Jhansi: One of the common complaints regarding the heat one hears inside the Jhansi railway station is that the temperature of this station is always above 35 degrees — due to the crowds coming to catch the train for different destinations.
The Jhansi railway station is jam-packed every day, especially during the evening with umpteen numbers of people, especially the poor — the working class, who come from different parts of Bundelkhand to go to other cities in search of employment.
Suman Devi, 33, a resident of Mauranipur in Jhansi district, is waiting for the Delhi-bound train with her kids and husband when this Newsclick reporter approached her for a quick conversation over the problem of large-scale migration in Bundelkhand.
Asked why she is travelling to Delhi, the middle-aged woman with one of her sons sitting on her lap complains that she wants to live with her husband along with her kids, but the husband has to live in Delhi in order to bring food for the family.
“There is no job here. There is a problem of underpayment and we do not get paid a respectable amount of money to run our families. At least in Delhi my husband can earn Rs 350 per day by taking labour jobs and I am also earning Rs 5000 by doing daily domestic chores at people’s houses,” says Suman Devi.
Devi, who comes from the Scheduled Caste, said people in Delhi do not care about the caste — but in Bundelkhand, even work at farm fields is given after enquiring about the caste of the person.
Asked why she is leaving for Delhi without exercising her right to vote here, the Dalit woman says, “What is the use of voting when not even Braham (a Hindu deity) can change the fate of their region? They will come begging for votes and will not show their face again before the next elections. Forget getting any work done by them for the people.”
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Exhibiting zero excitement regarding the festival of democracy, a large number of people coming from the lowest economic backgrounds from Jhansi, Lalitpur, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Banda, Hamirpur, Morena, Chhattarpur and Tikamgarh, leave every day for big cities — and the worst part is that the district administration which is responsible for encouraging the voters is paying no heed to this problem of migration.
Shockingly, Suman Devi tells this reporter that she has never cast her vote ever.
Heera Lal Gupta, 41, a labourer at a textile factory at Dwarka in Delhi says if he would wait in Jhansi for four more days, then he would not be able to pay the school fees of his kids.
“Polling will take place in four days. If I stay back here, I will lose four days of wages and won’t be able to pay my chidren’s fees on time. In any case, had voting made any difference to Jhansi’s development, we would not have been forced to leave our families and work in Delhi?” says Gupta, sweat dripping from his forehead.
The middle-aged voter adds he has been an ardent follower of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but now he feels disappointed as nothing was done for Jhansi and every promise turned out to be a jumla.
Pradeep Srivastava, a researcher based in Jhansi and working on drought since the past many years, says the problem of migration from the region is getting graver day by day.
“The region has been suffering from the government’s apathy and the problem of displacement or migration is taking a very grave shape. Bundelkhand now has nothing. The young workforce is in other cities, there is no water and the land is also becoming infertile due to the scarcity of water. The government also knows everything; the problem of drought in this region is decades-old,” Singh says.
Ashish Sagar, another journalist turned social activist from Banda district, says Bundelkhand region should be separated from both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and turned into a different state with a focus and a budget especially to tackle the drought-like situations.
“Budelkhand was already divested of its jal, jameen aur jawani (water, land and youth), and no work was done either. So what’s the point of voting?” asks Sagar.