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For the past two years Bundelkhand has been in the news all for the wrong reasons. For the residents of Bundelkhand even that is good news because at least someone is interested in them! The Bundelkhand region lies in central India and was home to great personalities such as Rani Laxmibai, Singer Kishore Kumar, Hockey great Major Dhyanchand, and Osho Guru Rajneesh and is home to Khajuraho.

For over 8 years, this region has been facing a drought. As is usual, the politicians across party lines don’t care about it because the region lies between two states, namely: Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Due to the moneylender’s trap (you borrow money at a very high interest rate and are not able to pay back even the interest as your crop is poor because of the drought), the farmers are committing suicides, selling their land, cattle and even their wives. One problem is that the soil here retains very little water unlike the black soil in other regions of Madhya Pradesh. If it does not rain at the right time with the right consistency, the drought-related distress affects the next year’s Rabi crop as well.

Another problem is the myopic drought policy – relief is given only if the standing crop fails. Many farmers who wait for the rains to begin sowing do not qualify as distressed because the monsoon failure does not give them an opportunity to plant. The irrigation facilities in Madhya Pradesh are a total disaster and on the side of Uttar Pradesh no one seems to care.

When the case of wife selling came out – the debt-ridden farmers are selling their women to money lenders at rates varying between Rs 4,000 and 12,000. The prettier the face, higher the amount the woman fetches – all hell broke loose for good reasons.The deals were being finalized on legal stamp paper under the garb of ‘marriage.’ The stamp paper heading said ‘Vivaha Anubandh (Marriage Contract)’.

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And once the new husband has had enough of the woman, she is sold to another man. Some turn to prostitution. According to the police, many of these wife-turned-prostitutes have been rescued in the last two years. Even the international media seems interested in the “plight” of these people because selling one’s wife in one of India’s multiple poverty stricken districts is something that their audiences would love to hear and it would re-affirm their long held stereotype of India.

When the news of farmer’s suicides from this region came in, it joined the likes of Telegana and Vidharba in being treated with indifference by politicians. Thankfully Gandhi Junior’s involvement and interest saw the region get a 7,000 Crore relief package. He demand for a separate body for the development of the region is yet to see light from the Government. He is said to have discussed with PM, a detailed view of the budget and an all out development project for that would not only include agricultural activities but also improvements in education and industrialization of the region.

The whole deprivation has led to the people of Bundelkhand to demand a separate state so that they can take the matters into their own hands and not have to rely on the hierarchies of the government. This way they can undertake economic activities that will benefit them and would ensure that the money meant for them from the center actually reaches them.

The issue of a separate state is not new for Bundelkhand. At the time of Independence it was a separate state but was later dissolved and dispersed between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The centre, however, seems reluctant to carve out a new state citing the failure of the three states created by the NDA namely: Jharkhand, Uttrakhand and Chhattisgarh.

The implementation of the current schemes such as NREGA might bring about a part of the required. But for the long term sustenance of the region a larger plan needs to be chalked out. A plan where a region is not left behind in the overall development of India, even if it means creating a new state.