In 2014, Padui village, Banda district was one of the 2100 villages chosen as a Lohia gram under the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Samagra Vikas Yojana. Under this scheme, Padui is the recipient of 33 welfare schemes from 18 different departments for five years, i.e. 2014-2019.
This week, on January 13, 2016, Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan arrived in the village to take stock of the development works.
Just three days before his widely announced visit, a flurry of activity began in Padui. Officials at district, tehsil and block level swung into action to quickly fix the gaps in the village, which were many.
How does a village fix itself, look developed, and act ‘adarsh’ before a high-profile political visit? In Padui, we find that this fixing takes just a couple of days.
Padui village, a hamlet of over 2,000 residents, falls on the state highway between Banda district and Naraini block. About 15 km from the district headquarters, Padui is connected to the highway by a narrow stretch of three km, the village’s arterial road. “This road has been wrecked for the last 10 years. It’s full of potholes and travelling through it is a trial. We have written to the PWD department many times, but no action was taken. Now that the chief secretary is visiting, the road is being fixed. But it’s only a temporary fix. If they want to lay a road, they should do it properly,” says Ram Manohar Prajapati, a resident.
On the eve of the visit, we saw officials barging into people’s homes, enquiring after their health, asking about senior, widow, physically handicapped and Samajwadi pensions – How many have received pensions, how many have not? Questions flew around on the government’s welfare schemes, on ration cards, Awaas yojana, toilets, drought relief, bijli, paani, sadak, teekaran. Overnight ration cards and compensation cheques were handed out.
“We make multiple rounds of the departments claim benefits of the various schemes. Look, how our luck has turned today that the departments are hunting down people to give them benefits of the schemes,” some residents say.
Several teams had fanned out into the village, giving out free medicines. Anganwadis and ANMs were being told to distribute nutrition supplements and hold vaccination camps. Padui, which had not seen electricity since 1980, was finally getting electric poles, wires, and even solar power.
An army of safai karmis had arrived from Banda district’s eight blocks to clean up the village’s dirty lanes and stinking sewers.
The village primary school was also a scene of hectic activity. Walls were getting a fresh lick of paint, a boundary wall was being built, and a cleaning operation was on. Electric wires appeared in the sky, and toilets were getting sparkling new seats.
That’s not all. The school staff, which is one principal and four teachers for 308 students, was getting reinforcements in the shape of five more teachers, brought in from ABSA Badhokhar Khurd block. What will happen after the chief secretary leaves? Will these five new teachers continue at Padui’s primary school?
The National Food Security Act which came into effect on January 1, 2016 is yet to make its presence felt in this village of 289 APL, 149 BPL, and 90 Antyodaya card-holders. The administration has assured shop-owners of compensating any losses they’d incur, but Shivram Yadav is not too hopeful.
The chief secretary’s visit has become the talk of the town in Padui. Yet, it is not the first time that Padui has played host to a VIP. In 2012, when former chief minister Mayawati was visiting Mahua block in Banda district, Ambedkar gram Barsada Khurd was also hurriedly dressed up in a similar fashion. On that visit, Barsada Khurd shone like a jewel, better than any city. But this three-day development fix of the village did not fool Mayawati.
Doesn’t Padui deserve development every day, every month, all year round? What is this strange situation when officials who don’t even know the name of the village now spend nights fixing it? As the villagers smile at the development unfolding all around them, a cruel irony also surrounds them: Look how our government is trying to fool one of its own.