Thursday, October 1st 2020

This village in MP has cell phone towers but no electricity

May 6, 2019

This village in MP has cell phone towers but no electricity

The story of Tinhawa, a village in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh, is the story of many villages across the length and breadth of the country. Tinhawa still does not have access to basic amenities like pucca roads or electricity even seven decades after the independence.

The government may have ignored the region but private companies have erected mobile towers. The village duly gets cellular network and its residents own smartphones, but they have to go to a village four kilometres away to charge these phones by paying Rs 10-15 every time.

Neeraj Kunder Sidhi, a theatre artist, streamed a Facebook live on April 13, 2019, showing the plight of the village. The video was shared over 800 times within a day. Some of the comments on the post talked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that 100% of the villages in the country had been electrified.

According to the residents of Tinhawa, their MP Riti Pathak has not visited the area even once since the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Both the MP and the MLA belong to the BJP, the party that ruled the state for 15 years before being ousted in the 2018 Assembly polls.

A second video was posted by Narendra Kunder Sidhi, in which he asks a 12-year-old boy, Ramesh Singh, about the plight of the villagers because of the absence of proper roads and electricity. Ramesh shares that he has to walk eight kilometres to reach school and that the children in the village study with the help of lanterns and oil lamps.

“Because of the lack of such facilities, most of the children from the village drop out after completing high school,” he adds.

Both Neeraj and Narendra are residents of Gopad Banas village in Sidhi district, which is about 60 kilometres from Tinhawa. They they visit Tinhawa regularly to meet their relatives.

Lale Prasad Kunder, 55, a resident of Tinhawa, told 101Reporters, “The village has a population of around 600, with approximately 220 eligible voters and every eligible person has a voter card but we don’t have the necessary facilities for living. To reach the village, people have to cover a long distance by bus and then they have to walk almost two kilometres.”

He added, “The MP comes only once in five years to seek votes. They don’t care about the conditions that we live in. Even to get drinking water, we have to walk five kilometres. Villagers don’t have access to pucca houses, proper water facilities, network of roads and they don’t even have proper toilets. Due to the unavailability of basic facilities, all villagers are unaware of any schemes and facilities provided by the government.”

The absence of electricity causes many problems for the inhabitants of the area. Narendra Singh, an activist, told 101Reporters, “Due to unavailability of electricity, the children are unable to study and so most of them drop out of school. Somehow boys in the villages manage to migrate to urban areas in order to continue their studies but girls remain uneducated. All this results in girls getting married before they even turn 18.”

The officials claim that the low population of the village could be a reason behind it not being electrified. GP Tiwari, Superintendent Engineer, Madhya Pradesh Poorva Kshetra Vidyut Vitaran Company, said: “Surveys were done recently to check the availability of electricity in rural areas across the state but may be due to the low population of the area, the engineers were unable to identify that village as unelectrified. Now I have the details and so I am going to take immediate action to provide electricity to the village as soon as possible. It will be our priority.”

In the video uploaded by Neeraj, he says that even though he had campaigned for Pathak in 2014, he won’t vote for her this time because he hasn’t seen any development in the area. He also said that the onus is on the voters to vote on their issues and not on the popularity of a party.

Roshni Prasad Mishra, an activist, said, “Neither the MLA nor the MP ever visits to check the condition of the village. They only get details from the Sarpanch of Kursar, the Gram Panchayat of the village. Even to meet the Sarpanch, the villagers have to walk five to six kilometres.”

A powerless panchayat
The residents of the village have approached the Sarpanch and others members of the Panchayat in the past but the villagers say that even they are unable to help them. Sachin Singh, a member of Kursar Panchayat, said, “I have filed complaints with the BDO and also contacted the electricity board but every time the complaints were filed but no action was actually taken.”

“The post of Sarpanch is a post with no actual power,” he added.

Other villages in the vicinity are smaller, less populated and also remain unelectrified. Villagers are hoping that if Tinhawa (the largest village in the area) gets electrified, the surrounding villages may also get the facility.

Neeraj spoke to 101Reporters about his initiative of showing Tinhawa’s condition live on Facebook. “Being a theatre artist, I am aware of social issues troubling people and I try to help people through this platform,” he said.

He mentioned that sometimes, political leaders were also invited as guests to his shows and there he talks about the issues faced by the villagers. He claims to have met and requested Pathak to look into the problems of electrification and roads of Tinhawa.

“After I posted the video, the residents of the district tried contacting officials. But still, there was no reaction from the administration. Later, when the media tried questioning the administration, they alleged that we are posting these videos to seek attention during the election season,” said Neeraj.

When contacted by 101Reporters, Pathak disconnected the call without answering the reporter’s questions.

(This story was first published on NewsCentral24X7.)