pala pad gaya (Betel farming is really in bad shape this time around because first there was heavy rain this season and then the crop was frost-hit).”

It is no less a double whammy for poor farmers who were cheated of their hard-earned money by callous and corrupt government functionaries who found in the much-touted Bundelkhand package an opportunity to skim the scum.

Then, there was no one who would lend them ear, an understandable silence that the corrupt brotherhood of bureaucracy observes after they have shared the spoils. Observes Deepak with dejection at the rejection of all complaints that fell on deaf ears: “Abhi ek hufte pehle pandrah din pehle doh baar avedan diya hai SDM sahib ko lekin abhi uska kuch nahi aya hai kahin survey wagaireh kuch nahi hua hai (Only a week or two before, I had filed an application with the SDM. So far nothing has come of it. There has been no survey either).” 

Renovation of Irrigation Canals

Another important component that Bundelkhand package had was renovation and lining of irrigation canals to bolster irrigation facilities and thus help ameliorate the suffering of farmers. But the ground reality is far from that as Cobrapost investigations found. Instead of becoming a boon for the tillers of land, the package has rather become a bane for them. Canals which have been renovated under the package have failed to provide them the basic ingredient to farming: water. The reason: faulty engineering and poor quality of work.

Pratap Singh, Gosra Village, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Cobrapost team found the canal at Gorsa village in Jhansi district had gone dry. Here Deepak Kumar met Pratap Singh, a farmer. Singh explains why we could not see water in the canal: “Sir ismein jo nahar bani hai jan suvidha ke liye bani thi lekin asuvidha ho gayi isase. Pehle hi acha tha. Pehle toh  hum logon ko paani mil jaata tha. Ab jab se nahar bani huyi hai jab se paani ki aur samasya ho gayi, yahan tel ho gayi hai paani aage charhta hi nahi (Sir, this canal was built to help people. Instead it has become a problem. It was fine earlier as we used to get water. But ever since the canal was built we are facing water crisis as there is a high incline which does not allow water to flow further).” The reason is faulty levelling. The result is if the canal is high in incline at some places, it is low at some others, thus blocking the flow of water. The farmers are forced to use pumps to water their fields adding cost. Singh complained to the authorities of the Irrigation Department. This is what came of his complaint: “Nahi … agli baar Sir wo hum wahan gaye the Nahar Kothi pe shikayat ki … karwa denge, karwa denge toh wahan kuch paani band karwate hain fir footati hai gehrai mein fir band karwate hain fir footati hai gehrai mein fir issi mein unka roster nikal jaata hai (Last time around, I had gone to Nahar Kothi (Irrigation Department office) and had complained … they will always promise to fix the problem … so they close the water supply to the canal where it is deep … it bursts again … they again close the supply, the canal again bursts where it runs deep and so on. This way they complete their roster).”

The result of this inefficiency is water-logging at some places leading to inundation of fields, while other fields remain parched for lack of water. According to Singh, “Kheton mein paani bharne lagti hai footane lagti hai aage nahar yahan jab tel aage huyi jaise hi tel hai aage aage paani nahi charhta hai toh aage kachi nahar footne lagti hai (When the canal cracks, water floods our fields. Water does not scale the high point of the canal and being poorly built it cracks up at that point).” This inundates not only the farm fields but also the village settlement.

Jagat Narayan, Gosra Village, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Cobrapost met another villager from Gosra, Jagat Narayan, who echoes the helplessness of the Bundelkhand farmers. According to him, the canal was built hardly a year ago but it often breaks for poor quality of work and engineering, inundating the area about it. Says Narayan: “Ye kheto mein nikal jaata hai buve-buaye kheton mein bhar jaata hai hum logan ko doosra bona padta hai aur kheton ke alawa fir khet ke alawa humare mohalle mein bhar jaata hai paani aur jo fasal hoti hai wo bhi nasht ho jaata hai jaadon ke samay (This water flows over to our fields and inundates our crops. We have to sow another crop. Sometimes, water overflows to our village settlement. In winters, it rots our crops).”

These words sum up the lot of the poor farmers of Bundelkhand and the truth of the package that was designed to help them. Instead, it has left farmers like him high and dry as the reconstructed canal has failed to serve the purpose. According to Narayan, the canal was supposed to supply water up to Aamil. But it does not. It is able to supply water up to Mauvan only. After that it rises and the flow of water is blocked. For him it was much better in older times when the canal was not cemented: “Pehle jo kachi thi toh paani pahunch jaata tha bahut paani pahunchta tha. Jab se yeh pakki bani hai jab se paani aage barhta hi nahi hai pulia se Ramnagar yehin se road se kabhi udhar barhta hi nahi hai (When it was simply a non-concrete structure, it would supply us ample water till that point. Ever since it has been cemented, water does not go beyond that bridge on Ramnagar road).”

They have to use pumps to water their fields where the canal fails to take water and pump the flooding water out when the breakage in the canal leads to inundation. Like other farmers, Narayan too complained to the authorities about the faulty design of the canal and poor quality of work but to no avail.

Jaihind, Bachhai Village, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

In order to know if the Bundelkhand Package has had an ameliorative impact on the region, the Cobrapost team visited another village, Bachhai, in Jhansi district where the team met Jaihind, a farmer. Here again, the story is not different. Far from helping the farmers, the renovated canal has become an eyesore for them. “Jab se ye nahar bani jab se ya bani jab se Bachhai gaon mein paani nahi aata (Since the day this canal was constructed, Bachhai vaillage does not get any water),” bemoans Jaihind. The reason is again improper levelling: “Jo hai jaise sakri bhar gai itte gehrai ho gai utte unchain ho gai jon tel yahan hoti (Suppose, here it is deep and water overflows but there it is on high incline).” As a result, he says: “Ab toh paani ab jaa hi nahi rau hai (Now, water never flows to our fields).”  To water their fields, farmers of the area have to depend on borewells which run on diesel engines. It only adds cost to farming, as Jaihind says: “Saal bhar mein toh ho jaata hai paisa kum se kum wo zameen ke hissab se kum se kum pachas hazar rupaye ek admi ke hote hain aur jaise hulko kashtkar toh uske dus paanch hazar rupaye lagte hain (Annual expenses on this count according to acreage comes to about Rs. 50 000 per head and if the farmer is small, the cost is about Rs. 5000–10000).”  

Govind Singh Thakur, Bachhai Village, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

One such farmer who depends on borewell to water his fields is Govind Singh Thakur, for the canal constructed under Bundelkhand package has not brought a single drop of water to his fields. “Isase humein koi fayda nahi hai paani nahi aa paata (We did not benefit from it. It does not bring any water to us).” He waters his fields with water from borewell which runs on diesel engine. To run the engine, he has to shell out Rs. 2000–Rs. 4000 a bigha to buy diesel. He says: “Ek bigha mein lagbhag doh hazar rupaya chaar … dene padte hain (It costs me about Rs. 2000–Rs. 4000 per bigha).”

If there was any beneficiary of Bundelkhand package, Thakur says, it was the contractor. “Humein koi fayda nahi hua. Fayda usase thekedar ko hoga (We did not benefit from it. It is the contractor who benefited from it).” He explains how: “Material jo manak ke anusar material tha wo nahi lagaya usne material lagaya kum wo nahar jo hai chhe mahine mein toot gayi saari poori (He (the contractor) did not use material as per standards but used the material in lesser quantity. The canal broke down almost completely in six months).”

All complaints even made by the president of Kissan Panchayat fell on deaf ears. Says Thakur: “Shikayat humare yahan ke jo kisan panchayat ke Gauri Shankar hain Kendriya Adhyaksh hum logon ne unko bulake aur ye dikhwai wo Ex. Eng. ko laye yahan chief ko laye unhone isko engineer ki lekin koi fayda nahi hua usase (We complained about it to Gauri Shankar who is Central President of Kisan Panchayat and got the canal inspected. He got the Executive Engineer and Chief Engineer to visit here. But nothing came of it).”

Construction of Check Dams

Under the Bundlekhand package, the Central government had made a provision for construction of check dams to end the perennial drought in a region which once had enough water to irrigate its fields. A budget of Rs. 440 crore was sanctioned by the then UPA government. However, a reality check by the Cobrapost team threw up a sordid tale of blatant corruption and the resulting suffering of the farming community.

Dinanath Rai, Ramgarh, Teekamgarh District, Madhya Pradesh

From the shoddy construction of the check dam that was supposed to water his farms for all times to come to it being washed away at the first rains, and with it his dream of sustaining his family, Dinanath Rai has seen it all. According to him, only soil and sand were used to construct the check dam. While no cement was used, only thin iron rods were used to bind the construction material. The result was obvious. “Ye ji shayad jon saal me bano wo hi saal mein toot gaya (Perhaps, it was washed away the same year as it was constructed),” Rai says. Although it was reported in the local vernacular papers, none of the authorities cared to visit the site to get the dam repaired. No inquiry was instituted by the state government either. “Dobara koi nahi aya (Nobody came to visit again).”

Dharmendra Singh, Ramgarh, Teekamgarh District, Madhya Pradesh

Another witness to this kind of development in the name of providing relief to the residents of these parched lands is Dharmendra Singh of Ramgarh village. Dharmendra corroborates what his co-villager Rai has said. According to him, the construction material like soil and stones was sourced from the Mahi river itself and a wire mesh of 2–3 mm was used to hold the structure. As a result, he says, “Abhi May–June mein banke taiyar hua July mein pehli barsat mein toot gaya (It was built around May–June but it was washed away in the first rains).”

It lies in disrepair since then as the government officials have not bothered to make an inspection visit let alone get it repaired. “Koi nahi aya. Pehle dekhne aata tha. Jab kaam chala tab bhi koi dekhne aya na abhi koi dekhne aya (Nobody has ever visited. They would come in earlier times. But when the work on the check dam began, nobody came to inspect. Nobody is coming now),” Dharmendra says. It is no guessing why authorities turned a Nelson’s eye, and continue to do so. The story could have been different if, only if, the check dams had been built following quality standards. Rues Dharmendra: “Pareshan toh kissan hain sabko pareshani ho rahi hai agar banaya tha toh machli paalan hota. Ache sinchai ke sadhan the lekin uss yojna ka kuch matlab nahi nikla baaki sab bhrashtachar ki bhent charh gaye aur kuch nahi (Although all are facing problems, farmers are most unfortunate lot. Had it been built properly we could have gone for pisciculture and it could have provided us with a useful means of irrigation. But the scheme has become meaningless for us as everything has fallen victim to corruption).”

Lachhi Bai, Udaypura Village, Teekamgarh District,  Madhya Pradesh

Lachhi Bai curses the day when the government officials decided to build the check dam to help farmers like her. Instead, it proved disastrous for her and her family as the check dam was washed away by the rains taking along her 1.5 acre field, turning it in one sweep into a barren, uncultivable patch of land. “Ab dekho aafat … nuksan … mit gayi kul humari kheti chali gayi (Now, you see the disaster … the loss … we have lost our fields completely),” says Lachhi Bai. Although the collector visited to see the devastation the check dam had caused two years back, upon her complaint, no relief or help came her way from the administration. Informs Lachhi Bai ruefully, “Kuch ni milo humein muawaza (We did not get any kind of compensation).” How hard it is for her family is not too far to fathom. These words of hers give us enough idea of the daily struggle that life has become for them. “Hum kaise batyein je maula ko aape hai pato fir kaise paalte hain (How can tell you. It is only the God who knows how I am feeding my family).”

 

Ram Kirpal Rekwar, Udaypura Village, Teekamgarh District,  Madhya Pradesh

Another farmer to have suffered the same fate as Lachhi Bai is Ram Kirpal Rekwar. He lost his farm land to flooding when the check dam was washed away in the first rains, leaving in its wake all debris of the river bed. With it were washed away the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers from Udaypura and other adjoining villages.

Says Rekwar of the misfortune that has befallen on them: “Bilkul hua sahib do do teen acre zameen chali gayi aadmin ki sahib (We suffered Sahib. Everybody lost about two–three acres of land).” Adding to his suffering is denial of wages that the contractor who constructed the check dam owes him for doing labour work at the site. “Majdoori kari sahib paanch hazar rupaya tak ni mila humare ko (Sahib, I worked as labourer at the site but I have not been paid my wages of Rs. 5000),” rues Rekwar. The contractor openly challenges him, saying, to quote Rekwar: “Humko nahi dena hai toot gaya humko nahi dena hai tumhare … jao jahan sunana ho suna do (I will not pay. The check dam now lays destroyed. I will not pay you … go to anybody to complain).”

 

Channu Lal, Udayapura Village, Teekamgarh District,  Madhya Pradesh

Falling victim to the ill-fated check dam is Channu Lal, another villager of Udaypura. Channu Lal lost his 1.5 acre fields, with standing crop, when the rains washed away the dam that state government officials had built to irrigate the farm lands in the region. Reduced to penury, Channu Lal is working as a casual labourer for the past two years. Describing how the check dam was built using poor quality material, Channu Lal says of his travails: “Ji Sir, mein toh kachra matlab ye hi hai ye hi hai nadi ka bajri wajri lagi thi thoda aise ret wet laga tha ji Sir toh usmein thoda kankad kum tha hathde wathde pade the isliye nadi ayi toh pehli nadi mein wo mera kya naam khet tha toh uske kinare se katar liya usne toh mera poora fasal bhi do derh acre ka nuksan ho gaya Sir toh un logon Sir main Chhatarpur gaya main tehsil Bijawar mein bhi darkhast di toh mera wahan se koi sunwai ni hua toh main Sir iss saal main sochta tha ki main doon toh koi toh issliye Sir wo kya naam mera khet aur bigadta jaa raha hai aage aur bigadta jaa raha hai ji Sir toh aise toh wey log main jaata hoon toh sunwayi ni hoti (Sir, they used rubbish I mean riverbed soil and sand to build it. So when the river flooded, it cut my fields damaging about 1.5 acre of land with crop standing on it. Sir, I went to Chhatarpur and then Bijawar tehsil to file an application. But nobody heard me. My farm land is becoming more and more uncultivable but nobody listens to me).” Once can imagine how disastrous it would be if Channu Lal is unable to reclaim the land and make it cultivable. But no government agency would come forward to lend a helping hand. As a result, the farmer is surviving by doing odd jobs as a wage earner for the past two years as he cannot till his land. “Ji Sir ni kar paa raha hai ... majdoori kar rahe hain idhar udhar (No Sir, I am unable to farm my land ... I am doing labour work here and there).”

 

Mohan Lal, Udaypura Village, Teekamgarh District,  Madhya Pradesh

When the check dam began to be constructed, Mohan Lal was about to sow soybean in his fields. Conincidently, the site was close to his farm fields. So, the contractor dumped all the construction material on his fields promising him proper compensation for the loss of crop. The gullible farmer never knew that he was inviting disaster by allowing his fields to be used for dumping construction material. A witness to the shoddy construction work, Mohan Lal explains why the check dam crumbled at the first rains and with it his livelihood: “Wo iss stithi mein hai Sir ke un logon ne kya kiya ki neeche jo bharte hain Sir ... unhone na toh sariya dala hai na cement dala hai nadi ke patthar neeche mein daal diye toh neeche jad nahi thi usmein Sir wo jaise nadi aayi Sir pehle paani mein waise wo palat gaya Sir palatne ke baad khet kat gaye aur thekedar logon ne hum logon se kaam karaya Sir doosre gaon ki labour le aate the toh aur hum logon Sir khet humara pada tha unhone fasal bone ke time par rakh diya material Sir ye bhi humse bole ki hum tere khet ki fasal ka wo denge humko material rakh lene de toh shriman na unhone kuch diya hai aur na humne fasal bo paayi hai thekedaron ne humare saath aisa kiya hai Sir (Sir, what they did is they simply placed stones at the bottom of the river. No cement or iron rods were used. There was no foundation, so when the river flooded at the first rains, the check dam was washed away, cutting away our farm fields also. The contractor got us to work on the dam and also brought labourers from other villages. It was sowing time when the contractor dumped the construction material on my fields, telling me he would compensate me for the loss of crop. But Sir, he did not pay me any money and I could never sow the field. This is what the contractor did).”  

He complained to the officials at the Chhatarpur collectorate. The inquiry was limited to a visit by the local patwari or revenue official. Listen to what came of his complaints: “Koi sunvayi ni Sir. Hum mangalwar ko jansunvayi Collectorate ke paas gaye the Chhttarpur Sir wahan diya unhone darkhast kar diya bole Bijawar tehsil jao Sir tehsil ke paas diye patwari ke paas koi ni aya Sir. Ek baar patwari aya tha yehin pe ... pichli saal mein jo kar gaya wo likha parhi karke bhaag gaya Sir na aaj tak koi sunvayi hui Sir do–chaar baar gareeb aadmi kiraya laga ke gaye hain Bijawar gaye unhone bhaga diya jao koi sab ho jayega aur aaj tak koi sunvayi nahi hui Sir (Nobody heard me. I went to the Chhatarpur collectorate to file the complaint at the Jansunvayi held on Tuesday. They told me to approach Bijawar tehsil. So, Sir I filed the complaint with the Patwari there. He came last year and disappeared after doing some paper work. Nobody heard me, Sir. I am a poor fellow and I vistied Bijawar two–four times spending money on the fare to and fro. But they simply asked me to go back telling me everything will be taken care of and till date there has been no action).”

 

 

Dairy Development

A part of the Bundelkhand package was dairy development. The scheme was designed to encourage farmers grow milch animals and benefit by selling milk to the dairy for further processing. This was meant to create another source of cash income for the struggling population and help the region fight poverty. Was this lofty idea translated into reality on the ground? It is not likely, you would aver, and you are right.

Hemraj, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

A dairy plant built at the cost of Rs. 2.3 crore under the package stands out as a stark example of how public money is wasted on such schemes. This dairy at Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh has not received a single drop of milk let alone process it as it remains locked ever since it was constructed. The only soul that marks human presence about this concrete structure is Hemraj who mans its locked gates. Although the construction of this plant was complete in March last year, according to the security guard, it is yet to become functional. “Abhi bhi inka kaam chaloo nahi hua (It is yet to start functioning),” informs Hemraj. Yes, government officials sometimes come to see it.

Although the government officials claim to have set up 560 dairy co-operative societies and achieved 62.71% milk collection after fully utilization of funds allocated under the scheme to the tune of Rs. 26.74 crore, the ground reality is far from those tall claims and the dysfunctional dairy plant at Lalitpur only proves the hollowness of those claims.

Goat rearing

The Bundelkhand package was designed by the Central government keeping in mind the welfare of poorer sections of the region, to make the package an all-encompassing ameliorative programme. Under this programme, the landless and poor peasants were each supplied with 10 goats and 1 buck. The idea was to encourage goat rearing both for milk and meat and bolster the income of the rural poor. However, the report from ground zero is least encouraging as the Cobrapost team found out. The poor villagers were taken for a ride and skimmed of their hard-earned money by callous and corrupt government officials, to the tune of Rs. 9000 each for the goats most of which would die of illness within weeks reducing the beneficiaries to penury again.

Read the uncanny story that unfolds the dark and most inhuman side of the government machinery.

Gubandi, Janakpur Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh     

Meet Gubandi of Janakpur who was beguiled by the officials into depositing with them Rs. 9000 for a herd of 10 goats and 1 buck. However, the goats turned out to be of inferior breed and sick. The entire herd died within a span of 15 days.

Says Gubandi with helplessness: “Sahib nau hazar rupaye humne jama kiye aur bakri mili so mari mari si mili chhoti chhoti si aur pandrah din mein sab mar gayi aur bakra bhi chhota sa tha, so wo bhi mar gaya ... chhoti chhoti rehti aur bimar. Bimari ayi uske liye so mere bhi chaar nag the sahib wo bhi mere saath bhi mar gaye aur sahib jo kuch bima karao muawaza milega na abhi tak na mila hai na sahib koi pata hai (Sahib I deposited Rs. 9000 and I got goats which were sick and small in frame and they all died within 15 days. The buck was also small and sick. It also died. The disease they were carrying infected the four healthy goats I had, which also died along with them. They told us to get the herd insured but there is no compensation coming our way).” Gubandi lost both the herd he got after paying Rs. 9000 to the government officials and the four goats he was rearing. He tried to save his herd by reporting it to the local veterinary doctor but he did not bother to visit and check the goats. “Sarkari doctor ko bulaya sahib so aye nahi hain dekhne tak ke liye nahi aye idhar (I reported it to the government doctor but he did not come to do a check),” rues Gubandi.

Trashing the Bundelkhand package something as useless, Gubandi expresses his helplessness thus: “Koi fayda nahi hua sahib sarhe nau hazar rupaya toh sahib mahine bhar mein je bhi mar gayi mazdoori karke sab paisa bhare humne (There has been no benefit at all. I paid Rs. 9500 for them by working as a labourer and within a month they all died).” 

Prem Bai, Jiron Village, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

When Prem Bai‘s husband Ashu brought the herd of 10 goats and a buck after paying through his nose, she thought life would change for better. However, it did not happen as the herd died within a couple of days so did her husband. “Ab ye toh jaise aayi thi toh sab mar gayi thi bimar hote hi kuch se (They died of some disease as soon they arrived),” says Prem Bai of the misfouture that struck her. Although the veterinary doctor tried to treat the herd after Prem Bai reported it to him, it did not help. The herd had been insured but she has not got a new herd or monetary help of any kind from the government. The widow is now working as a wage earner to feed her family. “Ab gujar hum mehnat majoori karat se chala aa raha hai majoori ... (Now, I am working as a labourer).” The pain of loss and helplessness is writ large on her face.

Ghanshyam Ahirwar, Jiron Village, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

Another farmer who met the same fate as Gubandi‘s is Ghanshyam Ahirwar. He was reluctant to take the delivery of goats when he found them somewhat not well. However, a little persuasion by the officials did the trick and he accepted the lot. Ahirwar relates how with it his lot became miserable: “Uski stithi sahib wahan se toh bimar toh pehle se thi wahin hum le bhi nahi aate ... sahib bole ki theek hain, ghar le aye toh bimar ho gayi pandrah din ke andar andar saari bakri mar gayi Sir aur humare ghar ki thi teen–chaar nag wo bhi sab mar gayi aur nau hazar rupaye humse jama karwaye bima ke toh abhi bhi sahib nahi mili aur koi bhi doctor bhi nahi aya sahib unhein dekhne ke liye (They (goats) were already sick. I was reluctant to bring them home, but the sahib (government officer) assured me that they were all hale and hearty. Once I brought them home, they all fell ill and died within 15 days, Sir. We had three–four goats at home. They also died along with them. I had depoisted Rs. 9000 for insurance. But I have not got a single penny against it so far. Although I reported the illness to the veterinary doctor but he would never come).” Reduced to penury, Ahirwar now survives by doing labour work. Says Awirwar of what he lost and how life is now a hard grind for him: “Nukasan Sir humara abhi nua hazar rupaya jo jama karwaya tha wo bhi chali gayi Sir wo jo bima milna tha wo bhi nahi mila humko aur majdoori karke sahib humne paisa jode doosri jagah se utha ke aur majdoori karte hain Sir hum (Sir, I suffered a loss of Rs. 9000 which I deposited with the officials. I also did not get any insurance benefit to recover the loss. I had collected the sum by working as labourer and had also borrowed from others. Now, I am working as lobourer, Sir).”

Parashuram, Bachhlapur Village, Lalitpur District, Uttar Pradesh

Parashuram saw how the creatures were packed like sardines in a mini truck that brought them to the beneficiaries. “Wo ek DCM mein ayi thi truck ke upar bhari huyi thi matlab kochakoch the bimar thi durbal (They were brought in a DCM truck, fully packed to the brim. They were sick and weak),” informs Parashuram. As he had feared, they did not survive. The tragedy is that whichever home they were taken to, the disease they were suffering from infected other goats and thus killing them as well. Observes Parashuram: “Kyonki wo kamzor thi aur unki andar koi bimari th jinmein saath mein jaun ghar ki thi wo bhi saath mein mar gayi khatma ho gayi bimari lag gayi (They were weak and they were suffering from some disease. As a result, whichever homes they went to, their healthy goats took the infection and also died along with them).”

Komal, Shankargarh, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Absolutely clueless about the herd of goats the officials had brought to him was carrying a serious disease, Komal lost four goats in a short span of time. “Humari chaar bakri mar gayi (My four goats died),” says Komal. He was fortunate compared to other villagers who lost the entire lot, thanks to the government veterinary doctor who treated them. “Haan doctor sahib aate the unka ilaj karte the. Bole ye mar gayi toh ab kya karein bole doosri ayengi (Yes, Doctor sahib came to treat them. When they died I asked what should I do. He assured me I will get new goats).” But new ones were never suppied to him.

Four less goats means more hardship for his family, and then the goats are of inferior breed, yielding hardly 100 gram of milk. As a result, the venture of goat rearing has remained a non-starter for him. He approached the officer who had handed the goats to him but to no avail. Komal says: “Ab humne ye adhikariyon ko hum jaante nahi jo humein humko dene aya tha wo use bola tha … bole mil jayengi dubara mil jayengi (Since I don’t know the officials, I approached the officer who had delivered them to me … he assured me I will get new goats).”

However, Komal never got new goats.

When Komal complained about the inferior breed of the lot he was given, this is what he heard from the authorities: “Ab bole nahi sarkari ye hi ayi hai bole chhoti jo bole sarkar bole ye hi ayi hai toh hum … apne ghar se denge jaisi ayi hai humne aapko di hai (They said the government has given only this small breed … don’t expect us to give you something else on our own … we gave you what we got from the government).”

Ram Sevak, Shankargarh, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Like Komal, one of his fellow villagers Ram Sevak also got 10 goats and a buck in 2012. But seven of them died within seven days. “Abhi teen bakri hai ek bakra hai (Now, I have only three goats and one buck),” says Ram Sevak. This is all he is left with.

He is clueless why they died so soon. “Bilkul nahi doodh bhi patla thi … kuch nahi do chaar din rahi do din rahi fir khatma poori bimar ho chuki thi koi jukam koi khansi toh kuch toh kuch bimar poori khatma ho chuki thi (I don’t know … their milk was watery … they survived for a few days and then died … they were ailing … were suffering from cough and cold),” he says of their condition. The only solace for him is that the buck which also died has been replaced by a new one. With no replacements and inferior breed, Ram Sevak has not seen any income from this government scheme. When Deepak Kumar asks if he could sell goat milk on the market to earn some money, Ram Sevak says: “Ab kya jaise bakriyan chhoti si hain bakriyon se kitna doodh niklega hum dikha … ye hai samne aapke bolte kya hai (What should I tell you. The goats are of small build so how much milk they can yield. Shall I show it to you … here it is before you. Now what you say)?”

These words sum up the great fraud the Bundelkhan Relief Package has come to be known among its beneficiaries.

Banmali, Shankargarh, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

For Banmali, another Bundelkhandi who was given goats to rear, the scheme has been a total disaster. As the four goats and the lone buck died of illness within a few days, Banmali has to earn to feed both his family and the goats working at a stone quarry.

After informing the Cobrapost reporter that he had got 10 goats and a buck in 2012, Banmali says: “Ab hain chhe bakriyan (Now, I have only six goats left).” What happened to the rest? The answer is on expected lines: “Baaki chaar mar gayi dus din baad hi. Bakra mar gaya tha do–teen mahine baad hi (Four of them died within 10 days. The buck also died after two–three months).”

Being of inferior breed, the six goats do not produce milk enough to feed their calves let alone provide him some income. “Nahi doodh nahi milta bache toh pal nahi rahe inke (No, they don’t produce milk sufficient even to feed their calves),” he says helplessly. This has a bearing on his livelihood, as he says: “Majdoori karne jaate hain aur bakriyon se aur ghar se majdoori karake chala rahe hain (I have to work as a labourer to feed both my family and goats).”

Banmali, like other peasants, had also complained of the death of goats but it has gone unheard so far, although the officer concerned would promise him replacement. Almost half a dozen months had passed since he had complained about it when the Cobrapost team interviewed him. Says Banmali: “Ab ho gaya kum-se-kum chhe–saat mahine ho gaye jab se … abhi tak koi soochna hi nahi ayi na bakra abhi aya hai na bakriyan abhi ayi hain (At least six–seven months have passed since, but there is no information. Neither have I received new goats nor have I received the buck).”

Attar Singh, Shankargarh, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

When the Cobrapost team met another villager of Shankargarh, Attar Singh, it stumbled upon another shady aspect of the Bunderlkhand package. Here, the Gram Pradhan, elected representative of villagers, turns out be, as Attar Singh claims, not less a crook who extorted Rs. 3000 each from the nine beneficiaries who received goats which were supposed to be free.  Out of 10 goats, only 2 have survived, and now Attar Singh is forced to work in a stone quarry to eke out a living for his family.

Says Singh of the goats: “Wey mar gayi thi humari kum-se-kum dus din ke andar poori mar gayi thi keval do bakriyan bachi (Within 10 days of arrival, they died. Only two goats survived).” The buck also died but Singh got a replacement for it. Singh then goes on to relate how their village pradhan asked them to fork out Rs. 3000 each for the goats. When asked if they had to pay money for the goats, claims Attar Singh: “Nahi humein pradhan ne matlab bataya tha ki teen–teen hazar rupaye lag raha hai toh teen–teen hazar rupaye humne de dai sab logon ne (Our Pradhan told us we would have to bear the expenses of Rs. 3000 each. So we all gave the money to him).” In all there are nine beneficiaries from this village who were given goats under the package which means the Pradhan extorted Rs. 27000 from them. The cash was paid to him in the presence of the government veterinary doctor. “Nahi Sahib doctor sahib aate sang mein magar doctor sahib ko nahi diye humne diye pradhan ke haath mein hain (Sir, Doctor Sahib had also come, but we did not give the money to him. We handed the money to the Pradhan),” claims Singh. With little milk production from the surviving goats, the Singh family works in their fields while he works part-time at the stone quarry, to make both ends meet.

Singh was also assured by the senior veterinary doctor that he will receive new goats for the dead. Says Singh: “Haan sahib, humne doctor sahib ko bade doctor sahib the unhi se bola tha humne bole ab ayengi tumhare ab dubara aa jayengi bole mar gayi thi bole aa jayengi (Sir, I had told the senior doctor about the death of goats upon which he assured me that I would get new goats).” He even went to the government vet hospital at Jhansi to complain about it. However, he got nothing more than assurances.

Allotment of Land for Construction of Houses

With 31% of its total population living below the poverty line, Bundelkhand is one of the country’s poorest regions. Therefore, the government decided to distribute plots of land to BPL families in the region to help them build a roof over their heads under the massive relief package. The Cobrapost team decided to investigate if the scheme has really benefitted any BPL families, and in the process visited Vijaygarh village in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. The revelations some of the beneficiaries of this scheme make only shock you.

Gopi, Vijaygarh Village, Jhansi District, Uttar Pradesh

When we ask him if he has made a home on the plot that was allotted to him under the Bundelkhand package, Gopi replies: “Sahib aap chalke dekh lo humare platan ki dasa makan nahi ban paa rahe sinchai vibhag wale hain wey dhons de rahe hain (Sahib you can see yourself the condition of the plot. We are unable to make a house over it. The Irrigation Department officials always threaten us).” Here is what they advise Gopi: “Ja keh re hain keh re hain idhar ni banao kahi jau bowo sab bacha hai plot diya hai humko ek aur humari teen bakri aur zameen chhin gayi (They tell me to get lost but don’t make the house there … they allotted me a plot but I lost three goats and land).” Why he is not able to build his home on the plot? The reason is the plot is worthless as he says: “Sahib paani nahi hai humare plot mein kya karein ab gahra hai paani bhi nahi hai aur rode nahi hain aap chal ke dekh lo (Sahib, there is no water in our plot and then it is quite deep. There is no water around it and then there is no stone available).” It is indeed not possible to make a house on that plot a land which has been dug deep, with no basic amenity like water to name and no building material around.

Brajlal, Vijaygarh Village, Jhansi District, Uttar Pradesh

For a villager who has lived his life in poverty, sustenance in a region like Bundelkhand is an uphill task. So, when he was allotted a plot of land, Brajlal thought he would have a house of his own. However, it has turned to be a dream that has little possibility of becoming a reality. 

It is like a cruel joke when one asks if he has built a home for him on the plot of land that was allotted to him. Brajlal replies with a counter-question: “Arre Sir makan kya banayein. Yahan ki poori mitti khod khod ke roadon pe daal di ab ho gaya hai gahra gaddha. Makan ban nahi paa raha hai, paani bhara hai (Oh Sir, what house should I build. They have dug out the soil to fill those roads. Now, there is a deep crater full of water. We are unable to build the house).” The anguish is palpable.

The road we are talking of is being constructed under the Bundelkhand package. The contractor found it convenient to dig deep the land on the side for soil and use it for carpeting the road, leaving it with a crater-like pit on his plot.

Je sahib road matti yahan se khod ke daali aur gatti isi paharia ki daali (Sahib, they dug out the soil from here for the road and used the concrete from this hill only),” points out Brajlal.

Brajlal could not muster courage to complain to the authorities of this encroachment of and damage to his would-be home. If he had done so, it would have met the same fate as did the inspection that was done by a team sent by the central government from Delhi. Brajlal knows it, as he says: “Sab logan ne boli sahib … aur sahib uski jaanch hi nahi aayi abhi to (All beneficiaries apprised the team … but there is no result of that inspection so far).”

It is now next to impossible for a man of meager means to reclaim the plot of land to build his dream home.

Ram Singh, Vijaygarh Village, Jhansi District, Uttar Pradesh

Like Brajlal, the dream of having a roof of his own has turned out to be a nightmare for Ram Singh. “Sahib garib aadmi hain unane ye gaddha khod ke road banay de wo gahrai ke mare hum bhar nahi paa re hain hum ka karein fir (Sahib they dug the land for the road. It is so deep that we can’t get it filled up with soil again. Tell me what can I do?),” says Ram Singh with helplessness. Being illiterate does not help as he could not file a complaint with the authorities. Says Ram Singh: “Shikayat hum wo wo budhjeev hote toh shikayat karte ab budhijeeb … dehati aadmi hain (Had I been an educated man, I would have filed a complaint … but I am simply a peasant).” Though, he too had complained about it to the central team as he says: “Humne bhi toh shikayat kahi thi (Yes, I too had complained about it to the team).”

It is for lack of resources that Ram Singh is not able to build his home. “Makan mein ab paani bharo hai toh … bharai kara ni paa rahe hain utti matti kahan se le ayein idhar mitti ka koi sadhan nahi hai (The plot is filled with water … we are unable to fill it up with soil. From where should we fetch so much soil? Here is no such source of soil),” says Ram Singh ruefully.

           

Renovation and Beautification of Ponds

The Bundelkhand package had another important component:  Renovation and beautification of ponds. With recharged aquifers, the scheme could have done wonders to a region where water is perennially scarce, providing the people with sustainable sources of water in their neighbourhoods, not only for human consumption but also for irrigation. In addition, it could have encouraged fish farming. However, the scheme on ground has left a lot to be desired.

On the Uttar Pradesh side of Bundelkhand region, the officials claim to have renovated not less than 4000 ponds, spending Rs. 50 crore on their upkeep. But these renovated or rebuilt ponds cannot hold water. In Madhya Pradesh, on the other side of the region, not a single penny has been spent on the scheme as ponds have been left to die.

To check if the scheme has made any impact on the parched landscape of the region, Cobrapost team visited Lalitpur in Jhansi where a pond has been renovated by the UP government after spending lakhs of rupees.

Ram Mohan Yadav, Piprai village, Lalitpur District, Uttar Pradesh

At Piprai, we meet Ram Mohan Yadav who gives us details of how the renovation work at the pond in his village has become a sham for the common villagers. Yadav does not mince words when he says: “Ismein aisa hai sahib ki iska shasan dwara poora suandaryakaran hua tha jo ghatiya kism se hua hai aur ismein taar fencing bhi huyi thi paudharopan bhi hua tha paudhe log baag le gaye jinhone paudharopan karwaya unhone nikalwa liye baad mein aur yahan par seat weat bhi banayi gayi thi log baagon ke baithne ke liye wo bhi sab ghatiya hai wo aise hi gir gayi janwaron ke ghisne se aur kuchh nahi sara total ghatiya hai poora paisa hadap gaye log baag (Sahib, the government undertook beautification of this pond but it is of poor quality. Wire fencing around it and tree plantation were also done. After some time, the people who had conducted tree plantation took away all the plants. Some seats were also erected for people to sit. They were also of poor quality and fell when some animals scratched their bodies against them. The whole project was of poor quality. The people involved in it ate away all the money).”

He sums up the truth of Bundelkhand package thus: “Bundelkhand package hua hai aur iska sab bantwara paise ka aapas mein kar liya log-baagon ne ismein BDO, VDO sab lipt the gram pradhan se lekar (The money spent in the name of Bundelkhand package has been shared by those people among themselves. From Gram Pradhan to BDO to VDO, all are involved in this loot).”

Those who are involved have ensured silence of the people in their unique way, as Yadav claims while talking of the maintenance of the pond: “Iska wo koi menu nahi hai ki iski kab safai hogi ke kabhi hogi ya nahi hogi iss vishay mein koi na toh batata hai aur poochein toh ulta-seedha muqadma fansane ki dhamki dete hain (There is no fixed menu. Nobody tells if the pond will be cleaned some day or not and if you dare ask them they threaten to implicate you in all sorts of false court cases).”

You must be wondering despite all the shoddy work and corruption, the renovated pond must be benefitting all the villagers. Not exactly, as claims Yadav: “Koi fayda nahi hua usmein janvar bhi paani nahi pee paate hain aur sinchai ka jab samay aata hai toh inki neelami ho jaati hai gram panchayat ke dwara ye neelam kar diye jaate hain jisase dabang kism ke aadmi theka le lete hain aur kisi janvar ko bhi paani nahi peene dete aur kisi ko sinchai ke liye bhi use nahi karne dete (There has been no benefit at all. Even animals are not allowed to drink water from these ponds. At the time of irrigation, the gram panchayat auctions these ponds which invariably go to men with muscle power. They neither allow animals to drink from them nor allow anybody to use their water to irrigate their fields).”

An excellent example of much touted people–private partnership, where only the private profiteers have their fingers on the till all the time.

Today, the pond at Piprai village in Lalitpur district lies in waste, as it has become a cesspool of muck and debris.

Awadhesh Tiwari, Mandumar, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

The picture on the other side of the region is as murky as it gets. The Cobrapost visited Mandumar village in Teekamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh where the state government renovated Sunhera Tal at a cost of Rs. 248000, under the Bundelkhand package. However, there is nothing to see if this pond has ever been renovated.

Here, we meet Awadhesh Tiwari who says not a penny was spent on the lake. Tiwari is categorical when he says: “Ismein toh Sir bees paise ka bhi kaam nahi hua hai Sir bees lakh toh baat hi alag hai Sir bees paise ka bhi kaam nahi hua yahan par iss talab par koi bhi kaam nahi hua hai Sunhera talab par (Sir, there has not been any work undertaken even worth 20 paise. Rs. 20 lakh is an entirely different ball game. Work even worth 20 paise has not been done here. No work has been done on this Sunhera pond ever).”

Was there any visit by any official in this regard? No, never! Says Tiwari: “Koi bhi adhikari kabhi nahi aya na dekhne ke liye na batane ke liye ki yahan pe koi package aya hai aur bees lakh rupaye toh theek thak hai sahib ismein toh 20 rupaye bhi kharch nahi huye (No official ever visited here, neither to see or tell us that this kind of package has been sanctioned. Rs. 20 lakh is a respectable amount. Even Rs. 20 has not been spent on it).”

Nothing could be more curious. Finally, we ask him any contractor or his labour force came there to work on the pond, to ascertain if what he was saying was true.

Avers Tiwari: “Nahi, nahi kabhi bhi nahi. Aisa koi kaam bhi nahi hua (No, never. No such work was undertaken).” Nobody in his village knows of this, says Tiwari.

When there was no visit by officials or by any contractor or his workforce, then how so much money was spent, that too without pushing a shovel or a spade?

Only the officials involved in this fraud can answer this question.

Inderpal, Mandumar, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

We interviewed another villager called Inderpal who corroborates what his fellow villager Awadhesh Tiwari has told us. Says Inderpal of the renovation work that cost the state exchequer a neat Rs. 248000, which of course never happened: “Koi kaam nahi hua hai na koi adhikari aya hai yahan pe kuch kaam nahi hua (Neither any such work was done here nor did any official visit here).”

When nobody knows anything about such scheme ever undertaken in their village, where is the question of complaining about the misdeeds of those involved? It is as simple as that. “Hum logon ko kuch pata hi nahi ki koi kaam nikal aya pata lagta toh poochte kisi se (We don’t know if such work was ever done. Had we know it, we would have had asked the authorities about it).”

 

Inder Singh, Rigaura Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Another example which replicates Mandumar is that of Riguara village where the government agencies in charge of the Bundelkhand package renovated a pond there at a cost of Rs. 92 lakh. Here, we meet Inder Singh, the village pradhan who reveals the truth of this government venture.

Singh says of how the work on the pond was accomplished: “Ismein sahib kuch bhi nahi hua hai ek do teen tractor aye chaar bas thodi maati daal gaye unhi se patthar bana ke thoda sa wahin dhoondha ke jeena bana diya HM logan ko gaon walon ko ye hi pata nahi yahan kitna paisa rashi ayi, na in logan ne board lagaya, na kisi gaon wale se kahi. Chaar–paanch tractor le aye thodi bahut maati wati daal gaye maloom hi nahi hai kisi ko ye toh ab jab wo chali shikayat iske baad jayenge unse shikayat karenge (Sahib nothing has been done here. They simply brought in a couple of tractors and threw some soil. Sourced stones thereabout and erected stairs. The HM people the villagers don’t know how much money or funds had been granted for this project. They did not put up a board there. They did not share it with any villager either. They brought some four–five tractors and threw some soil here. Nobody knows about it. Since we have come to know about it, now we will go and complain).”

It is strange that even a gram pradhan is not informed of the project that is going to be undertaken in his village. Everything is done in a hush-hush manner. The motive is obvious: pilfer all the funds without moving a single stone. This is what has happened in Rigaura.

The village pradhan again puts the facts, thus: “Kisi ko nahi na toh hum humein chaar sarpanch ke liye ho gaye na toh hum logan ko aaj tak maloom hi nahi hai ki kitni rashi ayi na in logan ne kisi hum logan ko batayi na gaon walon ko batayi aur thodi bahut mati idhar hi hai itna paisa aya 92 lakh agar ismein banta toh humari janta bhi palti aur barhiya … aap dekhiye kitni jhadi jhakkad hai mati dekhiye jo ye toh purana talab hai bana hua (None of us, even the Sarpanch, ever came to know how much funds had come. These people did not tell us about it. The villagers were not informed, either. They threw some soil. That is all. Had all the money Rs. 92 lakh been used properly, it would have benefitted the people here very much … you see the shrubs all about. See the soil here. This is an old pond).”   

Laments Singh: “Koi fayda nahi hua sahib … 92 lakh sahi 1 crore rupaya hota hai crore rupaya ka humare Rigaura talab ka aisa sunder hota ke dekh bahar se aadmi dekhne ke liye aate lekin uska sab durupayog kiya sahib (We have not benefitted from it sahib … 92 lakh is almost 1 crore. This money could have transformed our Rigaura lake so much so that people would have come to see it … but that has all been misused).”

Singh also happens to be the President of the local Forest Committee. Banmali, another village, is part of his gram sabha. He tells us that the pond that was built by a local maharaja long ago has more water than the new one that has been built by the government at Banmali. This pond has gone dry and there has been no water for the past eight months. Says Singh: “Fir aath mahine toh paani hi nahi rakhno mushkil se November December mein iska paani sookh jaat. Isase kya fayda hua aap khud hi dekh lo sukhi padi hai (It is does not retain water for eight months. By November or December it dries up. What benefit we have from it. You can see it yourself, it has dried up).”

Now, they draw water from the pond that was built by the local maharaja. “Sahib kya hai ki humare gaon mein kinarwa hai Rigaura talab ka idhar ... talab hai Maharaja sahib ne banwa gaye usase hi paani (Sahib our village touches the corner of the Rigaura lake ... it was built by the Maharaja ... we draw water from there),” he says. According to him, the government officials have built four ponds in Banmali which are of little use. One large pond with good retention capacity could have served the purpose. He observes: “Ji durupayog hua je rashi bilkul durpayog bhai isase acha toh ye jitni rashi humein jo Banmali mein ye chaar talaiyan bani isase acha ek taal bana dete toh usmein paani thahrata sab je halki si sab talaiyan banai hain durupayog kiya hai (The funds have been misused. It would have been better if only one large pond was built in Banmali instead of the four. It could have retained water. Instead, shallow ponds have been built. Funds have been misused).”

 

 

Geeta, Rigaura Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Another resident who has seen to have happened nothing at the pond in her village is Geeta.

 “Kaam nahi hua thodi si maati dali aur thoda sa aise hi jeena bano aise hai (No work was done there. Only some soil was thrown and stairs were casually erected).”

For lack of renovation, water of the pond has become so much polluted that it is no longer fit for human consumption causing children to fall sick.

When she is told that Rs. 92 lakh is said to have been spent on the pond, she denies it: “Haan kuch nahi lagaya hai thodi mamooli ekadh trolly mati daal di (Nothing was spent on it. They only threw here a trolly of soil).”

Construction of Pump Houses

In order to make life bearable for Bundelis, the Central Government also envisaged piped water supply to select villages of the region. Under this scheme, Rs. 6 lakh was sanctioned for each  pump house, providing funds for drilling deep DTH tube well, submersible pump set, panel board, G.I. pipe, voltage stabilizer and PVC cable, RCC cisterns, pole extension for electricity supply, chlorinator, trial run and finally commissioning.

However, the pump houses that have been built under the package are another farce played on the people of the region as the scheme has failed to supply piped water to its intended beneficiaries. Instead, the faulty installation of equipment has made these pump houses a grave threat to the lives of the users.

Mahendra Yadav, Rigaura Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

One such pump house has been set up at Rigaura village where we meet Mahendra Yadav. We get hands-on details of how shoddily the work was done, as Yadav observes: “Pehli baat toh ye hai ki jo ye bore karwana tha bore nahi karwaya jo pehle se bore tha ussi mein usne motor hai doosri baat jahan tak line jaani thi wahan tak line nahi gayi hai aur jo starter hai toh iske liye matlab ek kamra banana chaiye alag se toh usne diwar par latka diya hai bachon ke liye khatra hai. School mein bache log parhte hain koi bhi matlab neeche itna bhi latka hua hai ki matlab koi bhi bacha matlab pakad le current lag jaye matlab jaan ke khatra hai aur doosri baat na isne matlab kahin jaise alag se nal wagaireh hain doosri baat tanki nahi lagayi hai (The first thing is that the contractor was supposed to make a fresh bore. He did not do that. He simply connected a motor to the old one. Second, the pipeline has not been taken to where it should have been. There should be a separate room for the starter. Instead, he has hanged it on the wall which is perilous to children in school adjacent to it. The starter is hanging so low on the wall that any kid can touch it and can fall to the current. This is obviously dangerous to life. Then, no water tank has been constructed).”

So, there is no water supply although Rs. 6 lakh has been spent. Says Yadav: “Koi paani nahi milta (There is no water supply).” Trashing the Bundelkhand package, Yadav says no official has visited to see the work. Where would they complain?

Shakuntala Bai, Rigaura Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Only a woman knows what it takes to fetch water to cater to the needs of her household and animals. So, when the Cobrapost Team spoke to Shakuntala Bai of Rigaura about the piped water supply, she did not hesitate to trash the scheme as sham. She, in fact, poses a counter-question, as she asks: “Paani kahan se mil raha bore mein se hum kaise nikalein paani kaise nikalein (From where I am getting water? Tell me how can I draw water from the bore).” True! When there is no tank to store the pumped water and nobody to man the pump house, how can anybody get water?

In a single breath, Shakuntala brings out the hollowness of the scheme when she says: “Tanki na lagi hai doosra bore bhi ni bhao hai na school mein peti tang rahi hai toh umein ka … agar peti tangna thi toh alag se kamra banton umein tum peti tangte uske naal ek aadmi rakhte jab wo paani chalu karto. Wo kahe mein karein chalu bolo (There is no water tank. Second, the bore is not new. They have hung the belt [starter] on the school wall … if they had to hang the belt, they should have built a separate room for it. They should have appointed somebody who could run the pump to supply the water. Tell me who will run the pump?).”

 

Her dream of getting piped supply water remains just a pipedream, as she has to fetch water from the handpump. “Paani kahan mil raha hai humein sahib handpump jaise lage tha aise hi hum dhar rahe aur le rahe paani (Where is the water supply, Sahib? We have to work that old hand0pump and draw water).”

Mahendra Singh, Jaswant Nagar Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh    

We meet the Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat Jaswant Nagar at village Kateera Kheda, another village under this panchayat. Mahendra Singh provides us details of the piped water supply scheme in these words: “Bundelkhand package se PHE dwara nal-jal yojna yahan chalu ki gayi toh usmein sade chhe lakh rupaya ki yojna thi yahan par toh jo aap dekh rahe hain yahan par ye panchayat ka pehle se bore tha naya bore nahi kiya ussi mein line daal di aur uska jo saman tha wo bhi wahan se le gaye. Doosri baat, inane jo light nikali hai toh usne khamba ek jagah nahi gada hai. Aapne dekha hoga abhi ped pe tang rakha hai jo neeche toh jan-dhan ki hani ho sakti hai aur iski bhi rashi unhone arahan kar li gayi hai aur doosra yahan par jo tanki hai usmein bhi ek mein paani nahi pahunch raha hai … ye Budel PHE ke madhyam se hua hai. Thekedar ne kaam kar diya hai lekin iska fayda logon ko nahi hua hai (The PHE started this piped water scheme under the Bundelkhand package. The cost of this scheme was Rs. 6.5 lakh. As you can see, they have installed the line on this panchayat bore. They did not install a new bore and also took away all the components of that bore. Second, they have not erected an electric pole for the light [electric supply]. Instead, as you can see, they have hung it on the tree, making it perilous for both life and property below, and they have received payment against this work. Then, water does not reach the tank here … this work was done through the Budel PHE. The contractor did his job but people are not benefitting from it).”

All his complaints have fallen on deaf ears. As he says: “Ji maine shikayat ki hai do–teen baar collector sahib se bhi ki hai aur ek baar do baar Jan Sunwai mein bhi shikayat ki hai aur abhi jo Mukhyamantri ki online shikayat hai abhi do din pehle humne Mananiya Mukhyamantri ji ko bhi online se awagat karaya hai (Sir, I have complained about it to the district collector two–three times and have done so on the Jan Sunwai (Public Hearing) forum. I have also informed the Chief Minister online on this).”

Now, when the voice of a Sarpanch is heard, then how the commoners would be heard. Trashing the scheme as waste of public money, Mahendra further says: “PHE dwara sade chhe lakh rupaya Bundelkhand Package se iss pe vyay kiya gaya hai lekin abhi tak aam aadmi ko iska fayda nahi mila hai keval showpiece ban ke rah gaya hai doosra humar ye nuksan yahan se jo handpump ban ke … mein laga hai jisase log paani bharte the iss bore chalane uss handpump ka paani bhi khatm ho jaata hai toh logon ko wahan hand pump se paani nikalne mein bhi dikkat ho gayi hai (Although PHE has spent Rs. 6.50 lakh on this from Bundelkhand Package, the common villagers have not benefitted from it. It has become only a showpiece. The other damage it has caused is that the bore sucks all the groundwater leaving the hand pump dry. Now, people find it difficult to draw water from the hand pump).”

Instead of supplying water to households of his panchayat, the scheme has made water scarce and thus made life more difficult for them.

 

Chandrabhan Lodhi, Jaswant Nagar Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Working as a village employment assistant or Rojgar Sahayak under the employ of the panchayat, Chandrabhan Lodhi shares with us some more shocking facts about how the scheme has been implemented. According to him, no water tank has been built to store pumped water and ensure water supply to the villagers. No pump house has been set up and there is no boring done. Instead, water is drawn from a well. The scheme is simply of no use. Says Lodhi: “Nahi, paani nahi uss se mil raha hai usmein jo karya huye hain ek toh unki tanki pehli baat toh jo yahan par puliyon mein pipe daalte hain unke jo pipe hai unko khara kiya gaya na ki wahan par tanki banayi gayi hai un pipe mein ek cheez koi wo hi nahi ki jo vyavasthit kiya gaya hai unmein pehli baat to paani hi nahi bhara jaata hai ek do baar shuru mien paani bhara gaya hai lekin wo itna hai ki ek ghante ya adhe ghante mein khali ho jaata hai leakage hai neeche se ya jo unka pump house hai … wo toh yahan hai nahi. Yahan par kuyen mein motor daal ke unse jo paani nikala jaata hai … pump house ki jageh par inhone khambe par jo ki aapko dikh raha hai khambe par unhone uss par apne starter jahan se start karte hain aur apne meter wahin par latka rakha hai (No, we are not getting water from it. Instead of erecting a water tank, they have erected pipes. Initially, these pipes held water for about an hour or so. But there is leakage now at the base. They have not set up pump house … they have simply put a motor in the well there … instead of setting up a pump house, they have fixed the starter on that pole, as you too can see it, and have hung the meter there).”

This callous babudom is least bothered if this carelessness invites tragedy.

Since no boring has been done, according to Lodhi, the water this arrangement provides for whatever short period of time from the well is of poor quality, again threatening the health of the users. There have been no visits by officials, either.

 

Concrete Cement Road

We are again at Mandumar village of Teekamgarh district in Madhya Pradesh. A concrete cement road was built at the cost of Rs. 5 lakh under the Bundelkhand package in 2012, to provide better connectivity to villagers. But the very first downpour washed it away, leaving behind a dirt track full of potholes and muck.  

 

Mohan, Mandumar Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Totally at loss at this kind of development which is giving more trouble than relief, Mohan tells the reason the cemented road vanished with first rains: “Kum cement daala hai (They used cement in quite a lesser quantity).” The result was, as he informs, “Do–teen baad ukhad gayi (It fell apart within two–three days).”

Nobody would listen to complaints, neither the contractor nor the authorities concerned. “Sab ko bola sahib kisi ne suna hi nahi (We told all but nobody heard),” Mohan says.

 

Nonbai, Mandumar Village, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Another witness to this farce that the Bundelkhand package has become for the people of this region is Nonbai of Mandumar village. Nonbai does not remember if the CC road that was built by the state government lasted a day to allow her a comfortable walk. There was no proper levelling and only sand and concrete were used to pave the track. She tells the condition of the road in these words: “Ab aisi kaisi hai … jharat jaat hai road bilkul hai nahi cement koi gitti bichhi aur bajri (Now, how it is in this condition … it is falling apart because no cement was used to bind it. They only used concrete and sand to carpet it).”

 

Construction of Siphon

Criss-crossing the region, the Cobrapost team reached the Pandwah Road which starts from Tehroli in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. There is a purpose behind this visit: To make a check on the siphon that was built here to ensure water supply to fields and thus help the farming community. However, we come to learn the siphon has crumbled five times. So poor is the quality of its construction and repair no sooner it is erected again, it is gone. The contractor filled the gaps about the siphon with river sand and soil from the hills, we learn, and it was gone within few days. As a matter of fact, siphons are usually made with a guarantee of 5 years but then exceptions are always there.

Ajeeb Mohammad, Todi Fatehpur, Tehroli, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

When we ask Ajeeb Mohammad how those pucca culverts have fallen to disrepair so soon, he explains: “Ye sahib paani aya tha aur ek do baar paani aya yahan pe … aage paani toh apne aap fat jaata hai. Chaar–paanch baar marammat ho chuki hai iski ismein wo damar jo gatti daali hai kaunsi gitti dali hai dekh lo aap (Sahib, we got water from it for some days … but it falls apart on its own. It has been repaired four–five times. They have used coal tar and concrete (of poor quality) … you can see it yourself).” As a result, Ajeeb again tells, “Paanch baar toot chuka hai (It has fallen apart five times).”

No amount of repair, according to Ajeeb, is able to make it work. As he says: “Nahi abhi wahan tak pahuncha nahi hai jahan tak nahar ke end hui hai na wahan tak abhi paani aya nahi hai (Water has never reached up to the point where the canal ends).”

One can imagine the consequence to the farming community which now has to depend on wells to water their farm fields. “Apna kuwan kheton mein paani jaata hai (We now water our fields drawing water from our own wells),” Ajeeb says.

 

Balkishan, Todi Fatehpur, Tehroli, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

We meet another villager of Todi Fathefur, Balkishan. Like other farmers, he too has to irrigate his fields by drawing water from a well. He tells us why the siphon falls apart time and again: “Sir ismein jo hai masala wo hisab ka nahi laga hua hai aur jangli mitti lagi huyi hai. Iss wajah se toot jaata hai aur ismein jo hai jo thekdar hai wo kaam sahi nahi karte hain aur ismein jo hai naqli masala lagate hain ismein aur hum logon ko jhoota jhansa dete hain ki aap log jo chinta na karein aapke paani milega lekin paanch baar toot chukka hai (Sir, they have used mixture not in right proportion and have used wild soil. This is why it crumbles. The contractors do not perform the job properly and use synthetic mixture. Every time they hoodwink us by telling us to not worry as we will sure get water in our fields. But it has fallen apart five times).”

It has been repaired as many times but it does not hold together. Says Balkishan: “Marammat ye hi paanch baar ho chuki iski marammat uss hisab ki hoti nahi hai aur toot jaata hai wo (It has been repaired five times but it is not repaired the way it needs to be and every time it falls apart).”

Complaints even with a minister do not work here, as his experience says. “Haan ki abhi ye wo aye the kya naam hai mantri wagaireh yahan pe gaon mei unse bhi shikyat kari thi iss mamle mein wo bole theek hai ho jayega hum log vishwas mein rahe (Yes, we had complained … when the minister had come, we had also complained to him. He said: ‘It will be taken care of.’ He kept hope),” says Balkishan little realizing that turning a deaf ear is another way of disposing of such complaints.

 

Construction of Culverts for Irrigation

In order to meet irrigation needs of the parched region, the Central Government set aside hundreds of crores of rupees for construction of pucca culverts to channelize canal water to fields. Both governments of Uttar Pradesh and Mdhya Pradesh spent all these crores. But was all the money spent well? Far from it, as nowhere could we found the report card to be encouraging. Wherever the Cobrapost team went, it found the scheme has instead become a perennial headache for the beneficiaries.    

 

Phool Chand Rekwar, Mandumar, Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

The only work that was undertaken under the package by the state Irrigation Department in this village is construction of cemented culverts to facilitate irrigation. Instead, it has become a headache for the farmers. Let’s know why from Phool Chand Rekwar from Mandumar who knows these culverts have been built in his village as part of the Bundelkhand relief package.

Says Rekwar: “Ye toh Sir maloom hai mere ko fir isase naliyon se humko fayda kum hai nuksan bahut zyada hai. Ye sarkar ne matlab vikas ke liye kiya hai ho raha hai vinash bechare garibon ka. Jaise naliyon se paani ris raha hai toh unke khet ug nahi paa rahe hain. Unhein bahut zyada nuksan hai labh bahut kum hua hai aur ismein bees bees ek ka cement laga hai jo bahut ghatiya quality ka … matlab ismein material bahut ghatiya quality ka laga hai (Sir, I know it. More than benefiting us, these culverts are hurting us. The government has done it for development but it is destroying the poor. For instance, water leaks from these culverts because of which the crops would not grow. They are suffering heavy losses due to this. These culverts have been made with a cement and sand ratio 20 to 1 … I mean the construction material of very poor quality has been used).” The seepage of water into the fields makes it impossible to cultivate them. It was far better earlier when the culverts were not pucca. Says Rekwar: “Nahi kabhi nahi huyi matlab jab se pehle hoti thi jab nali nahi bani thi naliyan risti nahi thi aur ab ye pakki ban gayi toh isase ris risna chalu ho gaya hai kheti nahi ho paati hai (Earlier, crops used be grown when culverts were made of mud. They would not leak then, and now they have made pucca, water has started seeping into the fields making it impossible to cultivate them).”

None of the officials ever visited to hear their complaint, and the gram pradhan would turn a deaf ear whenever they told him. Rekwar says of his pradhan: “Pradhan yahan ka kabhi sunta hi nahi kisi ki ab peene tak ka toh paani nahi milta hai kabhi aur iska kaun sune (The pradhan never hears us out. Now when you don’t get drinking water, then who will listen about it).”

Ram Singh Yadav, Barkhera Village, Birdha, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

Has the scheme benefitted them? No, says Ram Singh Yadav. The peasant from Barkhera is quite critical of the scheme, as he says: “Uska koi fayda nahi hua Shriman kahin nahi bani hai kahin … kahi nahi bani hai. Kuch kaam kiya hai kuch nahi kiya hai (Sir, there is no benefit from it. They have been built at some places, at some other the stretch has been left as it is).” Ram Singh explains further: “Shriman ji 1 km mein bana di 1 km mein nahi banai adha kilometer mein bana diya fir nahi banai har jageh toh chhoota hai kaam aap dekh rahe hain iss nahar ki halat (Sir, they built for 1 km and did not build in the next 1 km. They have left it unbuilt at almost every place. You can see the condition of the canal).”

This is how the work is done: “Thekedar log kehte hain ki humara portion ho gaya aur doosre ka kaam hai ab doosra karega. Doosre thekedar ka koi maloom hi nahi hai kaun hai thekedar (The contractor would say, ‘My portion is complete. The other contractor will take over from here.’ Nobody knows who this contractor is).” At the receiving end of this collective failure is the peasant who cannot water his fields, whereas the government claims to have provided him irrigation facilities to the end of his fields.

The contractor either did not complete the work or did not level the culverts properly. As a result, says Yadav, “Jo goolein banayi thi unmein … unse paani nahi pakad raha hai kissan pareshan hai (The culverts constructed thus are not able to get us any water. Farmers are a harassed lot).” Now, while they draw water with machines, these culverts are an encroachment into their fields, adding to their suffering only: “Par machine ke dwara … dwara li jaati hai pareshani hoti hai. Goolein bana di kheton mein aur matlab wo nuksan aur (We draw water with machines … then they have cut culverts into our fields. That is another loss).”

 

Thakur Singh Yadav, Paronda Village, Jakhod, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

In this village too, the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department repeated what it did elsewhere. According Thakur Singh Yadav the culverts built two years back have crumbled completely. Says Thakur Singh: “Ji goolein do saal pehle bani thi … ki saal bani thi … inki stithi ye hai ki jo goolein bani thi wey poori mit chuki. Unmein itna kumzori se banayi inmein itna batlab kum cement daala hai aur koi kuch talai walai nahi hui islilye sab mil chuki hai poori (Yes, these culverts were built two years back … these now lie totally in dust. They were built weak. Cement was used in much lesser quantity and then they were not watered properly. As a result, they all have gone to dust).”

And complaining does not help, as he says: “Adhikari se shikayat karte hain toh koi sunte nahi. Kaun sunta hai bhai? Wey log bhi unse jab banate samay unse bhi kehte hain wo bolte hain ki humein adhikari ko commission dena padta hai percent dena padta hai (When we complain to officials, nobody listens. Anyway, who listens? When we tell them while the work is in progress, they say they have to give commission or percent(age) to officials).” His fields no logner get water from these culverts. The reason is, he says, “Kahin beech mein chhooti hai kahin jahan paani jidhar gool banana thi wahan bilkul nahi bani (Culverts lie incomplete at some places … then the culverts were not built where they are needed most).”

He sums up the condition in these words: “Wo sab toot gayi. Aap dekh lijiye mauka par jaake dekh lijiye stitihi aapko tooti ya na tooti aap yahin se chalke jaiye do khet aayenge dekh lijiye bilkul tooti padi har jageh se gool kharab har jageh ki gool dekhiye kahin ki ek gool sahi nahi milegi aapko. Har jageh ki tooti milegi agar yahan se dus meter toot gayi toh do meter kahin sahi hai toh dus meter ko tooti hai, dus meter sahi toh do meter tooti hai aisi sab jageh milegi aapko kahin poori gool nahi milegi aapko har jageh yehi stithi hai (All those culverts have fallen apart. You can go and verify yourself if what I am telling is correct. After walking two fields, you will find them broken at every place. You will not find a single gool intact. If it is broken at 10 meters, it is intact the next 2 meters. It is broken again the next 10 meters. You will not find any culvert intact. Everywhere the situation is the same).”

Kehar Kumar, Vipriya Vansa, Birdha, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

This young farmer from Vipriya Vansa village finds the network of culverts that has been built under the package, like other farmers of this region, to be far from helping their cause. The poor construction quality has not only rendered them useless but also made them an eyesore. What Kehar Kumar tells us is self-explanatory of the farce the whole Bundelkahnd package has become: “Sir, ye jo thekedaron ne ye goolein banwayi hain san yani 2011 mein banwayi hain in logon ne jo ye kaam karte hain ki jo yahan doosron ko theka de dete hain khudayi wudayi jaise wey karwate nahi hain aur jo ki wo goolein banate hain ye masala bhi bahut kum lagate hain kum se kum pachees ek ka masala lagate hain aur bas bilkul serious gool nahi banate hain yani mazboot gool nahi banate hain humare yahan isliye humare logon ko hum logon ko kuch madad nahi mil rahi hai sarkar se aur jo hai ki thekedar theka de dete hain bas upar se gool charhayi aur mitti charhayi uske upar aur bas bana dete hain … mazboot gool banate hi nahi aur humein iss thekedaron se bahut pareshani hai yani humara khet bhi bigaad dete hain aur humein un logon ko kuch madad bhi nahi milti hai … (Sir, these culverts were built in 2011 but the contractors are from outside. They do not conduct proper digging and use binding mixture in much less quantity, at a ratio of 25:1. They don’t do the job serious[ly]. I mean they do not make solid culverts … so, this government scheme is of no help to us. They award the job to a contractor who simply cuts the culvert and covers it with soil. That is all he does … they do not make sturdy culverts. These contractors are a nuisance as they damage our fields, and we don’t get any help from them).”

As is obvious from what Kumar tells us, the scheme has instead of helping the farmers like him turned out to be harmful to their interest. These culverts have not helped them get water to their fields, as Kumar says: “Jo goolein banayi thi in logon ne goolein mushkil se humare hum logon ne paani usmein se bilkul bhi nahi nikal paya uski khudayi bhi nahi hui wo khudai agar hogi toh hum logon ko kheton mein paani charhega aur jab khudai nahi hui toh hum logon ko paani kahan se le jayega Sir kahan se milega paani hum logon ko (We have not got any water from those culverts built by them. They did not do any digging to cut the culverts, and had it been done it would have helped water reach our fields. When there is no digging done, how come would we get water Sir).”

Then, ther culverts have been left incomplete. Says Kumar: “Beech mein chor bhi di hai Sir aur jo goolon ke cut hai jo bilkul ek paanch paanch dus foot chor dete hain goolein aur bas aise hi dali rehne dete hain toh beech mein jo cut milta hai un logon toh gai bhains wo goolein khiska deti hain gira deti hain (Sir, they have left the culverts incomplete in between about five to ten feet at some places. They remain as it is. So, when the cattle find a cut, they move them or just turn them while crossing).” They are never repaired.

Ghooman Lal, Nayagaon, Birdha, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

The substandard culvert that a Junior Engineer of the state Irrigation Department made across his 2 acre land has become a bane for Ghooman Lal. How? Let us learn it from the farmer himself. Says Lal: “Ji humare hi kheton se start hua JE sahib ne bilkul cement nahi lagaya udhar sahib the JE sahib (The culvert started from our fields. The JE did not use cement [for its construction]).” The culverts now lie broken, levelled to the ground, as Lal further says: “Bilkul bigad chuki hai sahib … pat gayi hai toot gayi hai mat bajari lagayi ji na cement lagao local bajri lagayi (They are completely broken … levelled to the ground. He did not use cement, only local sand).”

This result has been disastrous to his fields as the land remains water-logged. “Paani bhar jaat … lag hi nahi paat (Water inundates the fields … I am unale to sow anything),” says Lal.  Unable to cultivate his fields thanks to the Irrigation Department official, a stark future stares at Lal who now has to work as a wage earner. Says Lal when asked what he does for a living with much helplessness: “Haan sahib kehti veti nahi ho paati usmein kuch nahi ho paati usmein … parivar sahib badi musibat mein hai sahib majdoori kar rahe hain kya karein hum ab (Yes sahib, now it is no longer cultivable … my family is facing hard times. Now I am working as a lobourer. What can I do [other than this])?”

From a proud farmer to a labourer, this is what the Bundelkhand package has done to this peasant’s life.  

Chander Kirti Jain, Jakhlaun Village, Birdha, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

Yet another village, yet another farmer! But the story runs the same throughout the length and breadth of the Bundelkahnd region where life is finding it difficult to beathe in air thanks to the relief package that has now become like an albatross round its neck.

Chander Kirti Jain, a farmer from Jakhlaun village, explains in detail how shoddily the construction of culverts was done: “Kya hua sahib ki Bundelkhand package ki antargat jo yahan goolein banai gayi wo atyant ghatiya tha patthar kahan Rajasthan se jabki yahan uplabdh hai patthar yahan poore kshetra mein imarati pattahr nikalta hai lekin ayaat kiya gaya commissionkhori ke chakkar mein Rajasthan se jo itna … kya karein ji kaanch ki tareh toot jaata hai wo patthar istemal hua hai aur neeche jo kaali mitti mien inko bichakar samne agal bagal mein graynite ka khanda kagna chahiye tha wo desi stone ka sandstone ka khanda lagaya gaya jiski pakad nahi hoti hai cement ki iss tareh se ghatiya bahut hi nimn star ke patthar aur cement ka istemal karke jo sand layi gayi wo usmein poori mein mitti thi local sand layi gayi bahar ki sand nahi bahar ki bhi sand dikha di gayi iss tareeke se nirman hua toh Jakhlaun pump canal se Jamunai ki or humara ek khet hai usme liye gool ka nirman huyi thi Jamunia ke liye toh usmein kya hua hai ki wo inhone pehle toh isko underground banane ka plan kiya ki hum zameen ke andar dus feet andar se gool khodkar banayenge usmein pipeline daalkar jageh-jageh unke wo bana denge structure jismein se pumping … se paani uthakar kheton mein sinchai ki jayegi lekin hua ye ki wo dus feet inhone openly bana di. Public ne shikayat ki hum logon ne shikayat ki mauke par SDM sahib aaye tamam adhikari aye ... Tamam shikayaton ke baad ye natiza nikla ki wo aye aur sab tod taad ke chale gaye jo mitti thi. Kum se kum dus bees lakh rupaye pachees lakhka kaam hua hoga aur poora ka poora damage karke aur nasht-bhrasht karke chale gaye. Ismein wo the soil conservation ke ye Inspector Shiv Murti Yadav the unke antargat hua Unit 5 ne kaam kiya tha toh humari aasha nirashas mein tabdil ho gayi kheton mein kataan ho gaya gehri naliyan ban gayin koi matalab nahi nikla aur poora structure bhrasht ho gaya (Sahib, the culverts constructed under Bundelkhand package were all of poor quality. Building-quality stone is available in this entire reason, yet stone was imported from Rajasthan to earn commission. However, that stone is brittle and breaks like a glass. They used this kind of stone and laid it on black soil. Instead of using graynite stone on sides, they used local sandstone which does not bind well to cement. They used local sand of poor quality, containing soil. They also had sand brought from outside but it was used for the sake of showing it to the officials. The culvert was constructed from Jakhlaun to Jamunia where I have a field. Initially, the plan was to build it 10 ft underground and install a pipeline there, and erect structures at places from where water will be lifted by pumping it to irrigate fields. But they built a 10-ft deep culvert openly. When the public, say we all, complained, the SDM paid a visit along with other officials ... The effect of such complaints was that they came and dismantled all what they had built, causing complete damage to our fields. Anything between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 25 lakh was thus thrown down the drain. This work was undertaken by Inspector Shiv Murti Yadav of the Soil Conservation Department, Unit 5. Our hope turned to despair. Our fields were cut open to build deep culverts. The exercise was meaningless as the whole structure was dismantled by them).”

This act on the part of those government functionaries borders on criminality. But will they be held accountable and brought to book. Unlikely!

Had the scheme been implemented, it could have enabled farmers of about four villages to water their fields. Instead, it has become a nightmare for them as Jain says: “Ye teen kilometer ka poora structure tha Jamunia, Jamunia ke paas mein nikla hua nala usase paani usmein dalna tha usase Jamunia, Saburia, Mekhma, Cheerkondar itne gaon ki kareeb teen gaon ki sinchai honi thi bas swapna ki tareh nikli aur saari yojna fail ho gayi (The structure was 3 km long. The canal close to Jamunia was supposed to feed water into it. It would have provided irrigation to village such as Jamunai, Saburia, Mekhma and Cheerkondar. This scheme came to us like a dream which failed to become a reality).”

No amount of protests by the villagers would help correct this gross wrong.

Jairam Lodhi, Mandumar, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

When the Cobrapost team asks this farmer from Mandumar village if the culverts constructed are helping them water their fields, Jairam Lodhi is categorical in criticizing the way they have been built serving little the purpose: “Ye jo naliyan jo banayi gayi hain ye Sunhera talab ki ye naliyan theek dhang se nahi banayi gayi hain … inko acha nahi banaya gaya hai ismein bees-ek ka cement laga hai aur jo paani ja raha hai poora thoda bahut kheton mein jaata hai baaki naliyon dwara maan lo ris ke aur kheton mein ja raha hai. Isase kissano ko bahut bahut labh thoda hai lekin nuksan zyada (These culverts from Sunhera talab have not been built properly … they used cement at a ratio of 20:1. Now, what we get to our fields is a trickle of water. The rest gets leaked to other fields. Thus more than benefitting farmers, it is hurting them).”

He further explains: “Haan, poora paani ris jaata hai thoda bahut pahunch pata hai khet pe iss pe nuksan zyada hai (Yes, all the water gets leaked and it reaches to target fields only in trickles. This is more damaging).”

The result of this leakage is that some fields are always high in water content rendering them uncultivable, as Jairam asks: “Buwai nahi ho paati hai toh wahan fasal kaise paida ho jayegi (How can you expect a crop when you cannot sow)?”

 

Shishupal Singh Rajput, Mandumar, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

Nobody knows it better than the man who worked and supplied labour for the construction of culverts.

It was Shishupal Singh Rajput of Mandumar village who both worked and supplied labour when culverts were being built in his village. He is witness to the quality of work. When we ask him if water is reaching their fields, Rajput says: “Nahi Sir koi pani nahi pahunch raha hai ye nali ne iss nali ne banwai hai ismein mitti bhari hai andar mitti bhari hai … bees-ek ka cement lagaya hai humne majdoor diye hain toh humari majdoori bhi nahi diya hai isne naharwalon ne majdoori bhi nahi diya hai (No Sir, water is not reaching. The cuverts have been made of sand … cement has been used in the ratio of 20:1. I supplied labourers but the canal contractor has not yet paid wges of the labour).” Rajput has to be paid Rs. 7000 by the contractor.

While the contractor did not allow them to use cement in standard ratio, accuses Rajput, stones used to line the culverts were sourced from the work site itself digging the land for the purpose. As cement has not been used to fill the gaps, it is causing water to leak to the nearby fields along the course of the culvert. This has rendered the land uncultivable. “Issi wajeh se ris raha hai wo koi kheton mein pani ja nahi raha adha nahi ja raha ye poora kheton mein ris raha hai bagal walon ke liye usko … hal ja bhi ghus nahi pate geele ke andar tractor bhi nahi jaa sakte sookhta hi nahi hai (That is why water leaks. Water is not reaching the fields. Most of it is leaking into the fields lying on its sides … they cannot plough it as it is wet. Tractor also cannot work. The soil never dries),” says Rajput.

Construction of Wells

To rid the entire region of perennial draught and, as a result, its gnawing poverty, the Central Government made watershed management programme a pivot to its Bundelkhand package. Under this programme, the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department was entrusted with the task of constructing new wells and deepening and renovation of the existing wells. The idea was to provide peasants with a sustainable source of water, both for drinking and for irrigation. The Central Government set aside a whopping budget of Rs. 590 crore, of which Rs. 290 crore was provided for in the form of Central assistance, while the rest was funded from MNREGA scheme. The construction cost of new wells was put at Rs. 283000 each, with a diameter of 4 meters and depth of 15 meters. The depth of existing wells was to be increased from 10 meters to 15 meters at a cost of Rs. 83000 each.  These renovated wells were to be recharged at a cost of Rs. 16200 each. Has the programme met its objective in ameliorating the depressing condition of the region and the unfortunate people who inhabit it?

The answer is No. Like other lofty schemes launched under Bundelkhand package, this too has been hijacked by the corrupt, callous and cunning officialdom. As a result, it has pushed the people further into penury and debt, as our interviews with its beneficiaries testify.

Ramraja, Bachhlapur Village, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

When you talk of the Bundelkhand package on which the Central Government spent Rs. 7500 crore, you hear only sordid tales of public loot wherever you go. One such tale involves Ramraja of Bachhlapur village in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh where wells were dug and constructed to help the village communities by providing them with work wages and source of water. However, villagers like Ramraja who toiled on this project have not been paid a single penny by the contractors. He alleges that Junior Engineer B.K. Pal even asked him to give him his bank passbook with promise that he would deposit the money in his account.

Says Ramraja: “Humare liye dikkat iss baat ki majdoori nahi di gayi ki hum logon ne … tha kiya kaam ne adman bees chhe wo toh … main toh doh paisa ka majdoori humari ki kahi usase humne … ki bola denge nikal main din passbook humko de do uss adman ki jo passbook … passbook lekar aur apni ghar rakh li fir humni do baar gaye managl divas mein gaye toh BDO ne thodi se aisi formalities karke humko bahar nikal diya (The problem is that we have not been paid wages so far. In all 26 people worked … so I asked him (the JE) to give us our wages for the work we had done … he told me to give him our passbooks … he has kept the passbook at his home … I met the BDO twice on Mangal Divas but the BDO did some formalities and asked us to leave).”  Although the BDO promised inquiry but it never came to happen.

He has to be paid Rs. 30000 which is not less than a fortune for a man like him. After umpteen representations and visits to Lalitpur, Ramraja became so frustrated that he attempted suicide at the district headquarters. “Bas fir jeb mein rupaya nahi tha jab kisi ne na suni so fir humein atmahatya karni pad majboori pad gayi humein atmahatya ke liye (So, with no money in my pocket when nobody heard me, I was forced to attempt suicide).” However, he was persuaded not to commit suicide by none other than the SDM who made all kinds of promises but later on forgot to keep them. He narrates the episode, thus: “Jo main Kotwali hai Kotwali ke samne so fir wahan par C.O. Sadar aa gaya aur SDM sahib aa gaye ki tum neeche utro hum tumhari samasya sunenge sahi jaanch karenge tumhara rupaya dilwayenge aur hum unki jaanch karayenge ([I attempted suicide] just before the main Kotwali. The C.O. Sadar and SDM rushed there to ask me to get down, while promising that all my grievances will be heard, they will help me get all my dues and they will institute a proper inquiry into it).” The maximum the SDM did was he held an open house meeting to inquire why he was denied wages and made some notes to placate Ramraja.

That is all.  

Lachchi Ram, Kumhariya Village, Tehroli Khas, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

When work on his well began, Lachchi Ram thought he would be able to irrigate his fields and grow as many crops as it would allow. The promised well was dug about 12 feet deep and four trollies of building material were also brought in. However, two years down the line his dream remains just a dream, as Junior Engineer Rajeev Choudhary stopped the work midway and took away all the material without any rhyme and reason.

Barah foot kareeban khud roh tho (It was dug about 12 feet deep),” says Lachchi Ram. “Ab toh rahgo mushqil se chaar hi foot (Now, it has reduced to only 4 feet deep).” In the intervening period, the soil has gone back into the well after two seasons of rains. Ram informs us that four trollies of construction material had been brought for his well. Where is all that lying? Replies Ram: “Wo sab utha le gaye Junior Engineer (The Junior Engineer took it all away).” He tried to stop him but the government official threatened the poor peasant of getting him arrested by the police. “Ab Sir kya kah deve kyon unse kahi ki hum nahi uthane denge kaha hum band kara denge thane mein bola kahan lage pakad ke le jayenge (Sir, what should I tell you why he did so. When I told him I will not allow him, he threatened to get me arrested by the police),” says Ram. While threatening him, Choudhary also assured him that he will come back with the material to complete the well, as says Ram: “Material doosri jageh jaane de jab tumho ko jab de karte ([He said] Allow me to take it away to some other place … will bring it back).”  

After that, all his pleas fell on deaf ears. He does not know that all the money for his well has long been released by the department and paid in his name. When we share this information with him, he expresses his helplessness thus: “Sahib hum kya jaanein hum bina parthe aadmi unane kar lo o ke liye hum kya kar lein (Sahib, I don’t know about it. I am not an educated man. If they have made the payment, what can I do about it).”

When we ask him if he has no knowledge of money having being paid to him, Ram says: “Koi paisa nahi mila humko humne apna khud khodo humare sab modi modan ne koi paisa nahi mila humein (I did not get any money. We ourselves dug the well, including my daughter and son. I did not get any money).”

Ram went as far as Gosra and Jhansi to complain about his half-done well, but nobody listened to him. It is not only Ram but also other villagers who the Junior Engineer threatened of dire consequences. “Gosra gaye Jhansi ek yahan Lachchi hainge humare saath mein Rajput ji je bhi humare sang mein fir inko bhi nahi ho payo inko bhi aise hi daro (I went to Gosra and Jhansi. I was accompanied by one Lachchi and Rajput from my village. Their wells were not completed. They got the same threat).”

There is no guessing who got paid in the name of Lachchi Ram and other villagers.

Ashwani Kumar Sharma, Tehroli Khas, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

The peasant from Tehroli Khas got a well allotted in his wife Nirmala’s name. But the font of hope met the same fate as Ram’s. Says Sharma: “Ye January 13 mein iski khudayi hui pandrah foot khodke fir chale gaye fir nahi aye jab se kai baar unhein soochna di gayi fir nahi aye (It was dug in January 2013. After digging 15 feet, they left and since then have not returned, although I have approached them many times).”

When Sharma approached the Devas tehsil to complain, he got the shock of his life when officials there told him they had not sanctioned any well in his wife’s name. “Tehsil Devas mein o collector ka bole usse unke karyalay mein toh unane bataya ki iss naam se koi kuwan hi nahi hai Niramla Devi ke naam se poochi thi humne (At the Devas tehsil, when I asked the collector’s office about the well, they told me they have no such well sanctioned in the name of Nirmala Devi).”

Then why they dug it at the first place, wondered Sharma. This is what the officials told him as Sharma narrates: “Wey je bataye jaane kaise humne toh poochi thi unse hume sahib 15 foot kaise khod gaye fir pata nahi jaane kaise khod gaye (I asked them ‘How come they dug it 15 feet.’ Don’t know, they said, why they dug it).”

Not only that, they had also brought in a trolly of khanda, and the material to be used in the construction of his well is still lying there. When he approached the Junior Engineer, in charge of the work, the official feigned no knowledge. Telling us that he spoke to the JE, Sharma says: “Haan, Junior Engineer se baat ki wo bola bhai humein nahi pata humko nahi pata kiske naam se kahan humein nahi koi maloom nahi (Yes, I spoke to the Junior Engineer. He said he did not know in whose name it is being done, where it is going).”

When he asked the contractor, he had another reason of stopping the work midway. “Usne kaha ki bhai thekedar badal diye junior engineer ne ab hum nahi khod rahe (He told me that the Junior Engineer has changed the contractor and he would not dig the well any more),” says Sharma. It is obvious that all his complaints fell on deaf ears.

Nand Lal, Kumhariya, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

If one needs evidence how Bundelkhand package has demolished some lives in the region it was supposed to better here it comes. Meet Nand Lal of Kumhariya village in Lalitpur district, Jhansi. Dreaming of better days ahead, Nand Lal put at stake everything he had. He worked as a labourer in the well that was going to be his proud possession. When it was left incomplete by the contractor, he not only pawned few jewllery his wife had to borrow money from usurers but also borrowed money from a government bank, to complete the well on his own. However, the money proved short. Debt ridden, Nandi Lal is yet to draw a single drop of water from his dream well on which the contractor used blasting stone and other substandard material while keeping its width and depth not as per standards.

It was two years back, informs Nand Lal, when the work on his well started. Dug 24 ft deep, the well was left incomplete by the contractor. He took it upon himself to complete it. “Majdoori ka paisa humne nikal nikal ke unane lagaya majdooron ko unko chukaya hai apne karja ne nikala hai aur jo jevar gehna rakha hai maine … tab usase nahi chuke toh maine krishi card ke banwaya fir toh usase chukaya tab bhi abhi jevar jon tha wo abhi rakha hai mera (I paid the labourers who were hired by the contractor by borrowing money and pawning jewellery. I still ran short of money, so I got a Krishi card issued and got a loan against that to pay them. But the jewellery still remains pawned).”

So far, Nand Lal has paid Rs. 60000. You must say he must have gone nuts. Actually, it was the Junior Engineer who asked him to spend money on digging which would be reimbursed to him. Says Nand Lal: “Humne majdooron se khoda hai unane keh diya tum khudwao hum paisa aapko denge hum so unane humein paisa bhi nahi latka diya hai (I got labourers to dig it. He had told me that I would be paid for it. But he has not paid me any money so far).”

When he demanded money from the JE, he was told that the money has already been released. Says Lal: “Humne unse manga jo keh rah the ki nikalwa denge lekin nikla nahi hai humare naam se keh rahe the nikal chuke hain tumhare khudayi ke paise (When I asked him to get me the money, he promised he would get it released. But now he says the money has been released against my digging work).”

After digging had been done, Nand Lal requested the JE to get the well fixed. The official gave the contract to one Ajay from Tehroli. Says Nand Lal: “Haan payment ki humne JE sahib se baat kari thi keh rahe the ki abhi nahi ho payegi, payment khud kara le jo karana hai. Maine bandhwani ki kahi thi toh unane jo bole hum bandhwa rahe hain so unane ek Ajay naam ka ladka hai humare yahan Tehroli ka so usko theka diya (Yes, I spoke to JE sahib about the payment upon which he said it is not going to be made, and if you want it you can get it done yourself. Then, I requested him to fix the well. He said he will get it fixed. He gave the contract to one Ajay from our village Tehroli).” But Ajay did a shoddy job, using only sand. Lal objected to it and threatened to report it to the police. Ajay left the job midway after dismantling everything done on the well, so that no proof is left.

Lal came to know quite later that all the money he had invested in his well while paying the labour wages that the JE had contracted, when the official finally told him that his money has already been released. But to whom he never came to know. This is what the JE told him: “Humne shikayat nahi ki hai JE se kahi thi toh we keh rahe the ki tumhara toh kuwan nikal gaya hai paise nikal gaye hain ab tum khud banwa le apne haath se (I did not complain but asked the JE about it. He told me that your well has been passed and money has also been paid. Now, you can get it made yourself).”

Humein sahib pata nahi aya ki nahi aya humare naam se nikla bhi nahi hai aur jo nikla ho toh unane nikal liya hoga JE sahib hain aur wo … (I don’t know sahib whether the money came or not. It has not been released to me. Maybe if it has been released, then the JE sahib and those must have got it),” says Lal with helplessness.

Any complaint of this open loot would cut no ice with the official. Nand Lal shares his experience with us: “Aa haan bola tha so humne so Jhansi se unke liye kisi ne phone kiya hai te jo ya keh rahe the ki phone kara le aram se pehle tu gundagiri kara le ya netagiri kar raha hai tu (Yes, I told about it to somebody who called him on phone from Jhansi. Upon this he rebuked me saying to get him more phone calls, indulge in goondaism and act like a politician).”

Lachchi Ram, Kumhariya Village, Tehroli Khas, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Like the namesake of his village, this peasant too has suffered the same fate as Nand Lal for dreaming of having his own well. Like Lal, he is now debt ridden after spending almost a fourtune on the dug well that was left incomplete by the contractor. He alleges that JE Rajeev Choudhary demanded Rs. 20000 in bribe to get his well completed.

Ye teen saal pehle khuda tha babu ji aur teen saal ke baad fir khud gaya hum ismein bole JE sahib bole abhi nahi khudega bole bees hazar deo bola humne ki kahan hai babuji paisa nahi hai gareeb aadmi hai (This well was dug three years back, and was dug again. JE Sahib told me it would not be made and then asked me to pay him Rs. 20000. I told him I don’t have money. I am a poorman)?”

When he was unable to pay bribe, the offical coaxed him into taking it upon himself on the promise that he will get him paid the expenses he incurs. Lachchi Ram thus began the work on his well. Says Lachchi Ram: “Wo bees hazar rupaya maangat the te saun nahi khudo fir humne application deyi fir so fir sunwayi bhai fir khud gawa saun fir bole banwao humne kahi bandhwao saun bole abhi nahi bandhe fir unane … thodi dalwa de fir bole bandhwao tum apne hisab se hum paisa de denge fir humne kahi haan babu tumhi bandhwao bole nahi tum bandwao paisa de denge humne kahi theek hai sahib soun humne bandhwai chalu kara di (He was demanding Rs. 20000. So, it was not dug. Then, I gave an application and it was heard. So, it was dug. Now, he asked me to complete it. I asked him to fix the well to make it complete.  He said no … then he brought in some material here and asked me to fix it on my own and said he would compensate me. I again asked him to fix the well. In turn, he again asked me to do it and promised to pay me money for the expenses. So, I finally agreed and started getting it done).” He even had to spend a lot of money on blasting when they hit the rock while digging the well and used the same stone as he was provided none to make the well complete.

Lachchi Ram never knew that it was going to prove a costly affair for him, draining him of all his resources. As he recounts his travails: “Apni gaanth se satattar hazar rupaya lagaya aur do lakh ke card bane dui Bhanjan ke zameen ko paisa jitney ka aao suan jo kissan wo fasal ko wo bhi poora laga dau apne jevar gehno dhar dau hum bilkul hudd pe aa gaye (I spent Rs. 77000 of my own and Bhanjan had two kissan cards with a credit limit of Rs. 2 lakh against crop. I used them and also pawned all the jewellery I had. It has pushed me to the brink).”

Did he get any monetary compensation from the government as promised by the JE? Says Lachchi Ram: “Nahi sarkar ne paisa nahi diya (No, the government did not pay any money).” He further says: “Wo paisa nahi mila 43 hazar tau humar fasbe gau (I never got money. I am running a debt of Rs. 43000).”

Every time he spoke to the JE about the money he had promised, he only got promises, as he says: “Hau mil jayega mil jayega ab cheque nikal raha hai ab wo ho raha hai ab ye ho raha hai wey ho rahi lekin humko paisa nahi mila ([He will say] ‘You will get it. You will get it. The cheque is going to be released. Now, this is happening, that is happening.’ All that crap but I have not get a single penny).” He further explains how he raised money to complete his dream well:  “Kissan card banwaya aur jo apna jo jevar tha wo bhi aur itte utte ke jo rishtedar se bhi paisa le ke laga dau (I got a Kissan card issue and pawned jewellery and then borrowed from all relatives to invest in it).”

After spending so much, his dream well remains incomplete, however. Owing to a lack of boundary on the well, its top was washed down in the last rains. “Barsat ke paani aye se do–dhai meter pur gaya (the rain water washed down about 2.5 meter of the well).”

Now, it has to be rebuilt almost, but Lachchi Ram has been left penniless. He wonders:  “Poora paisa hi nahi mile humi ne paisa poora laga dau humare paas paisa hi nahi nahi hai hum kahan se pooro karo (I did not get any money for it. I have spent all my money on it. Now, I have no money. How can I complete it)?”  

Bhagwat Rajput, Kumhariya, Tehroli Khas, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

When a well was sanctioned in his father’s name, Bhagwat Rajput thought of better days ahead. However, more than three years have gone by since, yet his well is far from complete. Why? Let us know from Bhagwat Rajput himself. The well was dug three years back, he says, and the cost was borne by his father:  “Ye khuda hoga lagbhag mujhko ye maloom nahi ye maloom hai tees hazar rupaye lage the mere papa ne diye the (I don’t know how deep it is dug. But I know that it cost us Rs. 30000 and my father paid it).”

Telling us the government did not provide any monetary support for the well, Rajput says: “Nahi sarkar se paisa nahi mila iske baad mein tees hazar rupaye gaanth se diye papa ne fir isme baad mein pandrah hazar rupaye nikla hai sarkar dwara … pandrah solar hazar rupaya mera khud ka laga hai (No, the government gave no money for it. My father paid Rs. 30000 for it. After that, the government released Rs. 15000 … I too have spent 15000–16000 rupees on it).”

Even after spending Rs. 60000, the well is still lying incomplete. Rajput tells us why: “Isliye nahi bana kyonki ismein saman hi nahi dala hai na khand hai na baloo hai na cement hai kuch aya hi nahi isliye band ho gaya (It could not be completed because they did not provide any construction material, like concrete, cement and sand. That is why the work on it had to be stopped).”

Wheneve he approached the authorities, they asked him to wait for six months or so, as Rajput recounts his encounters with them: “Adhikariyon se kaha toh wo bolte hain ho jayega thoda ruk ho jayega ho jayega chhe mahine paanch mahine yehi kehte rehte hain bas (When I speak to officials, they ask me to wait for 5–6 months and it will be done. They keep on promising me this everytime).”

The wait seems never ending.

Abdul Kalam Khan, Tehroli Kila, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

This farmer from Tehroli Kila was sanctioned a well in 2013. Although the well was supposed to be built free of cost by the government under the Bundelkhand package, it was Abdul Kalam Khan who footed the bill. Khan tells us thus: “Khudai bhi ho gayi uski aur banai bhi ho gayi wahi bees foot ke kareeb ban chuka hai poora … aur usmein kuwein ki banwai mein maine khud ka apna paisa lagaya hai karz leke iske baad mein maine kuwein sanction mein bhi JE ko paisa diya (The well has been dug and has been constructed about 20 feet … I spent my own money on it after borrowing it. Besides, I paid a bribe to the JE for its sanction).”

Apart from footing the bill for the construction of the well, Khan alleges to have paid a bribe of Rs. 15000 to Junior Engineer Rajeev Choudhary to sanction the well: “JE ko humne pandrah hazar rupaye diye (I paid the JE rs. 15000).”

This is apart from Rs. 55000 he had to spend on blasting, buying construction material and paying wages to labourers. He was given some material, after which JE Rajeev Choudhary goaded him to undertake the construction of the well while promising he would pay him the money when funds were released.

But when he did not get the money and he confronted Choudhary, Khan was threatened of dire consequences: “Poora raw material nahi diya wahi material kuch dalwa diya … iske baad bole ki bhai mere paas paisa nahi hai na mere … ab ye yadi aap ko banwana ho toh apna khud ka paisa lagwao iske baad jab kuwan ban jayega toh mera payment ho jayega toh main de doonga nahi toh main nahi de paonga aur jab maine paisa manga toh paisa ke usase bola toh gaali galoj aur dhamki de ke baat ki ainda agar dubara paisa manoge toh achi tareh se tumhe samjha diya jayega (He did not give me complete raw material. He dropped some material and then told me that he had no money left … now if you want to construct it, you will have to spend your own money. After the well is complete and I will get the payment for it, I will pay you. Otherwise, I won’t be able to pay you. But when I asked him for the money, he began to abuse me and threatemed of dire consequences if I again dared ask for money).”

After spending so much of his hard earned money, the well is not complete and is of no use for which he has to lose two and half bigha of agricultural land, his only possession. The only water it has is that of rain. All complaints he made with authorities could not swing them into any act. His cup is full of woes, as he somberly says: “Abhi toh kuwein ki ye stithi hai ki usmein engine bhi rakha tha engine bhi doob gaya tha toh wo bhi nuksan ho gaya … doosre ka engine tha aur abhi kuwan adhoora pada hai wo ban nahi paya hai abhi aur poora kuwan bhara pada hai kai baar hum keh bhi chuke hain aur mere paas wahi zameen hai uske ek aadhe usmein kum se kum do dhai bigha zameen chali gayi hai usmein wo buai ki kagar pe bhi nahi hai wahi ek matra jariya hai (The condition of the well is … I had kept an engine there in and that has been submerged in water. That is another loss. I had borrowed it. The well is still incomplete and is full of water. I have told the officials about this many times. I have this much of land only. About two and half bigha has been taken by it and I cannot sow crop in it which is the only means of livelihood for me).”

 

Gopi, Vijaygarh Village, Bangara Block, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

This village was sanctioned a few wells under the Bundelkhand package. However, within a short span of time, these wells sank raising a stink when a team from the Centre led by Deputy Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahuliwalia visite. The wells were constructed afresh. Still these are of little use as they have developed cracks and are filled with rain water. Here, we meet an old villager Gopi who told us how the wells were made to look functional by pouring water from tankers at the time of visit by the central team. According to Gopi, the wells are now used to bathe and wash clothes. “Nahi sahib nahate hain (No, Sahib. We bathe at the well),” says Gopi.

Iski kum se kum gehrai bhaiya dus ek haath hogi (It is hardly 10 ft deep).” This gives us an idea why the well has no water of its own. A well so shallow cannot make water to spring unless the acquifers are recharged for that to happen.

When we ask him when cracks began to develop in this newly built well, Gopi makes a shocking revelation: “Ye sahib parki saal dilli se aye the aadmi toh likha parhi kara rahe the matti satti dekh rahe the fir wo jo ek thekedar pakda toh usne poora paani tank se usmein darwao hai toh … (Sahib, a team from Delhi came last year. They were doing audits of the works carried out by sampling soil. The official caught hold of a contractor who brought in a tank[er] of water and poured it in this well).” This is how the officials in charge of the Bundelkhand package chose to cover up their misdeeds. Gopi has also been witness to the shoddy road work that was undertaken under the package but he won’t tell much about it. When the team from Delhi had visited, they were apprised of the shoddy work done by the officials. Nothing came of it, however.

Rakkhan Lal, Jamunia, Birdha, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

The former gram pradhan of Jamunia is unsparing in his criticism of the work done under Bundelkhand Package be it the construction of culverts or wells for irrigation. Even agitation by the villagres failed to spur the officialdom to rescue the package. Of the about 3 km long culvert that was built to take water to the fields, says Rakkhan Lal: “Uska humko koi fayada ni mila kyonki usko jo banaya toh yahan tak toh paani dharatak bhi theek tha … hum logon ne roka bhi tha pehle ke ye paani yahan charhai mein hai yahan jayegi ni fir wo bole ke nahi hum le jayenge. Toh yahan unhone uncha karke banaya jab paani safalta ki or nahi dikha aur saman bhi bahut ghatiya lag raha toh hum logon ne ek andolan kiya uss andolan ke tahet yahan SDM sahib aye aur adhikari aye. Unhone unka nirmarn rok diya jab tak nahar jo hai gaon tak yahan unchai se bana di unhone wo gool aur yahan bana di aur jab ghatiya nirman paya gaya toh usko aur Bundelkhand package ke adhikari aye unhone ghatiya sidh kar diya toh banaye wale ko hi … unhone ye saman nikal liya aur jab se ye aisi hi padi hai aur hum log aage bhi likhte rahte hain andolan karte rehte hain aur ye paani ke bagair jo hai sinchai bhi … (We have not benefitted from it because it was built it the wrong way …. We tried to stop them telling them that here it is high incline and water will not reach here. They said they will be able to take water and then they raised the height. But when water did not succeed to reach there and we found they were using substandard material, we launched an agitation as a result of which the SDM and other officials who had visited stopped the work. But the culvert had been already built up to the village at this height. When the quality of construction was found poor and the Bundelkhand package officials found it to be substandard, they were asked to stop the work … after which they removed whatever they had built and since then it is lying as it is. We have been writing to the authorities and launching agitations against it time and again. Irrigation [has become difficult] here without water).”

A fallout of the inquiry was, in the words of Rakkhan Lal, that “Dhah diya kahin kahin bana bhi hai yahan aaj aapne dekh hi liya hai khatma hai (The brought down the structure at places. You must have seen it today. It is gone).” After the construction stopped, the villagers approached the SDM time and again but without any outcome, as Rakkhan says: “Haan, SDM sahjib se kai shikayatein di lekin koi nishkarsh nahi hi nahi nikla. Ek baar ek team zaroor gaon mein ayi bitha liya ke hum dobara se karwa rahe hain prastav kar le gayi aaj tak kuch nahi hua (Yes, all complaints to the SDM bore no fruit. Only a team visited our village and held a meeting in which they put a proposal that it will be rebuilt. Nothing has materialized after that, however, till today).”

Hum logon ke saath badi problem hai paani ke kuch logon ke paas engine hain to wo engine wahan se uthate hain gool se aur teen kilometer lagta hai yahan se do kilometer lagta hai pipe toh bahut paani mehnga padta hai kuch logon ke wo paas hai tubewell iss hisab se kaam chala rahe hain kuch logon ke paas paani ka koi srot hi nahi hai (We are facing a big problem. Some people have engines to draw water by lifting it from the culvert with its help. You need a pipe about 3 km long. It is 2 km long from here. So, water comes at a premium here. Some people have tubewells. People are managing this way. Still there are some who don’t have any source of water at all).”

Trashing the entire package as sham, Rakkhan says: “Koi fayda nahi ho raha humare kshetra mein bais kuwein bhi bane iss gram panchayat hai ye … Jamunia main yahan ka poorva pradhan bhi hoon toh iss kshetra mein bais kuwein bane lekin ek bhi kuwan safal nahi … kyonki uska nirman hi dhang se nahi hua na uski khudai huyi na bandhai huyi (There is no benefit at all. Twenty-two wells were built in our area … this is Jamunia village panchayat … I have been former gram pradhan of this village …. 22 wells were built in this area but none succeeded … because the well was not built properly. It was not fixed proper either).”

Koi istemal nahi aate ekadh do kisi ne ghar ki laagat laga ke kuch theek thak kiye hain toh wo zaroor aa sakte hain (None of the wells is functional. Maybe if somebody has built a well bearing all the costs, then it might be functioning).”

Khoob shikayat ki Shyam Raj ji aaye iss kshetra mein Yojna Ayog ke unnke unke paas gaye hum log unhein likhit di lekin koi solution nikalti hi nahi jabki iss kshetra mein paani ki ati aavashyak zaroori hai (We have complained innumerable times. Mr. Shyam Raj of Planning Commission had visited the area. We gave him a written complaint. But we don’t see any solution, though water is essential to our survival).”

Shyam Sundar Namdev, Piprai, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

Like many other farmers of the region, Shyam Sundar Namdev is forced to work as a labourer to make ends meet. He alleges that the wells constructed under the package are of no use as they have not been built as per standards and are unable to meet their long-felt need of watering their fields. We meet Namdev in the middle of fields where a well has been dug. Pointing to the substandard construction, Namdev says: “Ab dekh lo cement bhi nahi lage patthar bhi ubar-kahbar hai ye sab hoon chaurai bhi kum dekh lo (You can see there is no cement used in it. The stones used are uneven and then its width is also less).” Pointing to the water in the well, when we ask him if they use it to water their fields, Namdev tells us about its source: “OO time par nikalta hi nahi hai. Ye toh barsati paani hai bhar gaya … aur jab paani dene ka samay aata hai toh usmein koi hai hi nahi ab toh kahan se layein paani nikalta hi nahi (At the time of sowing, it does not throw water. This is rainwater which has filled it … at the time of watering, there is no water in it. When it does not throw water from where should we get it)?”

Whatever water is available, it does not last even for 10 minutes, as Namdev relates:“Jo kuch minute hi ke liye do do paanch paanch minute chale jitni fasal sinch payi baaki barbad ho jaat ka karein oo kahan se le ayein paani hai hi nahi (The water lasts hardly for 2 to 5 minutes irrigating whatever crop it can. The rest is destroyed).”

We remind him that the government also built culverts for their benefit upon which he says with dejection: “Wo koi laabh nahi mila usase Sir kahin apne shikayat kari pradhan se baat ki ya thekedar se ya kahin adhikariyon se koi adhikari aya nahi sahib aur itne shikshit hain nahi ke aadmi kahin jayein (Sir, we have not benefitted from it either. Even if we complained about it to the gram pradhan or the officials, none has ever come to us. We are not much educated. Where should we go)?”

Chandra Bhan Singh, Piprai, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

A well was sanctioned in his brother’s name. However, the well has been constructed without using right material and one can see a layer of cement only at the mouth. The rest has none. On top of that the well was dug shallow so it does not have water to enable Chandra Bhan Singh irrigate his fields. “Ek saal ho gaya khuda … paani nahi nikla khali rakha … gehrai kum hai iski (This well was dug a year before … it did not produce any water … [the reason is] its depth is less).”

The rainwater it collects is not sufficient to water his fields. Says Singh: “Abhi paani hai agar ismein engine chalayein toh bahut se bahut bees minute ya tees minute (there is water in it but when we run the engine, it lasts for hardly 20–30 minutes).”

They never came to know who the contractor was as their contact man was their elected representative, Gram Pradhan. So, when they compained about the faulty work, as Singh says, this is what they were told: “Pradhan se ki wo wo bole ki theek hai wo to ho jayega (When we complained to the pradhan, he said that it will be taken care of).”

With no hope of having enough water in their wells, most of the poor farmers rent out their fields to big farmers. “Nahi, dete theke par de dete hain bade bade kuwan wale hain wo apne sinchai kar lete hain iska istemal hi nahi hota (We are unable to water the fields. We rent them to farmers who own big wells and can irrigate them. We are unable to use this well),” says Singh.

Kamla Rani, Sakta Village, Dhaurisagar, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh

The loot does not end here. The officials who were in charge of the schemse implementation under the package did not spare even wage labourers. At Sakta village we found the evidence of their infinite greed where they did not bother to pay the wages to poor villagers who had worked on these schemes. We meet one such villager, Kamla Rani. She worked for 22 days on a well but she has not been paid a single penny by the contractor or the official in charge even after two years.

When we ask her if she has been paid wages for all 22 days she had worked on the well, the poor woman says: “Haan nahi mila (No, I have not been paid yet).” Testifying that the well was built using no cement, she says: “Abe kuch nahi laga (Nothing was used).” There was no visit by any official to keep a tab on the quality of work either. “Abe koi nahi aya (Nobody ever visited the site).”

She complained but to no avail, as Rani says: “Ab shikayat bhali kara sab koi sunta hi nahi to ka karein (I complained but nobody listens. What can I do)?”

Ramwati, Sakta Village, Dhaurisagar, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh  

Like Kamla Rani, both Ramwati and her husband have not been paid wages for the work they had done on the well. Ramawati claims she and her husband worked on the well for 22 days. It has been two years since, yet not a penny. When we ask her if they have got their wages, the poor woman replies: “Nahi mila (We did not get it).” Imagine the agony and frustration wage earners like Ramwati and Rani must be undergoing but the officialdom is least bothered about them.   

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Operation 136: Part 1

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