By Utpal Borpujari in Newadi / Juna (Sagar, MP)
Damodar Patel is a worried man these days. This 35-year-old farmer and a father of two is having a hard time finding water for his moong, sugarcane and a few other crops he is cultivating in his share of contiguous family-owned land.
The bore well that he uses to draw water for field and home usage is already over 450-feet deep, and he has spent over Rs 20,000 to set it up. If this source of water dries up, he will be in deep trouble as the crippling heat will kill the plants.
Patel’s is the story of thousands of farmers in the Bundelkhand region that straddles both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. “Even if we have a source of water, power supply is so erratic that there is no guarantee that we will be able to run our pumps when we need it,” says Patel.
It’s election time, and usually farmers like him are visited by vote-seeking politicians with promises to end their woes. But here in the adjacent villages of Newadi and Juna in Sagar district, which have got shifted from Sagar constituency to Damoh due to delimitation, even this breed is absent.
The two villages have a mixed population, of agrarian Kurmi community to which Patel belongs, Brahmins and scheduled castes. There are election meetings for sure, but they are being addressed by small-time leaders of Congress and BJP, the two main parties in contention.
But no, Congress candidate Chandrabhan Singh and BJP’s Shivraj Singh Lodhi are yet to visit the area, despite about 1,500 votes in the two villages.
Singh is the same guy who was expelled by BJP after being caught in the vote-for-cash scam. He has since joined Congress and has been fielded by the grand old party as its candidate from the constituency.
Both he and Lodhi belong to the Lodhi community, which probably explains why they have chosen to avoid these two villages where people from the community are not much in number – in caste and religion-based electoral politics, it is probably just a wastage of time to seek vote from people who do not belong to your preferred caste.
Damoh has been a BJP stronghold – Singh had won from here in 2004 – and is dominated by the Lodhi community, which is why a section of BJP leaders were highly interested in persuading Uma Bharti to return to the party fold and contest from here. She refused, though since then she has been campaigning for BJP even while still continuing with her her Bhartiya Jan Shakti Party.
Power here in this area is regularly truant. You would be lucky if there the power cut is less than 15 hours in a 24-hour cycle. Whatever power supply is there, it is usually in the night time, so farmers turn on their pumps at night time, to draw water and fill up their wells, and re-pump it to their fields, in many cases using drip irrigation the virtue of which they have come to recognise.
As summer descends and rains are still far away the farming community here is a worried lot. The story all across MP is similar – even in state capital Bhopal, some areas are getting water supply after every three days while in Ujjain it is every nine days!
Not surprisingly, water is a major election issue in MP this time, and all the candidates are promising to find a solution to the problem once elected. Promises during elections, however, are easy to come by. Voters know this, but still they vote, hoping against hope that politicians would deliver. Would they, this time?