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Will Bundelkhand make it?

THE CRISIS-ridden Bundelkhand region has got both a bad (as if it had any less) and a good thing going. Good thing first: One can see a growing resolve among its farmers to rise from their ashes and wage a united fight against all that is behind their ordeal. And the bad: According to observers, rising frustration and fast waning patience may force the people of the affected region to take up arms.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2006 11:59 IST

THE CRISIS-ridden Bundelkhand region has got both a bad (as if it had any less) and a good thing going. Good thing first: One can see a growing resolve among its farmers to rise from their ashes and wage a united fight against all that is behind their ordeal. And the bad: According to observers, rising frustration and fast waning patience may force the people of the affected region to take up arms.

However, Bundelkhand’s hope lies in the first —that the worst may still not come true after all if the good gets going. Quite a few congregations have been held recently to find a solution to the perpetual crisis comprising  suicides, debt, hunger, government apathy. Significantly, not a single politician has ever been invited to these meetings. For records, since October 15, as many as 10 big meetings have been organised in different villages.

Behind the rising farmer unity is the Aapada Nivaran Manch (ANM), which has brought various fronts on a single platform. On a call given by the ANM, Pahuj Vikas Manch, one such front in Jalaun’s Madhogarh, had planned their first major protest at the Orai district headquarters on November 4. However, the administration refused permission on the pretext of the ongoing civic election.

“We accepted, but now we will hold the protest on November 8 at Tehsil Madhogarh, Jalaun. We simply want a peaceful demonstration, in which about 5,000 farmers will take part,” said Sanjay Singh of the Aapada  Nivaran Manch, which has launched a drive ‘Sookha haatao, Jeevan Baachao’ (eradicate drought, save lives). 

After Jalaun, the farmers have plans to demonstrate outside the Vidhan Bhawan in Lucknow.

But not everything seems to be happening according to the plans. At a meeting, witnessed by this correspondent, in Madhogarh, a few speakers called upon the farmers to “go for an uprising just the way Rani Laxmibai and other Bundelkhandis did against the British”.

Pradeep Jain, local MLA from Jhansi, says: “Bundelkhand has had repeated crop failures and droughts, lack of development, corruption, and lack of industrialization. Now under such circumstances, the land that has stopped growing crops may soon start growing ‘naxals’. It would be better for the government to develop the region by spending a few thousand crores rather than wait for insurgency to begin and then keep pumping money endlessly to fight it.” 

Expressing similar views, a top cop of the area, on condition of anonymity, said one should not be surprised if insurgency broke out here. “Already the crime graph, despite the region’s low population figures, is on the rise. Murders are happening on trivial issues (like cutting of canals),” he added.

Hargovind Kushwaha, Minister of state and chairman of Jhansi Development Authority, said: “It would take just about two months to turn things around. The region has such a large network of canals, dams, and reservoirs. Their maintenance is all that you need. And there will be water everywhere for irrigation in the region. But for that the region must get something like a Rs 15,000-crore  package.”

Both Jain and Kushwaha said since Bundelkhand was a different kind of area semi arid), it should have separate water and agriculture policies.