(Bundelkhand region included in Uttar Pradesh is the subject of this document. Henceforth it is sometimes referred to in this document as B-U sub-region or simply B-U)

The Bundelkhand region’s mythology and history are full of inspiring stories. Its pilgrimages and temples as well as tanks and other traditional water sources serve as reminders of the days when people felt inspired to create great works of art as well as utility.

The reality of today, however, is very grim. Bundelkhand provides one of the widest stretches of districts which are generally included among the most backward districts of India. The sufferings of the weaker section in many parts of the region appear to be increasing due partly to the deteriorating environmental conditions and partly the increasing dominance of criminals and dacoits. Life for most people of all sections appears to have more tensions and stress.

Bundelkhand is spread over about 69,000 sq. km. of land in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh (Chitrakut, Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur) and six districts of Madhya Pradesh (Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna). Out of the total population of about 14.5 million, about 7.8 million live in the roughly 29,000 sq. km. area of Uttar Pradesh, while about 6.7 million people live in the roughly 40,000 sq. km. area of Madhya Pradesh. Clearly the Uttar Pradesh side is more densely populated. Leaving aside Jhansi, in all districts over 70 per cent of the people live in rural areas, the percentage going over 80 per cent in a few districts.

In recent years this region has been appearing in national level news mostly for wrong reasons. Intense heat leading to the sudden death of several local people in Banda and pilgrims in Chitrakut, acute drought distress including starvation deaths involving particularly the Sahariya community, numerous cases of acute exploitation and land grabbing from Kol tribals, and the killings and abductions by the dacoit gangs, particularly the biggest one in Chitrakut, which continues to enjoy very good political connections despite killing dozens of persons.

These distressing headlines, however, reflect only the sporadic outburst of the deeper social malaise which the common people experience in the form of deepening distress and increasing stress in their everyday life. As is often the case, the heaviest burden falls on the already overburdened shoulders of the weaker sections.

A significant part of Bundelkhand is covered by hills and plateaus. Rainwater has the capacity to cause heavy erosion of soil as it moves rapidly towards the numerous rivers and streams (such as Ken, Betwa, Tons, Dhasan and Paisyuni) which merge ultimately into the Yamuna river. As long as hills had good forest cover, the erosion could be checked. People also learnt ingenious ways of collecting water as it emerged from the hills in carefully constructed tanks (in some places a chain of tanks which were linked to each other in such a way that the excess flow of one tank could be absorbed by the next one).

During colonial times the commercial plunder of forests led to their rapid destruction and hence an increase in soil erosion. This trend continued unabated after independence as local powerful persons found the plunder of forests to be one of the quickest ways of getting rich. At the same time there was neglect of traditional water conservation as the government as well as aid agencies had more confidence in the modern technology of handpumps and tubewells.

However, granites encountered after a little depth at many places of Bundelkhand made it difficult to rely on ground water–except in such cases where the substantial ground water trapped in joints and fissures of granites and rocks could be tapped. Keeping in view the limited supply of ground water that could be obtained at most places, handpumps and tubewells were either not successful, or else caused a rapid drying up of ordinary wells used by other people, mostly poorer people.

As forests disappeared in the hills and elsewhere, the possibilities of rain water being conserved below the ground decreased, and as traditional tanks were neglected, the possibilities of surface conservation decreased. This is the background in which water scarcity become acute in many villages despite the increased spending on water schemes. Deforested hills radiated more and more heat, increasing the misery of this thirsty land and its people. At the same time, as most of the rainwater quickly found its way towards rivers, carrying with it the soil of deforested slopes, the incidence and ferocity of floods increased. Heavy soil erosion led to the large scale formation of ravines in some areas, destroying the land and livelihood of many people, threatening the very existence of many villages.

Mining contractors contributed further to this destruction by their indiscriminate practices including large-scale blasting at several places. This destructive mining ravaged both ground water and the surface water, fields and forests, apart from exposing many places to dust related diseases.

Workers who toiled at mining sites or in forests got less than the legal minimum wages despite being exposed to severe risks of disease and injury. After the forest corporation was created, tribals looked up to it for bringing relief from the oppressor contractors but the corporation also functioned frequently on narrow commercial lines. In places like Chitrakut the forest corporation sometime illegally deprived the workers of their dues to pay tribute to the biggest dacoit gang of the area. Although, thanks partly to social activists and helpful orders from courts, earnings of some minor forest produce collectors have improved, on the whole the forest produce collectors do not get a fair price for their labour in forests. The conditions of mine and quarry workers in even worse, both in terms of earnings and health risks.

In recent decades a small number of rich and influential families have managed to corner a major share of the earnings from the forests and mines. Of course a significant part of the loot was shared with politicians and officials, but in many parts of Bundelkhand a part of the booty also goes regularly to dacoit gangs. Senior politicians go to attend social celebrations in the families of leading dacoits, and of course seek their ‘blessings’ to win elections in return for offering them protection.

In the case of agricultural land also some of the richest families, including feudal landlords, have been regularly grabbing the land of the weaker sections. In several instances they first allowed the new allottees adequate time to clear rocks from bad quality land and then grabbed the land just when it was ready for cultivation.

Clearly there is a crying need for redistributing the land and rearranging the forest and mining work so that those who toil the hardest on land are able to get satisfactory and stable livelihood. Such a redistribution effort will strengthen the most deprived sections–tribal communities such as Kols and Sahariyas as well as other sections of Dalits. Apart from helping to reduce the poverty and deprivation of the most vulnerable sections, this can also prove immensely helpful in the task of environment regeneration.

The topography of Bundelkhand includes fertile plains around rivers, ravines as well as significant stretches of plateaus and hilly land. The different needs of these categories of land should be kept in mind in any planning for this area.

Statistical Profile of B-U sub region


(Source Uttranchal and Uttar Pradesh At a Glance 2003)

S.No.District/DivisionPopulationDensitySex Ratio (year 2001)
Person/Sq. Km.Females/1000 male
Chitrakut Division4,052,050274861
Jhansi Division4,180,021286865

 Table-2 Land Use (Area in sq. km.)

S.No.District/DivisionForestCulturable WastelandNet Sown Area
Chitrakut Division93117533501055784
Jhansi Division136615103494950233

  Table-3 Literacy (2001)

S.No.District/DivisionLiteracy TotalLiteracy MalesLiteracy Females
Chitrakut Division57.7671.8241.22
Jhansi Division62.7476.2846.97
Small & Marginal Farmers (Source: Statistical Diary U.P.)
S.No.District/DivisionTotal Holdings
(in Thousand)
Marginal Farmers
(less than 1 ha)
Small Farmers
(1-2 ha)
6.Banda & Chitrakut36521274