Bundelkhand: Struggle for Basic Amenities Exposes Casteism and Neglected Development in Banda Village

With no reliable means of transportation, children from lower castes are deprived of educational opportunities, allowing upper-caste individuals to maintain their dominance.
The women of the village have been joined by the women of neighbouring village
The women of the village have been joined by the women of neighbouring village

Banda— In the village of RajaRam-Ka-Purwa, located in the Banda district in Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh, Dalit and tribal villagers have faced an uphill battle in their fight for basic amenities. The predominantly Dalit and tribal community launched an indefinite strike ' Satyagraha' to demand essential facilities, only to call it off after receiving assurances from the administration.

One of the main issues faced by the villagers is the prohibition on using properties owned by upper-caste individuals as thoroughfares. Violation of this restriction could result in forced labor, known as "Begaar." Furthermore, the condition of village roads is deplorable, with no tarred surfaces and only muddy paths. As a result, the village, situated 17 kilometers away from the district headquarters, becomes inaccessible during the rainy season. This lack of proper roads also prevents ambulances from reaching the village, forcing villagers to transport the sick on cots to nearby hospitals.

The absence of motorable roads has severely impacted the education of children in the village. With no reliable means of transportation, children from lower castes are deprived of educational opportunities, allowing upper-caste individuals to maintain their dominance.

In a report published by Newsclick, it was revealed that the village, with a population of 700, is predominantly inhabited by Kuchbandia tribals and Dalits, while only five families belong to the upper castes. Unfortunately, the upper-caste families have managed to restrict the movement of tribals and Dalits, leaving them to work as laborers to make a living.

Decades of Neglect: Villagers Embrace Satyagraha to Demand Motorable Road

The villagers' prolonged demands for a motorable road have gone unnoticed for over four decades, leading them to resort to a satyagraha, or peaceful protest, on June 21st. Recognizing the transformative power of satyagraha, the villagers sought to draw the attention of officials and the government.

Remarkably, the satyagraha movement is led by women and garners support from neighboring villages. Neha, a pregnant woman participating in the protest, expressed her concerns about the lack of a hospital in the village and the inaccessibility of an ambulance. She feared that if she encountered any complications, timely medical assistance would be impossible.

However, the absence of motorable roads is not the only challenge faced by the villagers. The women participating in the protest highlighted the lack of basic amenities, such as schools, electricity, hospitals, and a meager supply of only two taps for the entire village.

The protestors alleged being pressured to end their satyagraha, emphasizing the urgent need for attention and action from the authorities. Some villagers took matters into their own hands and penned a letter to the district administration, appealing for the construction of a road connecting the village to the railway gate.

This distressing reality of underdevelopment in villages of Uttar Pradesh contradicts the state government's ambitious goal of achieving a $1-trillion economy. While the government boasts about signing MoUs worth thousands of crores during the Global Investor Summit, villages like Banda remain entrenched in medieval casteism and suffer from a lack of progress.

State women commission Member Prabha Gupta speaking to protesting villagers.
State women commission Member Prabha Gupta speaking to protesting villagers.

Fortunately, the satyagraha initiated on June 21st managed to capture the attention of the administration. Prabha Gupta, a member of the State Women's Commission, along with other district-level officials, visited the protest site and persuaded the women to end their protest. Assurances were given that the process of road construction would soon commence. Moreover, job cards were distributed to underprivileged families, and a camp was organized on June 27th to facilitate the issuance of job cards and ration cards.

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