Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan
2. Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, a particularly suitable sub-region for alternative plan
Understandably the need for alternative planning is most strongly and immediately felt in those regions where high levels of poverty and environmental degradation are clearly visible. Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh is one such region. Historical, cultural and geographical factors have provided an identity to Bundelkhand region which is presently included in two states of India (Uttar Pradesh or UP and Madhya Pradesh). The part of Bundelkhand region included in each of these two states may therefore be referred to as a sub-region.
As is evident from the profile of Bundelkhand region, U.P. presented in section IV, this region is suffering from extreme levels of poverty and degradation of environment at the same time. On the one hand, natural resources which can provide sustainable livelihoods to people are being plundered and ravaged to yield big profits to a few; on the other hand, people are being forced to migrate for several months every year to far-away areas in search of uncertain sustenance. This is most glaringly evident in the case of minor minerals which this region has in abundance and which can play a major role in providing livelihood to people in some parts of this sub-region.
Forests have been depleted in many places. There are many stories of reckless plunder for the enrichment of a small number of powerful persons, including dacoits. Elsewhere in the name of conservation, forests are being fenced off from people who have traditionally depended on them for livelihood.
A major paradox is that the region abounds in many rivers and records adequate rainfall, yet vast area face frequent water scarcity. To add to the paradox some highly destructive floods have ravaged this region in recent times.
In these circumstances there is a growing feeling that something is seriously wrong with the way things are going. In particular natural resources are clearly not being used in ways which are conducive for sustainable livelihoods. Hence the need to think along lines of alternative planning.
Bundelkhand has been generally regarded as a backward area of Uttar Pradesh while Western Uttar Pradesh was regarded as the developed part of Uttar Pradesh.
Bundelkhand played a very important role in the 1857 uprising against colonial rule. Consequently it also suffered more discrimination and deprivation at the hands of colonial rulers.
The intensive agricultural development strategy in the green revolution phase favoured those areas which were already well-endowed. Hence Western Uttar Pradesh got more resources for agricultural development under this strategy.
This led to a situation in which the development experience of Western U.P. (or its neighbouring areas in Haryana) was held forward as a model for Bundelkhand. If Western U.P. had more tubewells, so must Bundelkhand. If Western UP agriculture emphasised the spread of HYVs, based on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, so must Bundelkhand. Such an approach led to a neglect of region-specific needs and potential of Bundelkhand. In the state-level planning, very inadequate attention was given to preparing regional plans for Bundelkhand which could do justice to the problems as well as potential of this region.
This aspect should be kept in mind while formulating alternative development strategies for Bundelkhand.