On October 20, a programme was suddenly made to go to Lucknow. I reached Lucknow and went to Shivpal Singh Yadav’s place for a courtesy meeting. A discussion was going on with Shivpal Singh on questions of the development of Uttar Pradesh and I was asking him what priorities the Uttar Pradesh Government is deciding for development when suddenly he said, ‘come, lets go and meet the Chief Minister’. I had never met the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav and I thought this was an opportunity to at least meet the Chief Minister face to face, who is perhaps the youngest Chief Minister in the country at this time. If said in other words — the one who represents the youth of the country in the form of a Chief Minister.
When I reached Akhilesh Yadav’s residence with Shivpal Singh, at that time he was meeting some people. We sat in a room. Suddenly Akhilesh Yadav entered the room with his well known smile. Shivpal Singh introduced me to him. Akhilesh Yadav said, I keep meeting everybody else from Chauthi Duniya, but I have never met Santoshji. Anyway, after the initial 5 minutes of formalities and ordering for tea, the same issue cropped up: what, after all, is the agenda for the development of Uttar Pradesh? Akhilesh explained what he envisioned. He spoke about the method of development. Akhilesh also accepted the contradiction between his envisioned growth’s pace and the pace of the bureaucracy in Uttar Pradesh. He also accepted that the areas in which he wants to move fast are coincidentally those areas where the officers in charge are moving at an equally slow speed. Akhilesh Yadav also expressed his annoyance in the context of the Uttar Pradesh police. Listening to what was said, I felt that the prevailing perception in the country is not wholly correct that Akhilesh Yadav doesn’t understand the concept of development. I didn’t see any deficiency either in the anxious concerns of Akhilesh Yadav.
The discussion was continuing between Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav and I was looking at my watch, because I was conscious that I have come to Lucknow to meet the local leadership and till now I have not even been able to tell them that I am now in Lucknow. On the other side I was also aware that perhaps the Chief Minister has some other work, work that should indeed be there too and perhaps he might be sitting with me for the sake of courtesy. All of a sudden Akhilesh Yadav began talking of the Lohia Gramin Awas Yojana. The Lohia Gramin Awas Yojana is becoming a sample of accommodation made for landless people in the list of the work being done for them. Akhilesh Yadav said to Shivpal Singh sitting alongside him, ‘uncle (chacha), come lets go and see some Lohia Gram’ and immediately said to me ‘Bhartiyaji, you come, I will show you Lohia Gram’. Shivpal Singh even said, ‘what, suddenly we have to go’? Akhilesh Yadav said, ‘ we do not have to go suddenly, we have to go right now. Now, taking Bhartiyaji with us lets see what has happened in Lohia Gram. Have some people learned the laptop there, how have the houses been made? We have made arrangements for lights and fans through the solar system. Let’s see whether all this work is even being done properly or not’. I felt that this sudden visit of Akhilesh Yadav should be experienced. I said that I will certainly come with you.
Akhilesh Yadav immediately called for one of his senior colleagues and Minister, famous socialist leader Rajendra Chaudhary. At the same time he also called the local District Collector and within 20 minutes itself we sat in cars and we reached Bhasanda village of Mohanlal Ganj Block near Lucknow. The system does its work, probably a gap of 20-25 minutes might have been there, and out of the local officers whoever could be present had reached the village by the time we reached it. Akhilesh Yadav asked the car to stop at the beginning of village itself and we went inside a house. That house was that of a landless person for whom the Uttar Pradesh Government had built 2 or 2 and half rooms. Akhilesh Yadav entered a room. I was also with him. Shivpal and Rajendra Chaudhary were also there and seeing the length and breadth of the room Akhilesh Yadav started asking questions, asked questions pertaining to electricity. Calling the couple living in the house he asked ‘how is this house, how much money did you get to build it’? They said with honesty that we have received 1 lakh 30 thousand rupees, out of which we have built these two rooms and we have built a kitchen in a small space. Akhilesh Yadav went into every room and then he asked the woman, ‘why have you kept an open wire’? There was an open wire where the plug for electricity should be. She said that the switch had burnt out due to getting heated, that is why we have taken out the wire and have connected it directly. Akhilesh Yadav immediately came forward and said that errors have been done in laying down wires.
The officer with him noted this on a paper. Akhilesh Yadav came out. He called children and asked, have you received books? Children ran and brought a whole bunch of their books to show to Akhilesh Yadav. Then Akhilesh Yadav asked, does anyone here have a laptop? One girl brought a laptop. There was a layer of dust on the cover of the laptop. Akhilesh Yadav asked her, ‘do you know how to operate a laptop?’. She spoke of operating the laptop, at which Akhilesh Yadav said, ‘alright, you open it and show what you have learned in this’. The girl, seeing the Chief Minister standing in front, got nervous and could only half tell what she had learnt. I understood that she was evidently under pressure at suddenly finding the Chief Minister in their midst and with the kind of environment that had formed consequently and the kind of crowd that had gathered there, the girl could respond only partially. Akhilesh Yadav called the Gram Pradhan( village chief). Other people of the village also arrived, in which more people were from the Muslim community. They said to Akhilesh Yadav that here builders are forcibly trying to capture and forcibly possess our lands. Here we complain, but DM Sahib is not able to act on our complaints. Akhilesh Yadav asked the names of the builders and after that he moved on.
Akhilesh Yadav stopped at the children’s school, which was about 200 meters ahead in that village. There Akhilesh Yadav went to class 5 and he asked students to read from their books. Students were wearing their school dress, which was fitting some, not fitting some others. Akhilesh Yadav noticed this too. After this he went to class 1 and there he tried to listen to some poems from the children, talk with the children, but the children couldn’t answer completely. Suddenly Akhilesh Yadav asked the lady teacher ‘how much is your salary’? She couldn’t answer because of nervousness. She began saying, I get 29,000 rupees. Then Akhilesh Yadav said, but teach little to the students. An ordinary comment. Then Akhilesh Yadav asked, ‘do you get something to eat here’? Lunch had been prepared for the students. A vegetable preparation and bread (roti) came on a plate (thali). Akhilesh Yadav himself ate a piece from it and said to Rajendra Chaudhary, we will take this roti and vegetable with us. Maybe he wanted to have its quality tested. He came out, talked to the press and returned.
On the way perhaps Akhilesh Yadav reached the administrative center of this area and there he called the engineer. He asked the engineer, ‘why are the roads here broken’? He said, ‘if there is any park here, please show it’. A good, well developed park by the name of Kalindi Park was there. Akhilesh went into the park and he asked the engineer the names of the trees. He took information from the person who looked after the park. But the interesting thing was that the park was closed to the public, which drew Akhilesh Yadav’s attention.
Uptill now, three hours had passed. We returned to the Chief Minister’s residence. Standing outside his residence Akhilesh Yadav called his secretary, called officers and said, ‘all the things that I have seen, you people immediately go and check them, because I feel that that the room is small, rooms should be bigger, so that at least two cots can be laid in them. Who passed this design’? It was but natural that the officers got a little worried. Akhilesh Yadav said, ‘the carpet area of the room should be increased’. He gave a special order on this that the lady teacher there was perhaps a contract teacher. Meaning, the teacher is someone else and has sent someone else in his/her place to teach, because she didn’t know anything. She got nervous. Upon the quality of food he expressed satisfaction, but on the condition of the roads, condition of park, condition of the school he looked unhappy. He gave an order to the officers that whoever had passed the wiring there, investigation of that be done, because all of them are measuring low on the scale of quality. Akhilesh Yadav also spoke of serious investigation to be done of the villagers complaint of builders trying to occupy and take away their land.
I was watching all these observations made by Akhilesh Yadav. And I was feeling that CMs gets less time, but still, if a CM starts undertaking sudden visits like this, then perhaps there will be more realisation of their responsibility amongst officials. With this, those Ministers whose duty it is to keep control on these officials will also realise their responsibility to a greater extent. It seemed to me that the kind of projects these officials keep in front of him, Akhilesh Yadav is certainly concerned about what strategy to adopt to implement them, but more than that his worry is with regard to the situation of electricity in Uttar Pradesh. And perhaps he is deciding his priorities in relation to electricity. How power generation can be increased and how he will be able to make power available in his State, and then how will the wheel of development move — this realisation has dawned on him.
The most important is the impression of Uttar Pradesh in the whole country and in Uttar Pradesh I saw nothing going on to change this impression. When I met some friends in Lucknow and told them that today I found the Chief Minister taking a sudden visit and talking on such and such issues, then one of them said, ‘you were there, so Akhilesh Yadav was so cautious and he kept an eye on so many things. If you would not have been there, then this probably wouldn’t have happened’. I felt that friend’s view to be prejudiced, because nowhere did I feel there was any drama. In the light of my own experience in journalism I try to understand who is acting and who is not acting. I even said to my friend that maybe this is not drama. But yes, because such a variety of dramas take place in the country, then it may be possible that you take even a good thing as drama. I said to my local associate and senior member of the Chauthi Duniya editorial team, Prabhat Ranjan Deen, that an eye should be kept on those areas of Uttar Pradesh which really are very deprived and at least those things should be reported on which there should be a report but about which reporting is not being done. Field reports of Uttar Pradesh should increase and it should be known what is the direction of attempts of the Uttar Pradesh Government with regard to electricity, water and roads? But I can definitely say this much that I saw honesty in that visit of Akhilesh Yadav, didn’t see any politics. And, if I am not wrong, then I saw an honesty in Akhilesh Yadav.