Much was made of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s frugal dinner of chatni-roti in 2009 with the family of a farmer, Bhagwat Prajapati, who had died of hunger in 2005.
Five years on, the family’s fortune has taken a turn only for the worse.
The one acre land that Prajapati had mortgaged before his death was taken over by the money lender after his family failed to raise money to free it. Prajapati’s youngest son Rakesh had to drop out of school, as the family could not afford the fee.
His wife and three sons have since been forced to work on other people’s fields or crush stones to make a living.
Rakesh, 19, would be voting for the first time on April 30. “It was sheer drama. Before Rahul Gandhi came so many people from the party came and noted down our problems. After he left, nobody showed up again. Now only the media comes once in a while.”
Nehri village in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, has a population of 7,000 (approx). A majority of them are landless farmers belonging to backward communities. A muddy track leads to the village which faces acute water shortage round the year.
Electricity is equally rare. The village witnessed a spate of hunger deaths in 2005-2006, after severe droughts hit the Bundelkhand region. Gandhi visited Nehri in September 2009 after the media highlighted the starvation deaths.
Gandhi’s visit, however, did not bring any palpable development to the village.
The Prajapati family could only wriggle out from the state government a ration card for his elder brother, Johri Lal.
“It is just a small relief. …is it possible to feed a family of 11 with one ration card? Jobs for my nephews would have been better,” Lal told HT.
Some others managed similar gains from the visit. “I was one of the few who started getting old age pension of Rs 1,800,” said 78-year-old Swamidin.
Others were not that lucky. “They promised every family would get a ration card but only few got it. I am now waiting for some other politician to visit us. I might get lucky then,” said 65-year-old Sita Devi.