WHILE DRIVING across the countryside to cover the nagar panchayat elections on Friday, one came across several banners from contestants promising rural voters the moon.
And then one came across a school that was serving as a polling booth in Malihabad.
The plaque outside the school read, Malihabad Girls School, 1940.
Adjacent to this pre-independence era school in Malihabad, was the foundation stone of a girls’ primary school. The date on the stone read, July 17, 2000.
Six years later, there is no sign of school yet. The contrast couldn’t have been more striking. For the locals here, the foundation stone has no meaning now.
But, the school built during the Raj days, caters to the needs of girl students of the area from class VI to X.
“There has been a demand to elevate the school till intermediate. Still, it appears that in post-independence India, our administrators are too busy making plans for country’s development to think about us,” said Zahid, serving as a poll agent and a resident of the area. The girls’ primary school close to the Malihabad Girls’ School was planned to enable girls to take to education early.
But, after the exit of Reena Chowdhury, former MP, who had laid the foundation stone, the dream of a primary girls school exited too.
Though, such reminders of neglect kept on surfacing right through the areas where polling was held, still the rural populace turned out in large numbers to vote. But what makes you vote when your voices aren’t heard anyway? “Well, because we all live in hope,” said Sabreen, resident of Chaudhary Mohalla.
Everywhere, the rural population showed far greater faith in democratic process than their urban counterparts. At Babu Trilok Singh Inter College, Kakori, for instance, out of the 700 voters at one booth, 103 had cast their vote an hour and half after the polling started. Here, Shoaib Khan, after watching a painted mid-day meal menu on the school walls was heard saying, “It would have been a dream if the policymakers deliver what they promise. It would be a good idea to ask them to taste the meal first.”
Barbed comments laced with a wry laugh kept on coming from the voters. Still, they voted. Voting and hoping that fortune would change one day.