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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Caste beats burning issues in -battle for Auragabad  

Lack of public transport, difficult topography and security concerns about girls travelling in the desolate area generally compel the families of marginalised peasants here to discontinue studies of their wards after school.

constituency watch Updated: Apr 11, 2019 09:01 IST
B Vijay Murty
B Vijay Murty
Hindustan Times, Aurangabad
Caste,Auraganbad,battle for votes
Electoral officer with DM Kumar Ravi and Sanjay Kumar are giving flag of buses for Voters Awareness at the campus of State Election office in Patna.Bihar India on Wednesday April 10,2019(Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times)

Babita Devi,19, a newlywed bride from Naudiha village in Gaya’s left wing extremism (LWE)-affected Gurua block, minces no words in cursing the state administration for overlooking the educational needs of students, especially the fairer sex, living in the red corridor of Gaya and Aurangabad districts.

The intermediate pass woman wanted to pursue higher studies, but her dream to go to college dashed as the nearest degree college, Shri Mahant Satanand Giri College, is located in Sherghati, 26 kilometers from her village.

Lack of public transport, difficult topography and security concerns about girls travelling in the desolate area generally compel the families of marginalised peasants here to discontinue studies of their wards after school.

No sooner did Babita complete her intermediate from a school around three kilometers away from her village, her parents married her off, a common practice in the hinterland of southern districts of Bihar.

A 10-year-old demand of locals for a degree college in Bharaundha, which is strategically located at the centre of three adjoining blocks of Imamganj, Gurua and Tekari, is still under consideration.

The Centre’s ambitious Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign seems to have failed miserably in southern Bihar, especially in Maoist-hit areas of Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad districts.

“The government doesn’t want our children to pursue higher studies. Those who have sufficient money send their children to hostels and residential colleges in Gaya and adjoining areas. I am a poor farmer. I cannot manage resources to send my daughter to a hostel. I was left with no option but to marry her off,” says Babita’s father, Krishna Yadav, a staunch RJD supporter.

His fellow villager, Bina Yadav, accused the NDA governments at the Centre and the state of deliberately ignoring development in villages inhabited by the backwards, Dalits and Muslims.

“The Nitish government has no control over its officials. They seldom heed to genuine demands of backwards, Dalits and Muslims. You travel to the interior villages and you will be shocked to see the sufferings of the poor. Condition of the Dalit tolas is highly deplorable. They are forced to drink pond water as the tubewells often go dry or do not function. There are no schools, forget colleges or ITIs,” he rued.

Though Naudiha and several adjoining villages of Gurua block falls under the jurisdiction of Gaya administration, the Delimitation Commission, while redrawing boundaries of various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in 2009, pushed three Gaya blocks — Gurua, Imamganj and Tekari — to the Aurangabad parliamentary constituency.

Aurangabad, where Rajputs constitute 18% of the district’s population, has a visible forward-backward divide. Altogether, 17 lakh voters will caste their votes on April 11.

In the 2014 polls, BJP’s Sushil Kumar Singh had defeated Nikhil Kumar of the Congress. Both were Rajputs.

This time, NDA has played safe, fielding its sitting BJP MP Sushil Kumar Singh, who will face off HAM-S candidate Upendra Prasad.

Naki Imam, mukhiya of Dugul panchayat near Kasma police station, says he had been a JD-U supporter for long, but not anymore. “Muslims, Yadavs and Dalits of this region have united to vote against NDA. How long should we face the upper caste dominion and face neglect?” he asks, pointing towards the additional health centre next to the police station, which often remains shut and never has medicines in stock.

Barely two kilometers away from Kasma police station is Jagrup Bigha, where around 300 Dalit families live in inhuman conditions. “Of the 2000- odd population, only two have passed matriculation. This sums up the condition of education in the area,” says Imam.

Why has the government failed to construct a school for the Dalits in Jagrup Bigha? BDO Ritesh Kumar parried the question suggesting this reporter speak to education department as he was busy with the polls.

JD (U) legislator Manoj Sharma from Goh in Aurangabad, however, finds no threat to the NDA candidate. He says those who are unable to see development have jaundiced eyes and are politically motivated.

Water, he agrees, is a big issue in the area, but says the government was working hard to complete the North Koel Reservoir Project, which aims to provide irrigation to 1,11,521 hectares of land annually in most backward and drought prone areas in Jharkhand and Bihar.

“Work is also in progress to construct one high school up to plus-2 in every panchayat, one degree college in every block, one polytechnic or ITI in every sub-division and one engineering college in every district,” he signs off.

First Published: Apr 11, 2019 08:39 IST