In the Yavatmal district of Vidarbha, Dabhadi village has the unique distinction as one of the places that Narendra Modi had visited during his ‘Chai pe Charcha’ outreach programme before the Lok Sabha election of 2014. Over five years since that visit, most people in the village say that they have benefited from developmental work and will back the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
At this village, most people who support the saffron alliance say that they believe corruption has reduced and that they are receiving the benefits of welfare schemes. It is a similar story in several other parts of poll-bound Maharashtra.
Among those in Dabhadi who believe the saffron alliance is a better choice than the Opposition parties in the Assembly election is Vithhal Nagose. He says that under the present government, several roads have been built or repaired, and many people have also got the benefit of the Jan Dhan Yojana.
What’s more, he adds, "Because our village is known as the one that Modi had visited, files relating to development work here get cleared much faster.”
However, not all see things hunky-dory in Dabhadi.
According to news reports, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year, some people from the village had said that they would boycott the parliamentary polls over lack of development. An issue they had raised in particular was the failure of the authorities to repair a bridge over a nullah that would connect the village to a temple.
However, Nagose says that the boycott call was "only raised by a few Congress supporters".
"Most people did cast their votes in the election. Nevertheless, it is true that the demand for the repair of the bridge has not been fulfilled till now,” he informs.
Ganesh Rathod, a local who was an election official during the Lok Sabha poll, confirmed that despite the boycott most people from the village had turned up to vote.
Among those in Dabhadi who have a less positive view of development in the village is Sahebrao Aghade. He says, "The electricity supply in the fields is very erratic. Due to it, we are often not able to provide water for our crops properly."
In general, most people across the regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada seem to have a positive view of the Central Government, however, they offer mixed opinions on the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government’s performance in implementation and delivery of welfare schemes and basic services.
For instance, Sandip Mane, a teacher in Latur district, says that the implementation of the loan waiver scheme has "left a lot to be desired".
"Only about 25 percent of farmers got any actual benefit out of it, and it failed to cover the majority of cultivators. In particular, most of those who repaid their loans regularly did not get the refund amount (25 percent of the loan amount or Rs 25,000, whichever is less)," says Mane.
He, however, compliments the government over the implementation of the Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan. "It has effectively promoted the message of ‘paani adwa paani jirwa’ (ensuring that water is stored and allowed to percolate into the ground),” says Mane.
An initiative of the Government of Maharashtra, the Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds. It was launched to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019.
Senior journalist and environmentalist Atul Deulgaonkar, however, doubts the project will be able to achieve its stated goal. "The manner in which the Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan is being implemented is not appropriate. Widening of canals and removal of sand from river beds are activities that affect the flow of these water bodies. These measures do not help water to percolate. There must be an objective evaluation of the scheme to ascertain its effect – the parameter should be to see if water levels have improved as compared to the time before the scheme was implemented in a particular area," he says.
Its been over two years since the Government of Maharashtra announced its farm loan waiver scheme, but the waiver process is not over yet, and its implementation continues to be plagued by numerous complications.
Jeevan Suryavanshi, a local official of the Latur District Central Cooperative Bank says, “In some cases, the persons who had availed farm loans have passed away. Their children later applied for a waiver for their parents’ loan, but as they themselves have received the benefit of a partial refund under the scheme, they cannot get the waiver on behalf of their parents. According to the rules of the schemes, one person cannot avail of the benefits of more than one component of the scheme.”
Some beneficiaries are also unhappy with the government because they are forced to pay an upfront amount before availing subsidies under some schemes. Many people in rural Maharashtra say that they need the benefits of welfares scheme, but are not able to pay the upfront amount.
Shital Thakre, a social worker from Yavatmal district’s Ghatanji taluka, says that the problem exists for some schemes meant for the tribal community, such as those providing assistance to buy irrigation-related equipment.
However, that said, Thakre adds that the instances of benefits getting lapped up by the people who are not eligible for them are reducing. "Taking processes online has improved transparency,” he informs.
Toilets without water
With respect to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a flagship social welfare project of the BJP, most people seemed aware of the scheme and acknowledge that some work has been done in this regard, but reservations remain on its implementation.
"While toilets have been built under the scheme, they are not usable as they do not have a supply of water," says Kishan Chambarge from Gangapur in Latur district.
According to the official website of the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan (Gramin), Maharashtra has achieved 100 percent construction of toilets under the scheme, but without water supply, the success of the scheme on the ground is in doubt.
In a region facing poor rainfall once again, Chambarge doubts things will improve in the near future either.
Prahlad Shinde, a resident of Parbhani district’s Manoli village, highlights how in the race to make Maharashtra open-defecation free, the quality of toilets seem to have suffered.
"From what I have seen, the construction of the toilets is not of good quality. Some of them look like they can break with just a blow,” he says.
Will delivery of services make a difference?
In the aftermath the 2019 Lok Sabha election, many analysts argued that a reason for the NDA’s strong performance was the relatively better implementation of government schemes and delivery of basic services. During conversations with voters across the state, these issues did find prominent mention. But it is difficult to gauge whether these parameters are topmost in electors’ minds when they make their political choices. Especially since issues like water-dry toilets in parched regions of Maharashtra and poor implementation of loan waiver scheme were highlighted even before the Lok Sabha election.
In this regard, Jaideep Hardikar, a Nagpur-based journalist says, “I do not think there is any major improvement in the way schemes are being implemented. Given the poor state of the economy, it is all the more unlikely that the government will be able to do so. However, these issues appear to matter very less as of now. One is seeing a lot of polarisation in elections, and the BJP is also managing social alliances well. Congress is suffering from a lack of strong leadership at the Central and state level, which is affecting its electoral performance.”
The Maharashtra Assembly election, it seems, is likely to be more about the Opposition's ability to mount a challenge than the incumbent government's performance in fulfilling promises.
Updated Date: Oct 11, 2019 16:40:34 IST