Farmer suicides, poor development top poll issues in Bundelkhand

Farmer suicides top issues in B'khand
Jhansi, Apr 28: A former chief minister and a Union minister are in the fray in the Lok Sabha battle for Jhansi, regarded as the gateway to the Bundelkhand region where rising cases of farmers' suicides is a major poll issue despite a Rs 3,500 crore relief package for the area.

The part of Bundelkhand falling within Uttar Pradesh has four parliamentary seats, Hamirpur, Banda, Jalaun and Jhansi, which will be the most-watched contest after the entry of firebrand BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti in the fray.

Among her major opponents are Congress's sitting MP and Union minister Pradeep Jain, the ruling SP's treasurer Chandrapal Singh Yadav and Anuradha Sharma, wife of industrialist and former minister in the previous BSP government in the state, the late Ramesh Sharma.

A total of 15 nominees have filed their nominations here. The constituency, which will go to polls on Wednesday, has over 18.75 lakh electorates -10.05 lakh male and 8.70 lakh female voters. Famous in history for its legendary 'Jhansi ki Rani' Laxmi Bai, the Jhansi constituency is spread over an area of around 7 lakh hectares and is made up of five assembly seats -Babina, Jhansi Nagar, Mauranipur, Lalitpur and Mehroni.

The major election issues in Jhansi, and the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh as a whole, are the lack of basic infrastructure facilities like water, electricity and roads as well as poor law-and-order situation.

Moreover, adding to the farmers' woes in Bundelkhand, this year was the unseasonal rainfall in February and March which has destroyed around 30 per cent of the Rabi crop. In the aftermath of the ill-timed showers, there are reports of more than 32 farmer suicides here since March.

NGO workers on the ground allege that the Rs 3,506 crore which UP got as part of a Rs 7,266-crore package announced by UPA-II for the Bundelkhand region in 2009 has been improperly utilised and failed to change the luck of the people here.

"The UP part of Bundelkhand was allocated Rs 3,506 crore by the Centre, but if we look at the implementation, the results have not been as expected," according to a report by global NGO, Action Aid.

Although no comments could be taken from state government side officially on the issue of relief for farmers, one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the state government had last year waived loans of more than 29,000 farmers worth over Rs 63 crore.

According to reports, nearly 2,000 farmers lost their lives in the past eight years in this region of Uttar Pradesh that has seven districts - Banda, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Chitrakoot, Lalitpur and Mahoba.


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