While the media was highlighting the apparent successes in Nagepur and Jayapur — two of the villages ‘adopted’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi constituency — the situation is so bad in nearby Chandpur village that people coming from generations of carpet weavers have been forced to become daily wage labourers.
Abhay Kumar, a carpet weaver, told Newsclick that nearly 90 per cent (according to his rough estimation) of the weavers from Chandpur have left their profession due to underpayment and are now employed as daily wagers or agricultural workers in different parts of the city of Varanasi.
Kumar, whose father was also a carpet weaver, said the vast majority of weavers and former weavers in the village have developed problems in their lungs or eyes due to the nature of the carpet weaving work, but the government had done nothing for them in all these years. “There are schemes for saree weavers but nothing for carpet weavers. The government should not abandon its people, leaving them to die or starve,” he said.
When the Newsclick team visited Chandpur village, located within a stone’s throw from the adopted Jayapur village, it found that village headwoman Kusumlata was scolding her husband for smoking weed and gambling with other villagers — while almost every adult male in the village was either drunk or playing cards beside a chillum.
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Less than 40 per cent of the houses had a toilet constructed in front of them, and the problem of open defecation persists in the village. Children were going to school, but the school’s playground was occupied by drunkards playing cards and hurling abuses.
Radhey Shyam, a 58-year-old former carpet weaver, said only three carpet weavers were left in the village.
“The weavers have gradually been quitting this work. Before thinking of preserving our craft, we have to think of feeding our kids and live a healthy life. The government has done nothing to keep this micro industry of carpet weaving alive and no scheme has reached our village. If the village was adopted by someone, then we also could have done better perhaps. The schemes do not reach our village and we continue to suffer,” he said.
“The handloom weavers have been provided with a bank account and other facilities because Benarasi saree brings fame to the city, but nothing for the carpet weavers. Another possible reason that carpet weavers have received nothing may be due to the caste of the weavers, because everyone who weaves a carpet in this village is a Chamaar,” he added.
It may be mentioned that the government of Uttar Pradesh has been promoting district specific products industry and the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been taken for its world famous Benarasi Silk Sarrees. According to the figures available with the administration an assistance under the ODOP scheme has been provided to only 713 saree weavers from over 100 different villages of the district while the Carpet industry has gone with the Bhadohi district under the same scheme.
Kusumlata, gram pradhan of Chandpur, says the village has a better literacy rate than Jayapur and Nagepur, but still it is lacking any development because no one pays any heed to the village. “The funds that a gram pradhan is allotted for development work reaches us very late. The development work has to be stopped in the middle many a times and it takes more effort to complete. The village has a total 873 toilets, more than the adopted villages, but people cannot use them because there is no water facilities,” she said.
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“The village has no personal enmity with the Prime Minister or with his party, yet we have received a step-motherly behaviour. I do not know how the public will vote, but I know that the messiah of dalits is only Behen Kumari Mayawati,” she added.
Virendra Bhatt, a small-time social activist from the Lanka area of Varanasi city, said the government should have ensured that no village was left untouched by development.
“There are 1,289 villages in the district, but you talk about only the four villages which were adopted by the Prime Minister. What about the other 1,285 villages of the district? What is their fault of these villagers, do they not deserve any kind of development?” he said.
In fact, according to a report published in National Herald, the Prime Minister has not even spent a penny from his Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) fund on the development of the villages he had adopted.