VVIP Constituencies Have Only Nature, No Nurture
Taj Mahal in Agra is one of the seven wonders of the world.(Reuters)
Trophy constituencies are nursed and nurtured well. But both Raebareli and Amethi, pocket boroughs of the Gandhi family for many years, only show signs of nature, no nurture.
The roads are pitted and spine-jolting; the buildings are rundown and shabby; almost every place represents a poverty of ideas; entire pockets look deprived; many areas look as if they have not seen an iota of enterprise. What both have are things like an ITI, a rail coach factory: job-generators but not place-uplifters.
Going to a VVIP constituency, there are huge expectations. One expects a certain level of brisk energy and cleanliness. Both Raebareli and Amethi shock you with their lethargy and soporific attitude. At both places, there are no examples of shining India. The people look dejected and go about their tasks listlessly.
Why has been no effort made to tie both these places with the speeding engine that is propelling India away to growth and development? If Gandhis represent all the glitter and chutzpah of Indian politics, then their constituencies, sadly, present an unfortunate picture of gloom and complete collapse.
What is infrastructure? When did the term come into being? And everything -- roads, buildings, flyovers, expressways, ports -- got clubbed under that umbrella word?
What would, let's say, Shahjahan have said when he decreed a mausoleum built for his beloved Mumtaz? Would he ever have thought he was building a glorious piece of infrastructure? Architecture, perhaps, but certainly not infrastructure. Taj Mahal had more to do with the affairs of the heart. It had certainly nothing to do with this rather obtuse word called infrastructure.
Nowadays, flacks are hired to glorify and peddle buildings whose beauty can't even be compared with Taj. Seeing it from the Agra expressway, another piece of infrastructure that has been drummed up as an example of India Shining, Shahjahan would certainly rue that his monumental structure, whose models are built in many parts of the world, lies under a thick cover of smog and dust.
Far on the horizon, its beauty vanished, Taj Mahal looks like just an etching, as if some talented painter had drawn it out of thin air. In the age of infrastructure, history lies polluted!
Tableau of a Growing India
Just before Agra, before the Yamuna expressway merges into the new Lucknow expressway, a big, open flatbed truck is hauling Swaraj tractors to some part of our farming country.
Now, both sides of this patch of the concrete expressway are surrounded by green wheat fields that give it almost a pastoral look. Somehow, this picture of quietly standing green stalks does not jibe well with shockingly abysmal agricultural production. And, ahead, the tractors, too, add their jarring element to the arcadian scene.
But together, in seamless harmony, the trucks and the farms and, of course the smooth expressway, make a great tableau of a growing India. Infrastructure that is rock solid and farmland that is rich. If only every part of the country could hold out the same hope. Alas! Even in the Yadav belt of UP, just 50 miles ahead, the roads are so bad in some areas that these hopes get dashed easily.
The Agra-Lucknow expressway, Akhilesh's centrepiece of development, is still a work in progress. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister inaugurated it in haste, and even made IAF land its jets on its macadamised surface to sell its smoothness to the populace of UP.
Although the highway, when completed, would be an infrastructural marvel in a moribund state such as UP, it currently has many torturous, dusty diversions that are spine rattling and time consuming.
The highway, running through large swathes of the Yadav belt of Firozabad, Shikohabad, Etawah, Kannauj, cuts time to Lucknow by at least three hours. Animals, who obviously are not used to the new intrusion that snakes through their territory, have become the highway's latest victims. The highway is awash with roadkill. Foxes, rabbits, dogs and cattle sacrifice their lives for the development of UP.
Their bodies crushed to smithereens, their felts now permanently glued to the new road. Some diversions take you for small, grimy distances on the old highway, commonly known as GT Road, which is also being extended by another lane. GT Road, because it has its origins in hoary history, has already seen enough of these sacrifices and is thankfully free of roadkill.