The rural electrification saga unfolds at a unique and surreal pace, much like a play in the theatre of the absurd mode. Deadlines were touted and flouted every six months – the latest shifted to May 2018 – until the big declaration was made, akin to screaming from the social media rooftops by the P.M. no less. The deadline was pre-empted, according to Narendra Modi: ‘28th April 2018 will be remembered as a historic day in the development journey of India. Yesterday, we fulfilled a commitment due to which the lives of several Indians will be transformed forever! I am delighted that every single village of India now has access to electricity.’
Meanwhile, in tiny kasbahs and villages of this country, the poor men, women, and children suffer through not only hot days and dark nights but also find themselves having to face and deal with bizarre situations that come about in the wake of policy-implementation.
Like the electricity poles strewn around in Sairpur Para village in Faizabad district’s Bikapur block that are creating a menace for its residents. These are poles that have not been erected, but lie about, fallen, on the ground, like battered soldiers who chose not to fight the war and collapsed instead. What’s more, it’s been two years and counting. Governments have come and gone, reality television has reached the nearby town, but the poles remain where they were.
According to Nandram, the poles were brought in by officials to be put up in the village, but they went off to run another errand and never returned. “Tab tha ki lagega, lagega, lekin… (We thought they’re about to be installed),” he says. Nandram led a drive in the village last year, urging the pradhan to take cognizance of the fact of the poles, but he gave it up this year, he informs us.
Akhilesh Upadhyay is in a satirical mood at first, as he mocks the policy, “Sarkar ka itna bada vaada, ki eko gaon bhi adhoora na reh jaaye (Such a big promise the government made, that not even one village will be left)…” But he says it like it is soon, “All the electricity department officials have their eyes and ears closed as far as Sairpur Para is concerned.” Akhilesh further tells us that they light candles when the sun sets, and the women inform us that they usually finish up with the cooking while it’s still light.
All this while the poles await installing. “Ab tak toh kharaab ho gaye honge (They must be defunct by now)”, mutters an old man, who prefers to not be recorded on camera.
Dilip Kumar, the local Junior Engineer or J.E., starts off his version of the absurdist tale with the familiar “Nahi, nahi, aisa nahi hai (No no, it’s not true)”, and then goes on to make his clarification statement when faced with the fact of the poles, “Whichever village has been left behind, it will be taken care of.”
So the real Rural Electrification deadline, like Dilli, it seems, ab door nahi. We wish could’ve said that to Dilip Kumar Saab.
This Khabar Lahariya article first appeared on Firstpost.