Ten km from Bebar village in Narmada district, we were forced to get out of our vehicle. The road was potholed and scarred, impossible to navigate. A farmer on a motorbike slowed down and offered us a lift.
“Come here during the rain. Then even walking will be difficult,” he said. “If someone falls ill in the village, even 108 ambulances do not come.”
This was echoed by Guman Vasava, 18, a resident of Bebar. “It’s happened many times that a woman was about to deliver a child,” he said. “When 108 was called for an ambulance, they stopped midway…Most times, the child is delivered at home.”
The BJP’s primary plank in its election campaigns is the success of the – a combination of employment opportunities, lower inflation, higher income, education, safety for women. But in Bebar, it’s hard to believe this model exists.
Government toilets, the few that are built, are unusable so open defecation is the norm. The village’s small hospital is locked, its insides overflowing with straw and dirt. Villagers said doctors do not arrive. The government school serves children up to Class 5 and is staffed with only two teachers for 90 students. Taps are installed under the Nal Jal Yojana, but no water flows from them.
Even electricity has not reliably reached Bebar. “Electricity arrives like a guest, once every six months,” said an elderly resident. “There is no more than two months of electricity in a year. Women and students suffer the most. At the time of corona, when education was online, we faced a lot of problems. Our village lives in darkness.”
At the government school, the principal refused to speak on camera. Children who complete Class 5 need to travel 15 km to the nearest school to continue their education. Villagers told Newslaundry that most children drop out, especially girls. “So far, only three girls have reached college from our village,” said a resident.
The sarpanch of Bebar is associated with the BJP. She recently lost her husband and so did not speak to this reporter. Instead, we asked her brother-in-law Amar Singh about Bebar’s sorry state.
“The road is going to be constructed soon,” he replied. “If we talk about water, then there is no groundwater here. Hence there is a water problem. If we talk about electricity, there is a problem in that too because electricity comes through the ground wire, so a fault occurs there.”
But surely there must be a solution? Singh had nothing to say. After all, the story of Bebar is the story of many villages in the Narmada district – of villagers living without basic facilities.
This report was in Newslaundry Hindi. It was translated to English by Shardool Katyayan.