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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Chautala’s ghotala: Maulana Azad’s constituency rues its fate
By Andalib Akhter 

Mewat (Haryana): It looks strange, but it is perfectly true, the parliamentary constituency, represented by the first education minister of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, is one of the most backward areas in the country, both educationally and economically.

When Maulana Azad won the first parliamentary election from the Mewat** area and became the education minister of the country, the people of the area were overwhelmed by expectations. They believed their backwardness and distress would soon end. But their expectations were belied. 

When Maulana Azad won the first parliamentary election from the Mewat area and became the education minister of the country, the people of the area were overwhelmed by expectations. They believed their backwardness and distress would soon end. But their expectations were belied. Even after 56 years nothing has changed for the poor Mewatis

Even after 56 years nothing has changed for the poor Mewatis. The people of Mewat are still socially, educationally, economically and culturally as backward as they were centuries ago. Interestingly Mewat is just 50 kilometer from the national capital of New Delhi and a few kilometers from the modern and Cyber City of Gurgaon, the Mewat district headquarters. 

There could be many reasons for the backwardness of the area but most important seems to be that "Gurgaon chamak raha hai. Wahan har tarah ki adhunik facilities mil rahi hai aur hum isi zila ke mewati saaf pine ke paani ke liye taraste hain. Yeh kaisa insaf hain."(While Gurgaon is sparkling with all modern facilities, we Mewatis are even deprived of drinking water. What kind of justice is this?" asks Tayyab Hussian, a resident of Mewat.

Mewat is situated between Gurgaon and Faridabad districts of Haryana. The area is spread over 1874 sq. kilometres. The total population of the area is about 15 lakh and 70 percent of them are Muslims. It consists of 491 villages and five townships Nooh, Tavdo, Firozpur, Hathin and Punaha.

Mewatis are mostly dependent on agriculture. Yet there is a single crop in the whole year because the ground water is hard. The crops are totally dependent on nature. Flood and drought have become a part of their life. They have no irrigation facilities. "kai sarkaron ne yahan Mewat Kanal banwane ka wada kiya tha lekin kuch hua nahin" (Several governments promised to build the Mewat canal but nothing happened), says Rahimuddin, a farmer of Hathin. If there is proper irrigation facility the area could be very productive land. The quality of mustard produced here is regarded as best in the area. 

Educationally too they are very backward. In fact the majority of the people here are illiterate. While the literacy rate in the state of Haryana is 56 percent the literacy rate in the Mewat region is less than 30 per cent, women’s literacy rate in rural Mewat is merely nine per cent. "Though there are schools in the area but hardly any teacher goes there. Higher education, Medicine and Engineering is a pipedream here," says Noorudin Noor Advocate, who is now leading a campaign for the upliftment of the Mewatis. Noor recently launched an agitation from Mewat to Rajghat in New Delhi to highlight the plight of Mewatis.
The health scenario in the region is also pitiable. Different diseases are spreading very fast in the region and there is no proper healthcare system in the area. Malaria, tuberculosis, anaemia and other diseases have become part of every home in the region. Unfortunately the deadly Aids is also spreading it tentacles here. "yahan kuch chote chote aspatal hain lekin isme doctor ki bahut kami hai aur jo doctor hain marizon ke sath laparwahi karten hain" (Though there are few primary health centres in the area there is paucity of doctors and those who are available are negligent), says Mohammed Suleman a Mewati. For delivery too women have to travel a long distance to Faridabad or Gurgaon as there are no such facilities in the area. The condition of the road is so bad that many women succumbed to the pain on the way to hospital.

The previous state government with the help of the Sultanate of Oman has built a hospital called Al Aafiya hospital in Mandikheda village of Nagina spending crores of rupees. Al Aafiya hospital has a very attractive building but there is great scarcity of doctors in the hospital.

Lack of proper transportation system in the region is also a major hurdle in the development of the area. Most of the routes here are deprived of state transport buses. People have to travel in run-down jeeps. In fact there are no buses on important routes and highways such as from Nooh to Hathin and Nooh to Palwal. Railways are a dream for the people of the area. Ironically most of the people in the region have not seen a train even after 56 year of independence and in spite of being in such close proximity to the capital. "If the region is connected to Gurgaon, Alwar and Hodal and Rewari by rail it will not only solve the transportation problem of Mewatis but also open up employment opportunity to them", suggests Nooruddin.

For long the people of Mewat have demanded the status of district to their region but no government has taken notice of their demand. The Haryana government's discrimination against Mewatis is evident from the fact that it accorded the status of district to Panchkula, Jhajhar and Fatehabad which are less backward than Mewat. "Mewatis are not so lucky despite being the most backward region of the state as to get the status of district. It is perhaps because the region has a large Muslim population" says Wasiuddin a class 12 student.

The current district headquarters is far away from the region. People have to travel there even for minor work. People allege that the grant allotted for the development of the Mewat area is usurped by Gurgaon. With regard to area and the population Mewat is most deserving to be given status of district. Several chief ministers promised to make the area a district but they did not keep the promise. Though chief minister Om Prakash Chautala organises a sumptuous Iftar party in Mewat inviting top Muslim leaders from Delhi and other places to appease the local Muslims but he does nothing on the ground to change the condition of the people in the region. 

In 1980 the Haryana government constituted a Mewat Development Board with the chief minister as its chairman. But local people allege that the Board has become a den of corruption and nepotism. And that is why the MDB has not yet succeeded in bringing any visible change in the area.

**I saw an article online published by your paper - “Chautala's ghotala: Maulana Azad's constituency rues its fate” by Andalib Akhter (MG,1-15 Feb 2004). It has a factual mistake. Maulana Azad won his first parliamentary election not from Gurgaon (Mewat) but from Rampur/Barielly dists in UP. Maulana Azad won his second Lok Sabha election from Gurgaon. Azad had many schemes for the upliftment of the educational level of Mewat. He won his election in 1957 and unka 1958 main intiqal ho gaya. So he had no sufficient time to implement his dreams. Aap ka risala khasa namchin hai, ummid hai ki ainda aisi bhul nahin hogi.
Saurabh Bhardwaj (Recd October 4, 2004)

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