Sunday, March 10, 2013

4 days in Uttar Pradesh

As a keen political observer, it is tough to not have seen it through the 4 days in Uttar Pradesh. On the face of it, the state is quite poor - having been part of BIMARU - the infamous acronym, one doesnt expect it to be any different.

Much of what I write here is a combination of conversations which I had and some which we heard around us.

Lucknow has its share of wide roads, mostly seem to be leading into the Kanshi Ram Memorial. The memorial is visible from the air and though we missed the Mayawati statues, we saw elephants everywhere - in lampposts, entrances and others. People may have their opinion, but memorial building is a pastime of the human race. If one family can have a million schemes named after themselves, surely, a park for ones own party is not such a big deal. The entire park boundary is marked in pink stone.

We had an ex-politico of some sorts in our bus who was conversing with the driver about the choice of trees in this memorial. The trees seem to be some sort of toddy palm - and their comment was that instead of planting native trees like neem or other flowering or fruit trees, the monument has been planted with palm trees that are not suited for this weather.

The roads between Allahabad and Lucknow are narrow (though a widening exercise seems to be in progress in parts) and bumpy and quite unsuited for the kind of traffic they carry - which is a mix of pedestrians to high end cars and buses. These roads were perhaps good enough some 20 years ago, but with this kind of traffic - it is a danger each time one gets on the road. These roads are the typical old style Indian roads - two lanes - one for each direction - with a painted lane marker. So, in order to overtake, one has to get to the other lane and then get back in.

The best of this drive is the fact that one gets to drive through Rae Bareilly, the constituency of the ruling dynasty (or its favourites for the most part) and it looks no different from any other part of UP. Why is that important?

(and this is what I tweeted)

For the dynasty which is ruling India, directly or by proxy, their constituency is an advertisement of what they can do. And in that sense it is a perfect advertisement. The place would look not very different, perhaps 30 years ago than it does not. And that is quite sad. Unless you count the picture of Sonia Gandhi, which I saw at one point, as development, it is as developed or under-developed as most of Uttar Pradesh.

A piece on development indicators:
Another one with some statistics:

The road from Varanasi to Allahabad is a little better - mostly because it is part of the old Grand Trunk Road and it seems like a national highway. Crowded in parts and fairly chaotic traffic, but as compared to the previous road, way better.

Our guide at Sarnath was an ardent SP party supporter - a Yadav and he sees the SP as 'his' party. He feels that his party is not doing much despite being in power. Something interesting happened here. As we were talking a beggar came by asking for money. And as she went away, he tells me, "she begs each day, expects money for free and does no work". And I asked him, is that not the state of the country itself? That charged him up and he agrees that this is what the government is doing to this country. Our time in Sarnath was up, but this was a conversation I would have liked to continue.

I chanced upon this post on my twitter timeline and I quite agree with the post in many parts - which means that my observations were not totally out of the blue.

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