New Delhi: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, whose interventions have brought the backward Bundelkhand region into national focus on Thursday listened to the complaints of residents of the region straddling both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and assured them of all possible help.
"The Bundelkhand package money belongs to you. You must use it well and whatever issues you have, we shall try to address as best as we can," Rahul said.
The organisers said Rahul reached the venue of a public hearing out of his interest in the subject.
Compounded by an extreme form of feudalism in the region evident in the instances of atrocities on Dalits and women, Bundelkhand has not been able to benefit from the relief package of over Rs 7,000 crore from the centre announced two years ago.
The community members alleged corruption in the implementation of social security schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi national Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is worsening the situation. The public hearing was organised by NGO Action Aid.
"Our youngsters have left home to work in the cities. Our villages only have old people and children who are unable to fend for themselves," said Matabin, 55, of Tikamgarh district, Madhya Pradesh.
The organisers said a population of 21 million in Bundelkhand, which ranks among the least developed regions in India, is witnessing disappearance of a relief package that could have pumped fresh life into a region reeling under drought.
In the past eight years of drought, starvation and debt have claimed 2,945 farmers' lives in the region and there have been 519 farmer suicides in the last five months this year alone, said the organisers.
They said over 75 per cent of the rural households in the region are indebted and the average debt burden is assessed to be over Rs 45,000 per family.
Around 500 community members from Bundelkhand region spreading across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh listed their woes related to implementation of a central development package before a jury comprising junior Minister for Rural Development Pradeep Jain, Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, Hindi film actor and activist Shabana Azmi, activist Rajendra Singh and senior journalist Seema Mustafa.