Scraping the dust bowl
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Bundelkhand, that barren and mute land splayed across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, has suddenly acquired powerful political champions. Reeling under drought for over five years, Bundelkhand's ecology and terrain set it apart from the rest of UP and MP, and its highly specific problems cannot be force-fit into state-wide prescriptions. Bundelkhand has no control over its own few resources, and its misery is largely lost on Lucknow. Uttar Pradesh is a state of elephantine dimensions, and it desperately needs to be carved into smaller geographies to ensure that each of these parts get administrative attention. Both Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi are agreed that the Bundelkhand area requires special intensive care. But instead of benefiting from their agreement, it is now emerging as bitterly fought-over turf for the Congress and BSP.
Statehood for Bundelkhand has been relegated to loud political point-scoring between the Congress and BSP because its poor, drought-stricken population hasn't had a strong enough political voice. Funds allocated per capita do not factor in the infertile region's special needs. It is administratively and politically ignored because its population density is a fraction of the UP average, and it sends a relatively tiny number of MLAs to the state assembly. Located on the border between two vast and unwieldy states, its issues appear remote to both state capitals. Unlike the agitations for Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, Bundelkhand raises no banners for itself. Perhaps it is too busy subsisting from one day to the next. The news from the region is full of farmers' suicides, of the selling of wives and daughters to stave off debt, of acute water scarcity and forced migration.
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