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The "Amethi Model of Development"!

by A. Surya Prakash

Mr.Rahul Gandhi, the Congress Party's undeclared nominee for the office of Prime Minister, has been constantly mocking at the "Gujarat model of development" and also asserting that the Gujarat model cannot be applied to other parts of the country. Ms.Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother and President of the Congress Party and Rahul's sister Priyanka Vadra have also been ridiculing the Gujarat model and shooting barbs at Mr.Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party's nominee for the office of prime minister.

Over the last decade, Mr.Modi has focused on many areas of development including electricity generation and distribution,infrastructure development, conventional energy sources etc. For example, every home in Gujarat is assured of 24 X 7 electricity supply and this has had a positive impact on children's education and domestic industries. There has also been a marked improvement in the quality of roads, schools and hospitals. Gujarat was also one of the early states to launch the emergency ambulance service that ensures immediate and quality first aid to citizens across the state in medical emergencies.

Instead of acknowledging the good work of this state government in all these sectors, the Nehru-Gandhis have been launching a shrill attack on Mr.Modi and have desperately tried to run down his achievements. This has prompted people to ask: What is the Amethi model of development?

This writer has visited Amethi and Rae Bareli on several occasions since 1984. Thirty years ago Amethi was as backward as Mandya or Anantapur and therefore one could say that its development or non-development was at par with districts in other states which were at some distance from the state capital. However, over the last three decades many Indian states have witnessed substantial development and the once backward districts are now flourishing business and agricultural centres with top class infrastructure, roads, hospitals and round-the-clock electricity. One should visit Shimoga Town in the heart of Karnataka now to understand what public representatives can do to a district which reposes faith in them. But poor, poor Amethi, which has been represented almost continuously by the Nehru-Gandhis for over thirty years, finds itself left behind.

So, while Rahul Gandhi pooh-poohs the Gujarat model, what is the Amethi Model of Development? Here is a sample: On a recent visit to the district this writer was shocked to see an angry mob surrounding a truck carrying domestic gas cylinders in Gauriganj. On enquiry, one learnt that this is a weekly affair in Amethi. Every consumer is required to register with the gas agency for a refill and wait for the truck to arrive. On an average one has to wait for a fortnight to get a refill. When the fresh stock arrives, the agency does not inform the consumer who has registered for a refill. So, consumers lay in wait on the highway, sometimes from morning to dusk and swoop on the truck on arrival. Then comes some rowdy exchanges and fisticuffs amongst consumers on who has the first right to a refill. Ultimately, those who succeed in getting a refill triumphantly carry the cylinders of on their motorcycles.

Domestic gas production and distribution is in the direct charge of the Union Ministry of Petroleum. Since Rahul Gandhi has been the MP from Amethi for ten long years and since he has been running the Union Government by proxy along with his mother, how come he could not do a simple thing like ensuring smooth distribution of LPG cylinders to his constituents? We must call this The Amethi Model of Development!

Equally shocking were the tales one heard about distribution of kerosene, a critical fuel for families below the poverty line and sugar from the Public Distribution System. Since kerosene is used to adulterate diesel and also for industrial purposes, black marketers eye this product unlike anything else. In Amethi, the story is that local 'Dabangs' (bullies) corner the kerosene stocks that come into the district every month. The PDS shopkeeper shoos away poor consumers who seek their monthly quota of kerosene. According to Amethi residents, they are denied their legitimate quota of kerosene for 9 months in a year. Like, kerosene, sugar too disappears from the PDS network. How come the MP from Amethi is unaware of this and how come he has done nothing to set this right? But then, we must remember that this is The Amethi Model of Development!

Let us now look at another key element that makes for a better life for the poor, the middle class and the rich - Electricity. Although the Nehru-Gandhi family has enjoyed continuous power at the Centre since independence, the power supply situation in Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies is pathetic. Residents of Amethi town and the villages say that electricity supply is totally erratic and that their lives are miserable, specially in the dreadfully hot summer months from April to October. Electricity supply in the rural parts of these constituencies is confined to about ten hours per day. There is electricity in the morning one week and during the night the following week. Villagers say that they look forward to power supply to charge their mobile phones. Those who are slightly better off, charge their inverters as well. Power supply is better in Rae Bareli and Amethi towns, but even here, residents of Amethi say they face power cuts for a couple of hours every day. However, the large mass of people living in the villages in these two constituencies survive without electricity for most of the day. The villagers say that they have got "habituated" to it. They sleep on their terraces or under trees and since electricity is never there, their lives do not revolve round it. But, there are limits to their patience as well. That is why 1000 voters of Tyonsi Village, who have lived without electricity for 15 years have told the media that they are not voting in this election to protest against the non-performance of their MP.

Contrast this with Gujarat where Narendra Modi has ensured 24 X 7 electricity to every home in a big state. Therefore, it is rather funny to see the MP from Amethi taking pot shots at Mr.Modi on a daily basis, when he is unable to ensure even ten hours of electricity to his constituents in a single district which he has represented for ten long years and which his family has represented for several decades before that. But the most frightening thing is that Rahul Gandhi wants the entire country to adopt The Amethi Model of Development!

In both Amethi and Rae Bareli, the condition of primary schools is pathetic. Most of these schools do not have drinking water facilities or toilets. Many of them have no boundary walls, so much so that villagers defecate around the school building daily and the children have to wade through all this to reach their class rooms. The Union Government has launched a national scheme for construction of toilets and is even tom-tomming this as a major initiative of the UPA coalition, but neither Ms.Sonia Gandhi nor Mr.Rahul Gandhi have found it necessary to get the scheme to their constituencies. Mr.Gandhi must visit schools in rural Karnataka, Maharastra, Gujarat and even Madhya Pradesh to learn how clean and neat schools can be. He could also learn from MPs representing these constituencies on how they invest their time and effort to improve basic infrastructure in their constituencies. If he does that and if he has the capacity to learn from fellow MPs, one can be certain that he will dump The Amethi Model of Development.

The fifth and most obvious and visible example of constituency neglect by the man who represents it in Parliament is the state of the roads in a constituency. Amethi scores low on this count as well. Travel from Jagdishpur to Amethi via Gauriganj and you will have a sense of how responsible the MP representing Amethi has been. Parts of the road from Gauriganj to Amethi is absolutely pathetic. The Amethi-Pratapgarh road is equally bad. Some of the worst roads in this area are the roads connecting Sultanpur and Gauriganj and Gauriganj and Rae Bareli. These are all roads crisscrossing the constituencies represented by the Nehru-Gandhis for decades.

Mr.Rahul Gandhi talks every day about the food security bill and the reformed public distribution system (PDS) that the UPA Government has implemented. If this is the reformed PDS – local goons cornering kerosene and sugar supplies and LPG cylinders – one wonders what it must have been like in the preceding decades!

It must indeed be the greatest irony of Indian politics that a district which reposed faith in a family that has ruled this country either directly or through proxy for close to 50 years since independence, is today one of the laggards in regard to development. Asked why the Nehru-Gandhis have neglected Amethi and Rae Bareli in this manner, more than one person told this writer that the Nerhru-Gandhis had developed a vested interest in poverty, under-development and illiteracy. Another said "If you can garner votes simply by waving your hand at the crowds, why do you have to develop the constituency?". After seeing Amethi 2014, it was rather amusing to hear Ms.Priyanka Vadra claim in a campaign speech in the constituency that her brother Rahul was a "doordarshi" (person with foresight)!

Where do we go from here? We must show case the Amethi Model of Development as an example of crass irresponsibility on the part of a people's representative and of gross betrayal of public trust. Thankfully, most of our MPs have not adopted this model. Instead, they have shown commitment to constituency development and invested their time and effort in developing the districts that have reposed trust in them. That is why, while Mandya, Anantpur, Bilaspur, Amethi etc all looked alike 30 years ago, the first three have moved on to become modern, well developed districts with good infrastructure, but Amethi is left behind. What could be the reason? The Amethi Model of Development, ofcourse!

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