02 August, 2021

The Footsteps Of A Famine

A visit to Bundelkhand reveals a chilling state of affairs—one wrought in equal amount by nature, state negligence and policy failure

Narendra Bisht
The Footsteps Of A Famine

Her answer still rings in my ears. “Bhaiyya, saawan ke mahine me ek paav daal laye thhe” (Brother, we last bought 250 grams of dal during the rains). I had asked her when was the last time she cooked dal for her family. This was village Mastapur in Tikamgarh district, Madhya Pradesh, which shares its border with Uttar Prad­esh, where the pitiless terrain of the old Bundelkhand region extends. I asked this question to every woman I met during this visit. Usually there was an awkward pause followed by a smile or laughter (“don’t you know the price, babuji?”), but not a single woman claimed that her family consumed dal daily or even regularly.

I was travelling with my Swaraj Abhiyan colleagues to various villages in drought-affected Bundelkhand that lies across MP and UP, trying to listen to the footsteps of famine. This was our third visit to Bundelkhand in as many months. The first was in October, when we travelled over 4,500 km through the worst drought-affected districts of the country—from Karnataka to Haryana. Till then...

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