What are the expectations of Uttar Pradesh's aadhi aabadi from the new government?
Wooed for their votes with free ration, gas cylinders, smartphones, and scooters, here is what Uttar Pradesh's 44 per cent electorate – its women – expect from the new government that is set to be formed.
Shivani Gupta 11 March 2022 3:40 PM GMT
Mohanlalganj (Lucknow), Uttar Pradesh
On March 10, yesterday, assembly election results were announced in five states that recently went to polls. In four of these states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to form the new government, whereas the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has got a majority in Punjab.
In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, BJP has won 255 seats out of a total of 403 assembly constituencies. During the elections, women voters, often referred to as aadhi aabadi (half the population), who comprise 44 per cent of the electorate in the state, were a key factor with poll promises made by all the political parties on women empowerment and safety.
A day after the UP Elections Result 2022, Gaon Connection met women voters in rural parts of Lucknow district to understand what are their expectations from the new government.
Scrubbing large utensils at a primary school, Shailendri Devi Sharma, a BJP supporter, was happy that the party was back in power. But Shailendri, who works as a rasoiyan (cook) at the school, said she was upset with the irregularities in the incentives — Rs 1,500 per month — she gets for her 8am to 3pm job.
"In the previous government, we used to get a thousand rupees per month. This government has increased our honorarium to fifteen hundred," the 50-year-old told Gaon Connection. The primary school where she works is located in Meesa gram panchayat of Mohanlalganj constituency, about 25 kilometers from the state capital Lucknow.
"But we are not getting the payment on time. Last we got it for September . It has been five months with no salary," she added. Sharma is worried about the upcoming festival of Holi, as she has no money for the celebration. "The government should be considerate and release our salaries on time," she said.
Mohanlalganj is one of the 255 assembly constituencies where BJP has retained power. Amresh Kumar of BJP has won the seat by 43.58 per cent voter share. Samajwadi Party's Sushila Saroj lost to Kumar by over 16,000 votes.
A new class of voters — free ration beneficiaries
One of the major reasons for the victory of BJP, say rural voters, is the distribution of additional and free-of-cost ration by the Yogi Adityanath-led government. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, a food security welfare scheme announced by the central government in March 2020, during the COVID19 pandemic in India, poor and migrant workers were given an additional five kilos of free wheat or rice per person per month. In addition to this, the UP government has been providing extra five kilos of food grains to its beneficiaries.
Draped in a saffron saree, Kalavati was walking through her green fields of wheat. "We are getting free ration every month from the government. We are happy that BJP is back," she told Gaon Connection.
A moment later she seemed worried. "Will the government stop this free ration from now?" asked Kalavati. The scheme is about to end as the government extended it till March 2022. The scheme is claimed to have benefited about 150 million people in the state.
Meanwhile, Ramavati, who was squatting in a shade near her peppermint and wheat field, was keeping a close watch on the haraha — stray cattle. "These regularly destroy our crops. We wish the government could do something to resolve this issue," she added.
"I am happy that the BJP government has been formed. But not everyone else is. I also do not get wo wala ration (additional five kgs). But I am getting the 35 kilos of ration every month. Earlier, I would not get it," she added.
Address stray cattle issue
An undergraduate student, Shradha Yadav, voted for the first time in the recent assembly elections. She was returning to her village in Sengta, about 22 kilometres from Lucknow, on foot. This, she said, was her everyday routine as there were no good colleges and schools nearby.
"We do not have good schools and colleges around our village. Teachers are not available in government schools. I go to study in Qaiserbagh in Lucknow every day. I walk first then share a taxi. There are safety concerns also when we go to far off places. My mother keeps worrying," Yadav told Gaon Connection.
"Today, in our taxi, everyone was talking that BJP is back but nobody is talking about real issues, everyone discusses caste and categories," she said. "I am a student and a daughter of a farmer. I have only two issues. Access to good education and stray cattle issue. We are dependent on farming, if stray cattle destroy our field, how will we manage?" she asked.
Restore old pension scheme
In the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, one of the major issues was restoration of the old pension scheme, among others. In November last year, thousands of government teachers from across Uttar Pradesh gathered in Lucknow to protest against the new pension scheme. They demand the old pension scheme to be implemented.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had promised to restore the old pension schemes for all retired government servants and teachers if voted to power. In 2004, the BJP government in the Centre had stopped the old pension scheme and had instead started the contributory pension system. In Uttar Pradesh, the new regime was adopted in 2005.
"The old pension scheme secures our retirement with a fixed amount. But the new pension scheme is market linked. Teachers retiring now are getting Rs 1500-1700 a month. How can we survive with this amount in this inflation?" asked Deepika Verma, assistant teacher at upper primary school in Mohanlalganj.
"We wish that when we retire after a long term of service, we have a fixed amount so that our future is secured. We hope the new Yogi government understands our plight and restores the old pension," wished Verma, who has been working as a government worker for the past 10 years.