There is a question mark and a certainty about the Rs 4,000-crore Bundelkhand drought mitigation package announced by the Central government for the UP’s area of the region. Question mark is--how much drought proofing the package brings about. Certainty is--the pre-existing battle line between Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and UP chief minister Mayawati over Bundelkhand has just got extended due to the package.
The line is seen overlapping with the 2012 UP Assembly elections as the package execution time frame is for the next three years. The two had been battling over the region ever soon after Mayawati became the UP chief minister for the fourth time.
The two had been discrediting each other (and the respective governments) of being insensitive to the Bundelkhand drought. And pat came reaction of the Bahujan Samaj Party: “The Rs 4,000 is a crumb and tidbit for the region. We are spending more than this amount annually. We have spent Rs 2,500 crore on forestation alone in the region. ”
Minutes after the announcement of the package, the state Congress leaders started singing paean to Rahul Gandhi for pushing the central government to announce the package. And hours after BSP said: “We react sharply to Rahul Gandhi praise. It is the Congress that is responsible for the backwardness and crisis in Bundelkhand.”
BSP state president and UP minister, Swami Prasad Maurya said: “Why else the Bundelkhand voters (in Lalitpur and Jhansi assembly seats) in by-polls rejected Congress and embraced BSP. One of the seats (Jhansi) if the one that was vacated by the union minister of state for rural affairs.
So while the Rahul is set to talk about the central package to Bundelkhand people under his ‘Mission UP Assembly elections 2012’, the BSP would tell the same people as what all the Center did not not—“the prime minister did not accept the July 2007 demand of the chief minister Mayawati’s for Rs 80,000 crore package, did not accept December 2007’s Rs 7016 crore drought relief package, did not accept Rs 2797 farm laon waiver for the region’s farmers.”
While the package has sown seeds of acrimony between the central and the state government, Bundelkhandis fear it would do nothing more than oiling the corruption machinery and lead to esclation in acrimony between the Centre and the State over the region.
“The package would meet the same fate or even worse as that of the Vidharbha package unless some logical thinking goes into its implementation,” said the Magsaysay awardee drought and water activist from Rajasthan, Rajendra Singh.
While a Bundelkhand drought activist Manoj Kumar of Kriti Shodh Sansthan, Mahoba said: “Its better they call the package ‘Corruption package’ because my wisdom says that it would oil the corruption machinery in the state.”
The Bundelkhand region reeled under successive drought for the most part in last ten years. While for the first five years no government recognized the drought conditions, the latter five years saw political tug-of-war between Central government and the state government and various political parties as well.
Rajendra Singh said: “Money alone won’t do unless the region’s traditional wisdom, resources and manpower (people’s participation) were applied. For drought mitigation, traditional water management knowledge of the region must be tapped into.”
Manoj said: “And Rahul (Gandhi) said that only 15 paise reach the beneficiary while 85 paise goes in corruption. So unless mechanism is developed to ensure the both 15 paise and 85 paise of a rupee reach the target.” According to him the monitoring system should have stakeholders representatives in it.
Bundela further asked: “Vidharbha package failed to bring about any significant change in the region while there were Congress lead governments in both the Centre and the state. So, how would one expect the Bundelkhand package to bring any difference? If the chief secretary is a nodal officer for the fund in a state, then whom would he be more loyal to—the central government or his immediate political boss—the chief minister.”