Gandhi villagers complain of 'betrayal'

By Sanchit on Thursday, August 05, 2010

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Gandhi betrayelAbout 18 months ago, the then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband accompanied India's star politician Rahul Gandhi on a visit to the remote village of Semra in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The village is in the heart of Mr Gandhi's Amethi parliamentary constituency and the arrival of the two dignitaries - officially to see rural India in action - was met with much optimism among the villagers.

Mr Miliband even went so far as to spend the night in a small brick hut with only a simple bed and the braying of cattle outside for company.

Now embittered villagers say the arrival of the two men did little to alleviate their poverty and that promises by Mr Gandhi to help them out have not been fulfilled.

'No guaranteed employment'

Shiv Kumari, the poverty-stricken widow who provided accommodation for Mr Miliband in the ramshackle thatched hut - her only asset where she lives with her five little children - says that she feels let down.

While Mr Miliband to her remains just another "gora saheb" (white man), she says that she had many hopes from Mr Gandhi, who promised her a "pukka" house and a job that would enable her to make ends meet.

"Alas, all that I have received after his visit were four brick walls, without doors, windows or even a roof," she said.

"Rahul Gandhi also promised to get me inducted as a mate [supervisor] under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS)."

But she says the only work she has got so far under NREGS was over a period of 12 days and another time for a period of 15 days.

"I am barely able to make 45 to 50 rupees after a day's work in privately-owned fields and that employment is not guaranteed seven days of the week," the 25-year-old widow said.

"There are days when our family of six has to remain content with three rotis [unleavened flat bread] because we have no other option."

Mr Gandhi is a regular visitor to his Amethi constituency, recently showing Microsoft chairman Bill Gates around the area.

But Ms Kumari says she can get close enough to persuade him to carry out his pledge.

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