Two remote villages in Uttar Pradesh get Independence from darkness after 70 years

Two remote villages in Uttar Pradesh get Independence from darkness after 70 years thumbnail
HALDU KHATA, UP: Surprises, irrespective of their kind and magnitude, dont startle Khatoon Bibi. Maybe she has become numb to them. When the 40-year-old homemaker gets to know that it took this reporter three hours to hunt down her village of Haldu Khata after entering Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, she looks nonplussed.

Sarkar ko 70 saal lag gaye yahan aane main, aapko to sirf teen ghanta laga hai (It took government 70 years to reach here, you spent just three hours),”says Khatoon wryly, sitting on a charpoy in her thatched mud hut and wiping beads of sweat from her forehead.

In pic: 14-year-old Aayesha still uses kerosene lamps to study. They’re more effective, she says, than the LED lights in her hut for reading

For the first few minutes she looks bemused at the photographer busy clicking pictures of the possessions in her abode: a ceiling fan and five small LED lights pasted on the mud walls. Three symmetrical shelves holding neatly-placed utensils adorn the bare walls, which have started displaying signs of cracks due to heavy rains over the last few weeks. A strong odour of kerosene emanates from her hut, covered by a blue plastic sheet. A chulha, made of brick and plastered with cow dung, lies in a corner.

Aashu zara pankha chala do,” Khatoon breaks her silence, asking her eight-yearold daughter to switch on the fan. “Light bhi jala doon kya?” (May I switch on the lights as well),” her daughter asks excitedly, only to be chided. Koi zaroorat nahin abhi. Raat main jalana.” (No need to do it now. Do it at night). Her eyes shift to the two solar-powered panel posts erected outside her hut. With the skies threatening to open up again, Khatoon tries to ensure that four kerosene lamps have enough oil to survive the night. Pata nahin raat main bijli rahegi ya nahin (Dont know if there will be power at night),”she mumbles.

Hope & Optimism
Over 260 km from Delhi and a 10 hour-drive from the state capital of Lucknow, Haldu Khata in the Najibabad block of Bijnor district is one of the remote villages that got electrified last fortnight, for the first time since Independence. An almost inaccessible hamlet, situated deep inside the dense forest along the border of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, 17 out of 23 Muslim Gujjar families in Haldu Khata got their first fans and bulbs on July 30, under Narendra Modi government’s flagship rural electrification scheme, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.

A signboard with a picture of Modi and information about the yojana at the entrance of the hamlet greets visitors after a 3 km trudge through the dense jungle from the main road; the other half of a more urbanised Haldu Khata is on the left side of the road in Uttarakhand.

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