Along Bundelkhand E-way, waiting for jobs to come by, tackling stray cattle

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Written by Lalmani Verma
| Auraiya, Etawah, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Mahoba |

February 17, 2022 12:54:40 am

IN THE Yogi Adityanath government’s development narrative, the Bundelkhand Expressway holds special place, for being the first expressway project to be conceptualised and rolled out under it. For the backward region, it comes with the promise of not just a four-lane road but also a defence corridor.

However, with almost 86% of the work done, there is no special enthusiasm among villages along the expressway, which are waiting for the benefits to first reach them.

There is bigger appreciation for the Adityanath government’s crackdown on criminals, particularly demolition of their properties – earning the Chief Minister the title of “bulldozer wale baba”.

However, the praise for the improved law and order runs up against a problem in village after village here: the stray cattle menace, destroying crops. In the absence of jobs, families depend on farming for a living.

The seven districts touched by the 296-km expressway – Chitrakoot, Banda, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Auraiya and Etawah – have 19 Assembly seats. The BJP had won 18 last time in this area considered a bastion of the Samajwadi Party. The SP had ended up with only the Yadav-dominated Jaswantnagar.

This showed a huge swing for the BJP from 2012, when the SP had won nine seats, the BSP and Congress four each, and the BJP only two.
At Takha village in Jaswantnagar, where five-term MLA and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav is contesting on the SP symbol, farmer Ajeet Singh Yadav says they gave land for the expressway but got hardly any benefits bar compensation (the amount varies district to district). “The contractors are from outside and they refuse to hire locals,” Ajeet complains.

Mohd Anees says that with no exits or entry roads to the expressway at Takha, for them the road has no meaning. They could not even put up temporary shops catering to travellers, Anees, a farmer, says.

However, Anees’s bigger hope is that an SP government would get them relief from the stray cattle, whose numbers have been rising since the BJP government put curbs on slaughter. “Once the SP comes back, we will get relief within 10 days,” he says.

Farm labourers Lallan Khan and Rajendra Kumar were hired by Mohammad Shabbir to erect a fence around his 2 bigha land to keep out the cattle, a day after they destroyed his wheat fields.

While Khan and Kumar say they sought work at the expressway but couldn’t get it, Shabbir regrets that he gave 15 bighas for the project, only to see it pass the village by. “The BJP has neglected us because this is the home district of Akhilesh Yadav.”

Lalpura village in the same constituency, dominated by Kumhars (OBCs), had voted for the BJP in 2017. However, the shine has worn off, says Rakesh Prajapati, an Arts graduate who runs a grocery shop. The expressway can only help when industries follow, while he has not even heard of the defence corridor, Prajapati says.

Prem Chand, who gave 4.75 bighas for the expressway, is also worried about jobs. “The SP government took bribes but at least gave work. The BJP government calls itself honest but we keep seeing examinations get cancelled because questions papers were leaked.”

Prajapati says it is unclear if the gains on law and order and the free rations since Covid, popular across castes and communities, will help the BJP offset this. What might play a bigger role, he says, is caste. “Non-Yadav OBCs are supporting the BJP to counter the unity of Yadavs and Muslims behind the SP.”

The area is dominated largely by OBCs, including Shakyas, Lodh Rajputs and Yadavs, apart from Dalits.

In Hirapur village in Dibiyapur seat in Auraiya district, where Yadavs are minimal, this divide is apparent. Mahtab Singh Rajpoot, a firm Adityanath supporter and a pea farmer, says they have no problem of either stray cattle or criminals “because the village has no Yadavs”.
Prempal Singh Kushwaha in Narchha village in Orai (SC-reserved) says women are now safer and toilets have reached every household.

However, Kushwaha’s primary concern too is jobs, apart from the region’s perennial water scarcity. A pipeline from Betwa river ends outside the village, and connectivity is expected now only after the elections.

SP spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary says the lack of jobs is haunting the BJP. “Its government copied the concept of Akhilesh Yadav’s Lucknow-Agra expressway but could not create employment.”

State BJP spokesperson Alok K Verma says previous governments only “exploited” Bundelkhand region and that change was round the corner. “When connectivity improves through the Bundelkhand Expressway, industries and jobs will come.”





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