The village of Budh Nagar Khandwa in UP’s Sambhal district has been in the eye of a storm after a journalist and local resident, Sanjay Rana, was arrested a day after he questioned Uttar Pradesh education minister Gulab Devi about her unfulfilled poll promises.
Rana, a reporter with Moradabad Ujala, was booked after a BJP youth wing leader alleged the journalist had assaulted him. Rana says he did nothing of the sort and that he’s being targeted for asking questions.
His questions were specifically about the lack of facilities in Budh Nagar Khandwa of Chandausi, from where Devi was elected in 2022. Rana said there was no government toilet, paved road, temple wall, or road connecting the temple to the main road.
“You had promised all of us, taken an oath in the temple, that this village is yours and you have adopted this village.,” he had told Devi during an event at the village. “You had told the village elders, ‘Tell me what work you need done, I will do it.’ You also said that if you win the elections, you would return to this village. But despite that, you never came back.”
Budh Nagar Khandwa is about 250 km from Delhi. There are around 115 houses for its population of approximately 1,000 – and only seven households have toilets. Krishna Devi, an ASHA worker, confirmed that the majority of villagers are forced to defecate in the forest. There are no government toilets at all.
“I can’t walk far. I have pain in my legs,” said Shanti, 70, a villager. “Due to the lack of toilets in my house, I have to go to the forest even in the rainy season. There are times I hurt myself by slipping while defecating.”
Malti, 50, who uses a crutch to walk, said her mobility issues make it difficult to defecate in the open. “Sometimes when I go to defecate, I fall and I can’t get up. I stay there until someone from my family or the village picks me up.”
Budh Nagar Khandwa is characterised by broken, unpaved roads and filthy, blocked drains that overflow, even as walls bear posters for Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign. Sundar Rana, a local, told Newslaundry the dirty water pools outside his house. “There are always a lot of mosquitos...My little children often fall ill,” he said. “It is a disaster now but when it rains, the dirty water enters the house. The whole house becomes a drain.”
He added, “Sanitation workers don’t come to the village. We have to clean the drains ourselves.”
Most of the villagers depend on farming and daily labour to make ends meet. Their homes are often rickety, with villagers alleging they’re unable to secure housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Devi had promised to build a marriage hall here after she won the assembly election, but there’s no sign of it yet.
“Marriage processions have to be held in three or four different houses,” said one villager mournfully.
Finally, there’s the village temple. Sanjeev Chaudhary, a villager who was at the temple when this reporter visited, said Devi had visited it in 2017. “She had taken an oath to build the boundary wall and the road connecting the temple to the village,” he said. “But she didn’t.”
And these aren’t the only issues faced by Budh Nagar Khandwa’s residents. Watch the video for more.
This report was in Newslaundry Hindi.