The Spring season is losing its sheen. The Autumn is making forays of surreptitious entries. The village chaupal is in session. The farmers discuss changing mood of the nature. Wheat plants are withering. They need water every fourth day. Earth is thirsty. The water table is falling fast.

How to irrigate the parched wheat plants? There is no assured irrigation system albeit the Sone river meanders along the village Bandu in Bihar’s Rohtas district. Rather, the river is fast eating into the village. A few of the farmers have sunk deep bore-well to belch out water from the earth’s womb. But there is no electric supply for over a week. If power comes it goes faster than arrival. The diesel price has sky-rocketed. Worry is writ large on every face. The Sun is about to sink behind the Kaimur plateau hills. A village physician, they call him ‘jholachhaap’, shuttles between his patients and the Chaupal gossips.

A child butts in. He mutters something in the ears of his grand father. He gets up with a jerk and fast-paces toward the west. Soon words spread like wild fire. The Bhadara gram Panchayat Sevak has come in his Bolero luxury four-wheeler with money. The scene sifts to the western wing (Pacheyara patti). The Panchayat Sevak is distributing diesel subsidy money for 2010-11 among the farmers. Crowd swells. Majority of farmers finds their names missing from the list. However, there were some, who received payments in the name of five to seven family members, including primary school students.

The government had given the subsidy on diesel purchased to save paddy seedlings. The Nuhatta BDO had decided to give Rs. 600 uniformly to each applicant. There was no need to submit diesel purchase receipt. Fake receipts had been arranged by the block staff, the villagers confided. Protesters grew furious. Shouts and counter-shouts grew into war cry. It appeared fistfights would begin. Abuses were hurled. The contact men, you may call them brokers, escorted the Panchayat Sevak out to safety. The Bolero whizzed passed. The Sevak was back safely to the block headquarters at Nauhatta.

The air became hotter as the Sun returned to light up the village the next day. People smarting over denial of the subsidy got united. Their number swelled every minute. Some alleged that their applications have been torn away. Ultimately, the villagers ‘decided’ to write out joint petition to the Chief Minister and other officials. The village quack doctor assured them to reach the memorandum to CM through Bihar BJP chief. “I have close links with Dr. CP Thakur”, he assured them.

The memorandum was hurriedly signed by a dozen people. More signatures were being obtained. Earlier at night, the protest news had reached the Sevak. He contacted his village agents. They assured him that the protest fire would be doused soon. As villagers were signing the memo some ‘wise agents’ met the protesters They gave them blank application forms to fill up in back dates and get the subsidy money. The trick worked. No more signatures came. Even the protest leaders rushed in to fill up application forms. The fire had died down. The memorandum itself was torn off on the third day after a tiff between the two vociferous leaders.

Frustration once again was handed down to the villagers. There was no money left for further distribution, the BDO told the leaders. The blood shot again. The anger fire, however, was not that furious, though more fuel was added to it. Words went round that the diesel subsidies for 2009-10 were given to fake persons and fund siphoned off by the concerned authorities. More rumours roared. The villagers were told that onion-potato seed subsidies too were eaten up.

Once bitten twice shy, protest leaders thought of another step. They decide to invoke the Right to Information (RTI) act. “We shall seek details of funds given to the Bhadara panchayat for the farmers and other beneficiaries. Then, we shall use the information to wrest our right. A lawyer at Sasaram told them that an RTI man is designated at the block level. Information could be sought at Nauhatta itself.
The protest leader had become cool as cucumber. He finally said: “I have no money and energy to run to Nauhatta and invoke RTI. God will punish the corrupt snatching bread from mouth of the poor”.

Moral of the story: Villagers have consigned themselves to fate and active young people have turned brokers of the corrupt. This tendency has become bane of most of villages in Bihar.

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