Yesterday, BJP national president Rajnath Singh visited the drought-affected areas of Maharashtra. Singh announced that he would request the prime minister to visit the areas and get relief packages. However, villagers claim that several politicians have come and gone but nothing has changed. They continue to get water roughly once a week for Rs 50 per drum.
Ramchandra Jinjhude of Chittegaon, who has been staying at a cattle shed, claims that had someone from the government visited, it would have made sense. “This is the opposition party. Can they do anything? They just come, speak and leave. We are left behind with promises and nothing else,” said Jinjhude.
Hirabai Jadhav of Pimpri Raja village, part of Singh’s itinerary, showed this reporter a drum which had no more than a few mugs of water. She said, “We had voted for the BJP, but since the time our village has been hit by drought we never saw any BJP leader here.”
Singh was on a day’s visit to the drought-hit regions in Aurangabad and Jalna. He visited at least a dozen villages and cattle sheds in these areas. Some villages get water once in three days, some once a week and the worst-affected get water once in 15 days. NGOs have been funding specially opened cattle sheds to feed and sustain the animals.
Villagers did not take Singh seriously when he said he would ask the government to reduce the farmers’ burden by giving them loans with zero interest. For example, some elders at Bhakarwadi village, which Singh visited, said they were too worried about their water situation to think of farmer loans.
Thurab Shah of Bhakarwadi said, “The cattle shed here is being run by a private trust and hardly any money comes from the state government to support it. Politicians merely ask us questions, then leave. Nothing happens,” he said.
Singh asked various farmers to tell him their problems. While listening to one such problem, BJP’s Gopinath Munde, accompanying Singh, called the tehsildar of the village and pulled him up in front of everyone. He reportedly asked him that if he was getting his salary, why the cattle were not being fed.
The trick was used by Vinod Tawde at another place, where he asked the sub-divisional magistrate the same thing. Singh apparently didn’t like the way bureaucrats were being questioned in public and left the spot to interact with other villagers. A bureaucrat who didn’t wish to be named said, “These netas are just embarrassing us. This is all nothing but politics.”
At the last village, Kaigaon, which Singh visited, a 70-year-old woman Sundaribai was trying to draw water from a well that had been filled by a water tanker. Asked what the politicians visit meant to her, she smiled and said, “I prefer filling the water before the well dries up.” Nitin Gadkari, state BJP president Sudhir Mungantiwar, and leaders from Vidarbha were not seen on the trip.
BJP’s promises to villagers
A visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh