For 25,000 people living in villages along the 8km stretch connecting business town Gopiganj on National Highway 2 and Mirzapur, famous for Vindhyavasini shrine, the larger part of the day is spent tackling the dust menace.
Construction of a tarred road started approximately two years back. As a result, the old road has been dug up and loose materials are strewn all over the place causing pollution.
Work on four kilometers is already over, while the remaining 8km from Tilathi to Chilh is stuck. The situation has been the same for the past six months now.
The problem, according to the locals, arose when Vijay Mishra, an SP MLA from Gyanpur, and his wife were denied tickets by Samajwadi Party. Irked, he is contesting from Gyanpur seat of Bhadohi as Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal candidate.
Though the construction was awarded to one of his relatives, for the people of the area it’s Vijay who is doing the job.
When asked, Vijay, however, refuted the allegations. “The payment has stopped. Once the state government sanctions the money, construction will resume. Moreover, since my wife is an MLC, there is no question of seeking a party ticket for her,” said Vijay over phone.
Mirzapur goes to polls on March 8 in the last phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh. And the dust menace has become a key issue in this election this time.
Rohit Yadav, a resident of Tilathi village, bought a mask recently to save himself from the dust pollution.
“We are covered with dust all the time. Our clothes have layers of dust. You can’t even make out the colour of our houses as they have gone all black. It becomes very difficult to breathe,” said Manoj Yadav whose house is situated on the road.
Gulabdhar Dubey, an elderly man at Tilathi, said, “Many in the village have developed respiratory problems. Several others have eye ailments. Children are the worst sufferers. Even one died after the person’s asthma aggravated. If they cannot construct the road immediately, they can at least sprinkle water frequently so that the dust settles.”
Amit Kumar Dubey, a local teacher, said dust has become a major poll issue for them as they had never seen such a situation in their life. The roads are not in a good shape beyond Chilh either. Mirzapur is considered one of the most backward districts of UP.
Pt Rajan Pathak, member, Bar Council of Mirzapur and former president of Vindhyavasini Temple management committee, said, “It’s unfortunate that Mirzapur continues to remain one of the backward districts in Uttar Pradesh despite the fact that almost every politician and bureaucrat comes here to visit Ma Vindhyavasini and this region is known as ‘karmbhoomi’ of Union home minister Rajnath Singh.”
Villagers complain that the ministers pass by their village on way to Mirzapur, but overlook their ordeal. “Ministers and bureaucrats drive past, but they hardly see the dust and gravity of our problems because they travel in AC cars with windowpanes rolled up and phones stuck to their ears,” said Rohit.
“In fact, dust is a poll issue not only for the people from Tilathi to Chilh, but those in Aurai as well. Lakhs of people are affected to such an extent that the SP candidate who happens to be a sitting MLA is not able to face the electorate these days. The government itself will have to face the music,” said Dinesh Kumar, CPI candidate from the seat.
Minister of state for child development and basic education, sitting MLA and SP candidate Kailash Chourasia, however, said a lot of development work took place in the region and if there was a dust problem it suggested that development work was happening there.
Ratnakar Mishra from BJP and Mohd Parvej Khan is contesting on BSP tickets against Chaurasia.