In April last year, diarrhoea killed 18-month-old Rani in India’s marquee village that celebrated the birth of a girl child by planting at least 10 fruit-bearing trees. This incident underlined the absence of healthcare in rural Bihar.
A third of Dharhara’s 1,200-acre land is covered by fruit-bearing trees. Most of the landowners in this village of some 2,800 voters are upper caste Rajputs followed by Kushwahas. Half the population here are landless dalits and mahadalits.
JD(U) stalwart and chief minister Nitish Kumar declared this village as a model village in 2010 — a village that married ecology with gender-friendliness in a country where female foeticide contributes to a skewed sex ratio.
A plaque in the village marks the chief minister’s visits every June since 2010, listing the names of the girls he cradled while planting a sapling in their names. The visit stopped last year.
Rani, daughter of daily wager Pramod Singh, died less than a year after the 2013 event. The sapling planted in her name withered away too.
“She did not get treatment on time because of poor access to healthcare facilities,” her father Pramod said.
Nitish Kumar’s loss of interest in the village, locals said, also saw the Kilkari Bal Kendra (government playschool) shutting down due to lack of funds.
The villagers are hurt, but the image of Nitish Kumar as a ‘vikas purush’ (man of development) is still in their minds. “Image is not everything when there’s a long way to go on the development front,” Rajkishore Singh, a local resident, said.
According to Subodh Sah, the local panchayat head, Nitish’promise to upgrade the village health centre to a six-bed hospital has not materialised..
Dharhara falls under Gopalpur assembly constituency represented by Gopal Mandal of JD-U, which has formed a Grand Alliance with RJD and Congress. Mandal’s main rival this time is NDA’s Anil Yadav fielded by the BJP.