While Chitrakoot locals are left shivering in the cold, where is the 27 lakhs allotted to protection measures promised by the UP government?
Early mornings are a struggle for the locals of Chitrakoot. With the damp January cold setting in, groups of people are huddled over small dying fires, in the hope that the government will provide aid to help them survive the extreme weather. “There have been several deaths, Gopal from one of the nearby villages also died because of severe cold. The government has made no arrangements for the poor. We don’t know and we don’t ask,” says Aasha from Lakshmanpuri.
The cold wave in Uttar Pradesh has led to 40 deaths in the first week of January alone. The toll is rising with 18 deaths in Kanpur, 5 in Mahoba, 3 in Jhansi, 2 in Muzaffarnagar, Amroha, and Kannauj, and at least 1 death in Agra, Banda, and Chitrakoot respectively. Locals are left shivering in the cold in Chitrakoot, patiently waiting for the government to come through on its promises of providing blankets to the poor. Voicing his frustration, Lakshmi from Karvi, Chitrakoot adds, “ We don’t have blankets. I don’t even have pants. What do I even say?”
Due to these extreme conditions of cold in the district over the last month, the UP govt had promised to make arrangements for the setting up of small bonfires in allotted areas and supplying of blankets to those in need. However, these have not been implemented by the authorities. A case in point is Aasha’s account of her village, “We get nothing. Out of the 20-25 houses in Lakshmanpuri, nobody has received any material help. You can ask from house to house, most of the members are elderly and in grave danger with nothing to protect them.”
The authorities have a different story to tell. Claiming that the 27 lakh budget allotted for blankets and small bonfires has been efficiently used, Gokhalesh Kumar Ojha, Village Administrator, Karvi adds, “When we talk about Karvi and Sitapur, the Nagarpalika is organizing small bonfires everywhere. All mohallas in need, have bonfires lit by the authorities. The 100 blankets that we received, we distributed them accordingly based on need.” However, locals from Chitrakoot do not seem to be benefiting from these measures – “Lots of people are dying from the cold,” says Sukhi Devi, Kolamjara while Ramkali from Karvi puts forth his grievances, We have nothing to shield us from the cold. The nagarpalika doesn’t give any news on this.”
The facilitation of the provision of blankets from the state seems to have been mismanaged by the authorities with contradictory accounts being given by locals officials of the state. While on the one hand, Ashrini Kumar Singh, Kanungo of Mau, Chitrakoot says, “As of now the blankets have not arrived, as soon as they do, they will be distributed accordingly,” on the other hand, senior officials are painting a different picture. “We have spent 25 lakhs as per our budget on the blankets. Approximately 5000 blankets have been distributed. In about 400 places, arrangements for small bonfires have been made,” says Ganesh Pratap Singh, Senior District Administrator. “Apart from these measures, in 4 places, due to the extreme cold, even rain shelters have been constructed which has helped people. For the bonfire arrangements, every district was allotted Rs 25,000 amounting to about 2 lakhs. We have given about 2100 blankets to each district which should be distributed within the next 2-3 days,” he added. The on-ground reality of Chitrakoot suggests that the course taken by the government to help the people survive the extreme winters is not working.