Migration weighs on Basti mind, not polls

Inflow of money through flight of men; concrete houses, but no electricity; and an abundance of sugarcane, but no government sugar mills are the threads binding most areas of Basti in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The problems have become the defining features of villages and even towns of this district whose five constituencies go to polls in the first phase on February 8. But many do not care because they have more pressing issues to contend with. "Neither am I interested in telling my name nor my story," says an elderly woman of Bhattpurwa village. The brusque tone cannot mask her pain.

Not less than 75 years old, she is missing both her sons. Liyaqat Ali has migrated for work to Bahrain and Asmat Ali to Mumbai. She has only daughter-in-law Kutbun Nisa, Liyaqat's wife, for company in the house built with Bahrain and Mumbai money.

Tales of migration abound in the district, where 90% of the people live in villages.

"Go to any village and you will find 30-50% youth have migrated," says Md Arif, manager of a nursing home in the district.

Samiullah, 25, back in Bhattpurwa on a break from his tyre shop work in Saudi Arabia, says, "There are no jobs here."

Basti is largely agrarian. The lone government sugar mill is shut since 1998.

Now, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has promised Basti he will revive the mill and establish many more.

Job creation was Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's campaign theme here.

Basti had voted on usual caste lines in 2007, giving the BSP four seats and the SP one. The district's 2012 mandate will show if migration, jobs and sugar mills have become poll planks.


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