Cities & Architecture

No Place to Call Home for Residents of Rural Uttar Pradesh

On the housing list for over six years, residents of villages in Bundelkhand’s Chitrakoot district still await roofs over their heads.

The residents of villages Ramnagar & Aagarhuda in Chitrakoot have been on the list of those entitled for permanent colonies since 2011. Credit: Khabar Lahariya

“Unless you come here, right here to where we are… until you live amongst us, you will never know the desperation we face every single day. You cannot comprehend our suffering”, says Bholiya, a resident of Aagarhuda, a village in the district of Chitrakoot in Bundelkhand.

The residents of this village do not have a place to call home, nowhere to rest their heads at the end of a long day, apart from makeshift spaces.

The village is deep inside the innards of a state that’s been drawing attention for infant deaths, electricity thefts and controversial remarks by its chief minister Yogi Adityanath. It is on this forgotten piece of land that lives and destinies play out a macabre dance of death; where the promised entitlements of rural policies, touted as among the numero uno reasons for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the state earlier this year, are nowhere to be seen or felt.

The residents of villages Ramnagar & Aagarhuda in Chitrakoot have been on the list of those entitled for permanent colonies since 2011, in accordance with the Pradhan Mantri Aawaas Yojna or Gramin Aawaas Yojna, the chapter dedicated specifically for rural India. And it’s not like the policy has been left completely unimplemented either – but the progress has followed such a snail’s pace that it’s been as good as nothing. Just the population of Ramnagar, for instance, is approximately 5000 but since 2011, only four colonies have been allotted to the residents.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk of “khaate mein paise aana”. Santoshiya of Aagarhuda village is not sure which list came when, but she knows she is a “paatra” (entitled) for this particular policy. The village pradhan, she says, had mentioned to her that they should get their houses built on their own money, and that the government would offer refunds – that the money would be transferred to their bank accounts. Needless to say, this has neither happened nor does Santoshiya expects it to happen. Ramariya of Ramnagar village huddles together all the members of her family – and some friends/neighbours – who she shares her one-room home with, offering to give us a look inside while Rani Devi tries hard not to have a breakdown in front of the camera.

The Additional District Officer, Manish Kumar Dwivedi, takes us through the details as he understands them – a phenomenon we encounter in rural UP quite often, so much that we have a term for it: “Paperwork-by-rote”. Looking around for corroboration on the numbers, he is half-assured himself when he tells us that they’re going down the list. “But what about the 2011 list?”, we ask. “I’m talking about the 2016-2017 list,” he says, nonplussed.

Those entitled, in the meantime, are living their lives mapping the distance between a policy that is planned and a policy that is implemented. It’s a chasm that often keels one over to the abyss. As Bholiya says, “One day, these makeshift houses will come tumbling down, and we’ll die, buried underneath the rubble.”

This piece first appeared on Khabar Lahariya.

Khabar Lahariya is a rural, video-first digital news organisation with an all-women network of reporters in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh.