A tiny village in Uttar Pradesh has refused to vote in the national election if they do not get permanent water supply. The village is in Sonbhadra, a district just 170 km from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
Sonbhadra is a thermal power hub, but Bodra Dadh, a village of 700, alleges six decades of neglect. Since the last 60 years, the village has never had piped water supply or even a single hand pump to draw water.
This means fetching water is a daily struggle for villagers, mainly for women, like 35-year-old Rambha Devi, who walks at least 8 km a day in the harsh sun. "When there is no water, what is the use of voting? You tell me? I won't vote," she says angrily when asked why the villagers did not want to vote.
The nearest water source, ironically, is the Rihand dam - India's largest by volume - a project for which hundreds of villagers were displaced. It provides water to coal-fired power plants in the area. Activists say the water in the dam has been poisonous for years because of the discharge from the power plants. In 2014, just after the elections, the national green tribunal directed the UP government and power plants in the area to supply clean drinking water to villages. Five years on, nothing has moved.
In 2014 , this constituency - the reserved Robertsganj Lok Sabha seat -- voted BJP after picking BSP and Samajwadi Party in the two previous elections. But no party or politician has been an answer to their problem. "I have lost count of the number of politicians and village pradhans who have come and gone. We asked each one of them to arrange water. Nothing happened. We want water at any cost," says Barti devi, 45.
In 2014, the government approved a World Bank funded rural water supply project for 10 eastern UP districts including Sonbhadra, but they constitute less than half of the inhabited villages in the district.
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