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13-05-2024

12:00:AM

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GS 2 : [Social Justice]

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  • Politicians and celebrities are frequent visitors to the Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik, but just 22 km from it is the Takeharsh gram panchayat where people have never seen a single political party campaigning for an election.
  • Of the 250 households in the gram panchayat, 90 do not have ration cards, and those that got cards recently were asked to pay ₹500 per person. Despite that, they still do not get ration. During the COVID-19 lockdown, said the villagers, they did not receive foodgrains under the Prime Minister’s free ration scheme.
  • Home to Scheduled Tribes such as Warli, Katkari and Kokni, the area does not have electricity, water connections and public transport. People here are not aware of the political representatives for the Lok Sabha election, but they vote anyway. “No one ever visited us. How will we be familiar with their faces and party symbols? We press whatever button (on the EVM) our eye catches first and get done with it,” said 52-year-old Tulsabai Gangaram Pingle from Takeharsh.
  • Polling takes place in a government school 3 km away from the village. Bhaudu Ramu Pingle, 40, is a daily wage labourer who feels if he does not vote, he will be declared dead in the government documents. “We are scared that if we do not vote, the government will strike off our names from their documents and declare us dead. If that happens, then our existence will be in danger. What will happen to our family then?” he said.

Struggle for ration card

  • Sonali Vijay Nirgude, a 25-year-old woman who runs a household of 10 members, said it has been “eight years since we have been trying to get ration cards for our family”.
  • “We have visited all the government offices in Nashik and even sent applications to the Chief Minister’s office in Mumbai, but nothing has worked. We come from underprivileged families. For us, if we get foodgrains through ration, it will be helpful to feed our families,” she said.
  • Umabai Madhukar Awhate, 40, from Nirgud Pada, registered for a ration card four years ago by paying ₹500 per card for her family of four, but only she and her husband could secure cards. “I only got ration once four years ago and it was wheat and rice,” she said. “During the lockdown, we did not receive any ration.”

‘No govt. facility’

  • Ms. Umabai said except for the Indira Gandhi Awas Yojana, her village does not have any government facility such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, piped water supply or electricity.
  • Mirabai Panduranga Awhate, 37, from Nirgur Pada, married off her daughter at the age of 13 during the lockdown due to scarcity of food and income. Her 17-year-old son takes up small jobs at construction sites. In the absence of a ration card, she said, the family starved during the lockdown.
  • “My husband passed away 15 years ago. Two years ago, I along with other villagers went to the tehsildar’s office asking for our ration cards, but we were insulted by the official,” Ms. Mirabai said.
  • She had heard about the widow pension scheme last year, but her application remains on hold. “I was asked to submit documents such as income certificate, death certificate of my husband, Aadhaar card, bank account passbook, and residential proof. I paid them ₹100 to get an income certificate, but it has been over a year and there has been no word from them,” she said.
  • Rakmabai Dagru Nirgude from Nirgud Pada is 60 years old. For the last 15 years, her husband, who is a farmer, has been partially paralysed. “Since there is no water and electricity, we cannot grow many crops, so my sons have to take up jobs as daily labourers. It has been days since we have not had drinking water. We live just a kilometre away from Vaitarna Dam, which supplies water to Mumbai city, but we do not receive water to drink or irrigate fields.”

Fight for water

  • To source water, villagers mostly walk to the nearest backwater,Vaitarna, 2 km away, where they dig to source clean water for drinking. Some trespass on private property and take water from wells.
  • “There are days we are caught, they shout and humiliate us, but we are left with no choice as we fall sick drinking from the backwaters,” said Yashoda Naresh Nirgude, 28.
  • Two months ago, a pregnant Varsha Yogesh Nirgude, 24, had gone to the nearest Primary Health Centre, 30 km away in Anjanari village, for delivery. “There was not a single medical staff member and I delivered with the help of my mother. Hours later, a medical staff came and sent me to Nashik for further medical care. It was a nightmare,” she said.
  • Among other government schemes, the villagers wish to getNamo Shetkari Yojana, sanitary napkins, electricity, toilets, potable water, healthcare, and employment within their village so that they do not have to migrate in search of jobs.
  • Laxmikant Jadhav, from BELIEFS, an NGO working for the livelihood and empowerment of tribal communities, said, “The process and technicalities of getting work or access to government schemes are complicated and hence many are intimidated to approach officials. We have asked for an unemployment allowance for the villagers who have not been able to get work underMGNREGAwithin 15 days. If the villagers do not get work, they will be forced to migrate.”
  • On December 22, 2023, 101 women of Nirgud Pada demanded regular work under MGNREGA. On January 26, 2024, they filed a complaint in the gram sabha and within a week some of them got work to construct a small dam with stones. However, only one-third of the labourers were accommodated, and the rest were not hired as they did not have KYC.

Camps for Aadhaar

  • Shweta Sancheti, Tahsildar from Trimbakeshwar, said, “Two months ago, we began camps to get the villagers registered for Aadhaar cards as most of them do not have documents. So far, we have approved 740 ration cards. The work is on hold due to the model code of conduct norms. We will continue the work after the election is over.”


GS 2 : [IR: India and its Neighbourhood] 

GS 2 : [Governance : Government Policies & Interventions]