Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh): Just like the BJP sold the ‘Gujarat model’ during the 2014 General Elections, the Congress has been hailing the ‘Chhindwara model’ for the past one year in Madhya Pradesh.
Chhindwara, known as ‘corn city’, is one of the biggest districts of Madhya Pardesh bordering Maharashtra (Nagpur) and has been a parliamentary constituency of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath since 1980.
For the past year, Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Congress leaders in almost every public rally have hailed Chhindwara as a model city. What’s more, a book titled ‘Chhindwara Model’ penned by Bhaskar Rao Rokade, was released just before the Assembly elections. The book highlights and compares the pre- and post-Kamal Nath eras in Chhindwara.
The city is on a plateau, surrounded by lush green fields, rivers and by dense forest with diverse flora and fauna. Chhindwara is reachable by rail or road from the adjacent city of Nagpur. According to the 2011 census, the population of the district is 2,090,306; most of them (around 40%) are tribals with a growth rate of 13%. The literacy rate is 81.46%. The town itself has a population of 2,60,575, with 89% literacy rate.
To check out the Chhindwara model, Newsclick travelled to the city and talked to the locals, journalists and experts on Chhindwara model.
Chhindwara is one of the most developed cities among nearby districts and has train connectivity, smooth roads, factories, mines, skill training institutes, 57-km long ring road (the longest ring road in MP), clean water and so on — but these things are only limited to urban areas. In the rural areas, where 80% of the total population resides, are still suffering for want of water, development in infrastructure and jobs.
Unlike Seoni, the adjacent district of Chhindwara, which is one of the most communally and caste sensitive district, Chhindwara has been a peaceful city with a Muslim population. As local resident Mohammad Monaf says, “This is the only city where no communal violence had erupted. Not even in 1984 (Sikh massacres), 1992 (Babri Masjid demolation) or in April 2, 2018, when caste violence gripped the entire state. And this is all because of Kamal Nath’s strong leadership.”
In the recently concluded Assembly elections, the Congress swept all seven seats of Chhindwara district. Chhindwara is going to polls on April 29 and CM Kamal Nath is contesting from Chhindwara Assembly seat for the first time against BJP’s Vivek Banti Sahu while the Congress’ Nakul Nath (the CM’s son) is up against the BJP’s Nathan Shah Kavreti.
“It seems that the BJP is giving a walkover to the Congress in Chhindwara. Both candidates for assembly and parliamentary seats are unknown faces. The BJP should have fielded strong candidates like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Uma Bharti against Kamal Nath and Nakul Nath,” said senior journalist Vasudev Sharma.
During the visit, Newsclick observed, most of the voters appeared satisfied with CM Kamal Nath’s work and seemed to blindly trust and admire him.
Road, Water and Electricity
According to the district administration data, out of the 1,800 villages, 1,750 are connected with the roads and 100 per cent villages are electrified. But water is a major issue, especially due to the hilly terrain.
To deal with the water crisis, two dams have been constructed within 30 km from the city — Machagora and Kanhergoan dams. But both the dams are not enough to fulfil the needs of the entire district.
In remote areas, people are still relying on hand pumps and tube wells. Even in Kamal Nath’s adopted ‘adarsh’ (model) village, which is 16 km away from the city, residents are suffering from the water scarcity.
Implementation of Union government schemes
According to the 2011 census, in Chhindwara, more than 82,000 people are Below Poverty Line (BPL) and are eligible to enjoy the Union government’s flagship schemes.
The data provided by district administration and official websites revels that 30,000 people benefited under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna – Rural (Rs 1.30 lakh). More than 35, 000 residents got gas connections and cylinders under Ujjawala Yojna and around 40,000 toilets have been constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
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Only two hospitals of the district — Civil Hospital Sausar and District Hospital — Chhindwara are under the Ayushman Bharat Yojna. According to the data provided by the Ayushman Bharat district office, till now 2,900 cards have been issued and 500 people benefited.
“Around 500 patients have claimed Rs 40 lakh under the scheme,” said an official requesting anonymity.
Skill development institutes, schools and colleges
There are seven or eight skill training institutes and call centres in Chhindwara, including Footware Design and Development Institute, Ashok Leyland Driver Training Institute, Apparel Training and Design Centre, Confederation of Indian Industries, Rural Self Employment Training Institute, Aegis call centre, Tata and Rural Source call centres as well as the beleaguered Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Service (IL&FS).
A month ago, Kamal Nath inaugurated the Chhindwara medical college and promised to open a 400-bed super specialist hospital with advance medical treatment along with the college.
Factories and industries
Chhindwara is home to brands like Raymond and Hindustan Unilever. The city has rich market areas such as Mansarover Complex, Fawwara Chowk, Nagpur Road, Gole Gunj and Gandhi Gunj. Looking the spending capability of the local population, all major automobile brands have made their presence in the city.
Apart from this, Parasia area is known for its coal fields and majority of population in this region is associated with Western Coalfields Limited for employment.
On the outskirts, vegetables and fruits, especially potatoes and oranges, are raised in large quantities for export to nearby districts. The town — which is a centre for local trade and a market for the sale of cattle, grain and timber — also has a grain market near the railway station.
Despite the city having been home to industrial units, locals claimed they hardly got any benefits from these as most of the employees are outsiders.
“Acres of lands have been given to industries and training institutes in the name of development on minimum rates or free of cost, electricity is being given on subsidised rates. What does an industrialist need? Despite training institutes and factories, locals get no benefit. Most of the workers are outsiders and locals work as daily wages or contractual employees,” said senior advocate and local leader Mushtaq Ahmad.
Mustaq further claimed that the development of Chhindwara begun after 2003, when the Congress lost all seven assembly seats as well as its government in the state. A year before, “Kamal Nath faced locals ire over demolition of shops in the city and tribal voters were anguish after district collector illegally transferred 22-acre land of tribal royal family land to Asaram Bapu situated on Parasiya road.”
The spice park which was launched with great enthusiasm a few years ago is gathering the dust, he added.
Everything is not well in Kamal Nath’s adopted village
Under Sansad Gram Aadarsh Yojna launched in 2014, Kamal Nath adopted a village, Bisapur, 16 km West from Chhindwara city.
Locals who did not seem happy with Kamal Nath claimed that water for drinking and irrigation is one of the major problems in the city.
“Water is costlier than gold here. We store drinking waters just like money,” said 58-year-old farmer Shyam Lal, adding that nothing has changed in the past five years.
The village has bumpy roads with no drainage system and there is waste spillage on the roads. Besides, the village has no primary health centre and villagers travell 16 km for treatment. “Do they call it a model village?” asked Shyam Lal.
Another resident claimed that the implementation of the Union government’s flagship schemes like Awas Yogna, Ujjwala Yogna, toilet construction, etc. are very poor. “There are 1,500 homes with 4,200 voters, but only 96 people got the benefit of Awas Yogna, less than 150 people got gas and cylinder and only a few toilets have been built,” said 22-year-old Mahesh Kumar.
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However, village sarpanch Mahesh Banwari said a lot of development had taken place in the past couple of years. The roads connecting the village with Chhindwara and roads within the village had been constructed. The first list has 96 names under Awas Yogna and second list is awaited, he said.
When asked about the water crisis, he replied, “A water purifier plant has been installed at a cost of Rs 1.3 crore in the village, soon every household will get drinking water at its doorstep. But irrigation water is still a problem which might be resolved in next two-three months, as CM Kamal Nath has promised.”
After representing Chhindwara for nearly four decades, Kamal Nath has transferred his legacy to his son, who is debuting in politics and contesting from the Chhindwara parliamentary constituency.