Ask around the villages in Raipur and Durg, and they seem largely unaware of the recently passed food security and land acquisition bills. Tell them about it, and they react with indifference. The state government in Chhattisgarh has been distributing foodgrains at nominal rates for the past five years, they say. So, what’s new? As for the land bill, some villagers do not hide their bitterness. It’s too little, too late for them. “How will it help? It will not affect land which has already been acquired,” they say.
The state’s food scheme, state food secretary Vikassheel told Outlook, covers 90 per cent of the population whereas the Centre’s food security legislation aims to cover only 78 per cent of the population. Chhattisgarh has an enviable public distribution system. A survey in four of its districts in 2009 revealed 92 per cent customer satisfaction.
That said, villagers of Mahuda, Ruhi and Khurmura in Durg are disappointed, even angry, at the poor education and health facilities in rural blocks like theirs. Their aspirations are growing and even a dramatic increase in the number of motorcycles, TVs, fridges, tractors and mobile handsets in Khurmura in recent years cannot gloss over “the bitterness at the continued neglect by the government of health and education”, Chitrasen Sonwani, who works as a kotwar, told Outlook.
Ishwari Bai Sonkar, a panch from Khurmura, is involved in a self-help group and also runs a small shop from a corner of her house, selling cosmetics, combs and other items of daily necessity. A Congress supporter, she has no clue about the weakening rupee but is hurt by the rising prices. Nor can she forgive the failure of the central government to contain inflation. She has seen the Bharat Nirman campaign on TV but does not know it is run by the UPA government. She, in fact, rates the performance of the state government even higher.
By Yashwant Dhote in Raipur and Durg
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