Late last month, when Varanasi experienced one of the heaviest rains of the season, power supply snapped in the posh Nirala Nagar area of the city early in the morning. The rain stopped in a couple of hours but the electricity remained missing. Even after six hours when electricity supply was not restored, a resident enquired from the local SDO about the fault.
“The electric supply will be restored within 30 minutes,” the SDO said. When even after two hours electric supply did not resume, the consumer again called up the electricity officials, only to get the same response: “Line will be restored in 30 minutes.”
By that time, it was dark. No electricity meant no water supply either. The consumer then decided to shift to a hotel till electric supply was restored. The supply was restored after 36 hours, leaving approximate 8,000 residents fuming. The contrast in the situation before the Lok Sabha General Election and after could not have been starker, people say.
Before the elections, officials were on their toes. Grievances were addressed quickly and electricity supply in the Prime Minister’s constituency had improved beyond belief. It was good to live in the PM’s constituency. Varanasi badal raha hai, they smugly told each other.
But barely three months after the election results came out, a large number of them seem dissatisfied. The condition of roads, they say, are now pathetic. All the major roads, which were repaired just a year back, have developed potholes.
Garbage is strewn around the city roads as there is no arrangement for proper disposal. Electricity plays truant even more frequently than at the peak of summer and the city which one boasted having 24X7 power supply, is now starved of electricity.
“Living in Varanasi is like living in hell. We earlier used to take pride that Varanasi is the PM’s constituency. If this is the state of affairs in the PM’s constituency, God knows what must be happening in other cities in UP,” quips a resident Lal Chand Gupta.
“Earlier the administration too used to take pains to project Varanasi as the PM’s constituency. That urgency and dedication seems to be missing now,” he added.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, a civil society worker and founding member of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, blames corruption for the worsening civic conditions in Varanasi. Money, he alleges, would have exchanged hands in every construction work. The conditions of roads are bad because quality was ignored during construction, he says.
“The extent of corruption can be assessed from the fact that a PWD contractor committed suicide inside the chamber of a Chief Engineer because officers were asking for higher cuts to clear their dues,” he said.
In practical terms, no development work has taken place in Varanasi over the last five years. Cosmetic works in a part of the riverfront, the approach from the airport to the city and the airport itself may look impressive but all this has made little difference to the lives of the people of Varanasi.
The number of PR events has gone up exponentially. Advertisements making tall claims have also gone up. But the fact is, Raghuvanshi claims, the local BJP leaders benefitted by distributing contracts to their own people. Now that the election is over, they have lost interest. And possibly the flow of money is also drying up. There are three ministers from Varanasi in the ministry of Yogi Adityanath. But they, say the people, appear equally helpless or hopeless.