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In Narendra Modi's model village, development has a caste

Badri Narayan | Updated on: 26 October 2015, 22:22 IST
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The village

  • PM Narendra Modi chose Jayapur in Varanasi as his model village
  • The village has been part of the RSS\' ideal village scheme as well

The upside

  • The residents of Jayapur are proud of this VIP status
  • They have benefited through the construction of excellent infrastructure

The flip side

  • The benefits haven\'t reached everyone in the village
  • Backward castes and Dalits have been left out to some extent

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's idea of a "model village" reflects a fragmented understanding of development.

The advantages end up reaching only privileged sections in the selected village, creating resentment in other sections and villages. In caste-divided villages, upper castes are invariably in a better position to take advantage of such schemes.

This lopsided impact of the scheme is exemplified by Jayapur, a model village in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.

The chosen village

The PM adopted Jayapur on 7 November 2014 under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. Incidentally, this isn't the first time the village has been adopted as a model village. In 2002, the village was adopted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) under its ideal village scheme.

Situated 28 km away from the Allahabad-Varanasi highway, it is on the border of the Varanasi and Mirzapur districts. The village is an oasis in the parched desert. As one enters the eastern gate of the village, one is greeted by a huge poster of Modi along with other BJP leaders.

Near the entrance gate is the newly built bus stop with steel benches, that has been sponsored by the Department of Posts, there is a bus that takes villagers near the city, funded by the Jalans a famous business house in Varanasi. Seated on these shining steel benches, the people of Jayapur feel proud to be residents of the "model village". The PM has given VIP recognition to this village and its residents.

Jayapur isn't just the PM's model village. In 2002, RSS adopted it under its ideal village scheme

Headed by a female Pradhan Durgawati Devi, this village with a total population of 4,200, has a mix of Patels, Bhumihars, Brahmins, Musahars, Yadavs, Banias, Kumhars and Dalits. The literacy rate is 76.36% (89.12% for men, 61.27% for women). Most of the people are dependent on agriculture. With a total female population of 3,205, women outnumber men by a huge margin.

The village has an ideal Kanya Vidyalaya and an Anganwadi Kendra, all of which are connected with metalled roads. A mere glimpse reveals that it is an affluent village endowed with all the amenities.

Caste divide

However within Jayapur, there are 8 families belonging to the Gaud community, who are living in appalling conditions. "We haven't received any benefits so far. We don't know when we'll get something. No one, not even the Pradhan, listens to us, " laments 45-year-old Narayan Gaud.

The only relief for Gaud has been a functional tap supplying potable water. "We have a road, but no sources of livelihood," he says.

A teenager, who belongs to the Brahmin caste, is far more positive. "The face of this village has changed. Neighbouring villages envy us. Have you ever seen such a modern village?" he asks.

As we approach the Musahar settlement in the village, we realise that it is connected only by a small footpath. The footpath passes through the Yadav basti.

Musahar basti has a Shabri Mata temple, perhaps the first temple exclusively built for Musahars

A resident of the basti, Dudhnath Yadav, approached us. He saw nothing positive in the government's initiatives. He said that the government has only put up temporary constructions. "Even the toilets constructed were temporary. The neigbouring Lohia village has more durable toilets," he said. He also complained that the benefits of the model village scheme didn't reach the Yadav community.

Musahar basti: the children still don't go to school

We finally reached the Musahar basti, which has been named Atal Nagar. With newly painted buildings, decorated pots and planted trees, this basti is nothing like any normal village in Uttar Pradesh.

We speak to one of the residents, Jeetu Banbasi. He tells us that the basti has a temple of Shabri Mata, which is perhaps the first temple exclusively built for Musahars. For ages, it has been believed that Shabri Mata fulfills all the unfulfilled wishes of her devotees.

The renovated hamlet and the temple have become a cause of immense pride among the residents of the Musahar basti.

We ask Jeetu why there are no proper roads connecting the basti. He replies, "we have to come through the Ahir (Yadav) basti. They block the road at times."

Intrigued by his answer we asked the young kids present, "Why don't you go to school?" The children innocently answered, "The school is in Jayapur. It is very far off".

Despite being a model village, the benefits haven't reached castes like Yadavs, Ravidasis and Gauds

Despite all the pomp and show of the village, the children of Musahar basti are still unable to go to school and feel one with the rest of the village.

They are excluded from the schools and Anganwadis situated in Jayapur. The social exclusion is such that they are left out even from the 'mini Anganwadi' functioning near the Ahir basti.

So despite the new infrastructure and the pride that people feel being part of a "VIP village," fundamental questions of social inequality remain unaddressed.

Therefore the question that needs to be asked is: is this model even sustainable? On our way back, we passed the bus stop again. An elderly couple were seated near it.

The woman asked us, with pain in her voice, "Have you got medicines for me?". We asked, "Don't the health centres of the village provide medicines?"

Her husband answered innocently, "We do not get these benefits". He said that he belonged to the SC Ravidas community

Only one question kept haunting my mind, "Does development have a caste?"

First published: 26 October 2015, 22:22 IST
 
Badri Narayan @CatchNews

The writer is a Social Historian and Cultural Anthropologist and currently Professor at the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad

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