(News) Bundelkhand voters put candidates through a test

Bundelkhand voters put candidates through a test
D K Singh / Banda/Hamirpur April 27, 2007

People in the drought-hit Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are forcing aspiring Assembly candidates to take a written test. This comprises a 25-point questionnaire to test a candidate’s knowledge of the rural economy and the problems farmers face.

Desperate to win over the otherwise apathetic electorate – the region covers four Assembly seats — candidates are visiting villages to write the test titled “Face-to-face with the reality in Bundelkhand” and “Experience Proforma”.

With some NGOs calling for a boycott of the Assembly elections in Bundelkhand to protest against the political class’s indifference to the plight of starving farmers, candidates are taking no chances.

Here’s a sample of the questions: Why are farmers in Bundelkhand committing suicide? To turn the course of rivers (river-linking project), the government has taken conditional loans from the World Bank and decided to privatise water. What do you think of it? What is your solution to the growing despondency among farmers?

The answers of the candidates are more or less along expected lines, with most of them blaming the government and its policies to placate farmers.

Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from Banda district Seeraj Dhwaj Singh, for instance, wrote that the increasing pressure of the World Bank will take the country towards slavery. Others opposed privatisation of water.

Answers submitted by 20 candidates from different constituencies in Bundelkhand, copies of which were obtained by Business Standard, gave a glimpse into the minds of aspiring legislators. All of them attributed farmer suicides to “starvation, debts”.

According to Pushpendra Bhai from Gram Swarajya Prahari Prashikshan Sansthan, the NGO that was instrumental in convincing villagers to conduct the written test, “We want an end to the rhetorical promises of politicians. About 20,000 people from 380 villages in seven districts of Bundelkhand region have already decided to boycott the elections. Farmers will no longer be satisfied with lip service.”

As for the solution to farmers’ problems, suggestions included better irrigation facilities, change in policies and priorities, etc. SP’s Harishchandra Arya’s solution was “rainfall”. All of them agreed that the pay, perks and allowances of MLAs should be reduced.

Courtesy: Business Standard