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The Empty Promise of ‘Vikas’ for this Maharashtra Village

Residents of this village on the foothills of the Satpura range are yet to reap the benefits of Narendra Modi’s much-touted ‘acche din’.

Lofty figures are floated when the government wants to boast about how many Indians are online, but in that hullabaloo, they conveniently leave behind how many don’t even have access to proper network. Kirsingh Wasave has an almost redundant phone that he mainly uses for playing games and watching already downloaded movies. He can’t make any calls because his village of Bamani in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district doesn’t get any range, and that certainly doesn’t allow him any access to the internet.

The idea of modernity has taken some intangible shape and form – it is the idea of ascertaining individual rights and freedoms, and engaging in activities and pleasures that achieve one’s goals and life’s desires. As the world has come closer together in one sense through the television, phones and now social media, the idea of every individual being able to realise themselves has pervaded even the remotest parts of the world.

One of the most popular slogans chimed by Narendra Modi, other than ‘acche din’ (better days) is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. While he did get everyone’s ‘saath’ (support) by virtue of winning the election, the ‘sabka vikas’ (everyone’s progress) is yet to materialise. Bamani village with a 100% Adivasi population of the Bhil people, is lacking not only cellphone range, but also the basic access to electricity. Most recently Modi was found congratulating himself by declaring that all villages in India have been electrified. His proud declaration, however, left many confused and others with a false impression of the truth.

Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent Chetan Salve reports that parts of this village have already been submerged because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project so there is the fear of more people, whose lives are dependent on their immediate environment, losing their livelihood. Hence, the need for the omni-promised vikas is even greater here, and it is here that its manifestation is so negligible.

Other issues in the village include a dysfunctional anganwadi (childcare centre), a primary health centre that does not function 24/7 and is understaffed, with nurses not visiting pregnant mothers and also to offer vaccinations to children, rampant malnutrition, minimal job opportunities, a school where teachers rarely turn up, no pensions for the elderly and at the time this video was made, the people of this village had not received ration for nine months. Having said that, soon after the video was made, through Chetan’s personal efforts of advocacy the village received ration and the children were vaccinated.

In April 2017, the Indian Express reported that “every year 40,000 children slip into malnutrition in tribal-dominated Nandurbar”. According to Chetan, last year 839 children died of malnutrition in the district. While in this year’s budget, Maharashtra has earmarked INR 11,121 crores for Tribal Development. This fund has been allocated through the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Social Development Scheme for providing basic facilities in settlements of Scheduled Tribes and Navbuddha communities and is a 22% jump from last year’s budget; as per the same story, in 2015-2016, “of the 2 crores sanctioned by the Tribal Department to the ICDS in Nandurbar, there [was] zero expenditure”. Also, in this year’s budget, Maharashtra has allocated only 4% towards health, which is one of the lowest in the country, apart from a 9% reduction in its budget towards rural development.

Chetan believes that the reason vikas has not reached Bamani is because the government has declared 33 villages in two districts as villages falling within the submerged zones. However, doesn’t that make you wonder why these people haven’t been given the groundwork to create a better life all the more? “Political leaders are answerable. They have their own motives to let things remain the way they are,” he says.

India has the best laws, but their implementation is the worst, you might have found people lamenting. Every human’s right to a life with basic rights is so often challenged by political dysfunction, isn’t it? Well, after so many people have gotten the glimpse of the shiny diamond called vikas, the government needs to live up to its promise. Prolonged cycles of promises before the election and their subsequent non-delivery post-election can lead to ressentiment – what the author of the Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra, describes as “an existential resentment of other people’s being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humiliation and powerlessness. Ressentiment as it lingers and deepens [can] poison civil society and undermine political liberty”.

Video by Community Correspondent Chetan Salve

Article by Shreya Kalra, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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