Dozens of women in rural clusters on the Sutlej banks walk behind the cattle to collect the dung for the fuel for cooking every morning in the ‘kandi’ (semihill) and ‘bet’ (marshy) areas along the Rupnagar-Balachaur-Garhshankar route here.
Dotted with clusters of kutcha houses, these villages tell the saga of poverty that becomes a fodder for the vote gatherers, be it the assembly or parliamentary elections.
In Dusgrain, villagers worry every monsoon not only for their thatched roofs that would leak but also of the Sutlej that soars to flood the area.
Raising the mud walls afresh after torrential rains becomes an annual post-monsoon affair for the Dola (a clan of the Rajputs) community in Dusgrain village, less than 2 km from the holy town of Anandpur Sahib.
The dwellers of these kutcha houses are, however, aware of the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), and the credit for their knowledge goes to the politicians seeking their votes in the name of IAY, the funding scheme for pucca houses.
Votes they cast with all commitment, in huge chunks, but their dwellings remain with thatched roofs, to be rebuilt after torrential rains, and the dream of toilets keep eluding the women years after the polling rituals.
“Rana KP” (ex-MLA of the Congress) and “Madan Mohan Mittal” (BJP minister and the local MLA) — they named the two politicians who throng their village at the right time, for votes.
“Vote ta pauni hi hoi, par vahde poore nahin hunde (We do have to vote, but promises are not fulfilled),” said Bakhsho, as she led a team of women and young girls out to the fields for the harvest.
KP could count Dusgrain-like villages — Manakpur, Palasi, Bhanam and Dhyani, all inhabited by the Dola community. He, however, said the funds that he got as MLA under the IAY were limited “only for 50 beneficiary families”.
“It is the responsibility of the present government (the Akali-BJP regime) and specifically of Madan Mohan Mittal, the local MLA,” KP passed the buck.
Unlike the flood waters playing havoc with poverty along the Sutlej, the barren landscapes, on the other side of the Rupnagar-Nangal highway, uphill towards the adjoining Himachal, face a drought-like situation.
‘Changar’, as the region is known, starves for water as the basic necessity, and the water pipes aid here by the public health department have been going dry for the past 4-5 years.
The men take their cattle downwards on the green pastures of Garhshankar and Balachaur blocks every summer, leaving the children and womenfolk back in villages for three months.
“These goats and buffaloes would starve to death in the absence of water here,” said Prem Chand, who donned the Aam Aadmi Party cap and had a poster of the Congress on the muddy wall in the courtyard at Samla village. An ailing-old mother, wife and two kids, all in a single room, he lives with.
“Water is the basic problem here, and you see that huge chunk of water right over there, which is needed to be used, and the pipes laid for over four years now for the purpose are of no use, as yet,” he said.
“Everyone coming for our votes promises to bring these pipes to life,” he laughs.
Schoolchildren take pride in walking down and uphill 3-5 km for studying in single-teacher or two-teacher primary and middle schools, said Beasa Devi.
“Sadian votta naal jitde ne sare (They all win because of our votes),” said a Class-9 boy, who walks 3 km to the school.