Sonia Gandhi, UPA chairperson, nearly moved heaven and earth to ensure the passage of the food security and land acquisition bill. However, in her own political constituency Rae Bareli—just about 590 km from New Delhi—the two laws seem Latin and Greek to the people. The situation is no better in the neighbouring Amethi parliamentary constituency of her son and Congress second-in-command Rahul.
It isn’t the new laws people are interested in. “We do not even have access to potable drinking water in our village, Gurdeen Khera,” complains Ganga Ram, 46, a farm labourer. “Even if the food security bill is enacted, what good will it do us? After all, there is a public distribution system already in place, but how many actually get rations or kerosene oil, sold openly in the black market?”
Potable drinking water is a crisis of acute proportions even in Dighiya village under Amawan block, barely 15 km from the Rae Bareli district headquarter. “I don’t see how a law can provide food security. Won’t the implementation of the new law remain in the hands of the same corrupt officials who only know how to exploit the poor and the weak?” asks poverty-stricken Abdul Hafiz, least impressed by the announcements of the new laws. Mohammed Mustafa, a tailor in the same village, sees no hope from any act. “Unless a new mechanism is evolved to check corruption at all levels, these announcements will make no difference,” he feels.
Aware that their new acts would not garner votes without adequate publicity, Kishori Lal Sharma, Sonia’s right-hand man on the ground, is currently busy organising teams to spread the good word right across the 695 gram sabhas, 127 nyaya panchayats and 15 blocks in Rae Bareli. But it won’t be easy given the Akhilesh Yadav government is reluctant to implement the food security law.
Those living in Singrani ka Purwa and Sarvan village in Fursatganj in Amethi parliamentary constituency are equally sore with the existing pds. A large number of people complained that despite having rations cards, they weren’t receiving the food they were entitled to. When asked why they did not complain, the refrain was: “We’ll be beaten black and blue first by the shopkeeper, then by the cops. Even senior officials won’t listen to us. Even though Rahul Gandhi keeps visiting, it’s more a ta-ta, bye-bye affair, ordinary people have no access to him.”
By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow, Rae Bareli and Amethi
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