At 5 pm every day, the lights go out in Urwa village of Rae Barelli district, only to return at 11 pm. The routine is broken on exceptional occasions - when a prominent politician is slated to visit the village, which is rare, or India reaches the cricket World Cup finals, a tad more likely. Things are not much different in Jagdishpur village, in Amethi, either.
The two villages, adopted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi, respectively, to be developed as adarsh grams, fall within the Lok Sabha constituencies they represent in UP. The Gandhis were among the first to answer Prime Minister Narendra Modi's clarion call to MPs to adopt and develop a village as a model village. Urwa and Jagdishpur were adopted just a week after Modi himself adopted Jayapur. But unlike Modi's village, Urwa and Jagdishpur remain examples of how not to implement the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.
Besides a 200-metre cemented road built at Rs 7 lakh that serves little purpose, and a few solar-powered street lamps, Urwa has seen little action. Villagers say Sonia has not visited even once but they fondly remember her daughter Priyanka on the campaign trail two years ago. They are happier with local MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey of SP, who has visited them a few times. "The two biggest problems are water scarcity and electricity. We are dependent on hand pumps but the water table has gone down," says former village pradhan Ram Dulare. "Electricity supply is only for 10 hours a day. The village has not benefited from Soniaji's adoption."
There are other problems as well. The village has two primary schools but the nearest intermediate college - a private one - is 12 km away, and the nearest degree college another 13 km away. Medical facility is nonexistent - the nearest dispensary, with only one doctor, is 7 km away; the village only has an auxiliary nursing midwifery centre. "The women of the village have to go to the fields for defecation. As a woman at least, Soniaji should do something for them," says villager Hausla Singh.
It's much the same in Rahul Gandhi's Jagdishpur. While he has visited once, the lack of development afterwards has sown the seeds of widespread discontent among villagers. "Every road has been mapped, every house marked for various development activities, but that is about it," says Jitendra Yadav, the gram pradhan. "What have we got? Three hand pumps, solar lamps and a promise of more toilets. No word of where the water will come from. We don't want a Delhi here but at least make this village liveable." With sewer flowing all over and roads in desperate need of repair, Yadav is being polite.
A local Congress worker in Amethi says Prime Minister Modi will run away with the credit even if Gandhi initiates development in the village. That, he says, is one of the reasons why they are so disinterested.
The fan stops whirring. It's a minute past 5 pm in Urwa.