Hridayapath, Dispatch #13: Of Sultanpur Libertarians, A Kanpur Businessman And Taylor Swift

Banuchandar Nagarajan

Apr 27, 2024, 04:14 PM | Updated 04:13 PM IST

  • There are not many takers for the free ration scheme, for fears of becoming 'pangu'.
  • I had cut myself off from most things over the past two weeks, except for reading the news headlines. I had got myself into a zone with the meetings, thinking, transcribing and researching and all that. 

    But as I sat down to write this piece, Taylor Swift finds a way to sneak in. There are a few leaps of creativity in her newest, The Tortured Poet's Department, which has given licence to critics to torture us with reviews. 


    " 'cause it fit too right, puzzle pieces in the dead of the night". Nice, I approve.

    I meet Madan Tiwari, Lokesh Gupta and his friends at a chai shop in Sultanpur. After a bit of chitchat, these folks express their displeasure with the freebie culture that is taking shape in India.

    One of them said it makes people "pangu". I did not understand the word till later that it means lame/handicapped. The word has continued to stay with me till now. 

    People in the village are getting 5 kgs of rations and some money or the other through the various government programmes. Madan feels that doles kill initiative. Subsidies, especially the rations, have to be targeted and should not be given to 80 crore people but only to the few needy, he remarks. 

    Lokesh chimes in that the argument of unemployment is such a bogus one. With all the basic securities provided and the many opportunities around, anybody that wants to work will get something or the other.

    The government cannot provide employment to everybody. He took a jibe at me. He said, "Look at you. People like you want to do something different and that's why you are roaming around".

    I have to keep my antenna up with these dangerous libertarians of Sultanpur. 

    Speaking about farming, none of them have seen soil health card (same response with many farmers I spoke with. None of them had a soil health card to show).

    The irrigation facilities under Krishi Sinchai Yojna are quite iffy. It was started with a lot of oomph, but there were water woes this year.

    Sarkar has increased the MSP, but most of these farmers in the area sell the produce to traders, who offer them better prices. They feel that will be better if the private companies deal with them directly instead of the middleman banias

    A curmudgeon, self-confessed Congress supporter, throws in his two cents "All that matters for city people are whether the expressway is four-lane or six-lane. And Modi ji keeps weaving stories about us to keep you guys entertained." He waves to his granddaughter and off they go in a huff.  

    On healthcare, they say that the nearby hospital is not too bad. But one of them said that he is happy with Jan Aushadhi Kendra from where he gets medicines around 30 per cent cheaper.

    I ask what their Member of Parliament (MP) Maneka Gandhi had done for them. (Her son Varun Gandhi was the MP from 2014-19). They go on about a divider that she got built on arterial road and regulation of traffic inside the city.

    That is not the job of an MP, but the local government, I interject. They counter by saying that the additional funds needed for the work was procured through Maneka's efforts.

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    They say that BJP will win easily "Sab Modi ko denge!". It is an upper-caste dominated constituency with Brahmins and Thakurs forming more than 30 per cent of the population. Though these people are BJP supporters, they say that an energetic opposition is needed to keep BJP on its toes. 

    The low expectations from an MP and even worse, the general lack of what is expected of MPs continues to plague most of India.

    Common citizens really do not know what the work of an MP is. (Even if MPs think of themselves as policy makers, they reconcile to the roles of being arbiters in municipal issues.) The multi-tier government and division of labour are all in paper only. 

    At the near-end of the trip, I get a totally refreshing perspective on freebies. Indians suffer no fools and are practical about the voting choices.

    They are not brainwashed by the BJP campaigns as the unempathetic intelligentsia tends to portray rural India. Political choices have strong impact on their lives. They are weathered and wise in their support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

    Amethi-Pratapgarh-Rae Bareli 

    "You scarified us to the gods of your bluest days". Cheer up, Taylor! 

    Amethi is unremarkable. There is no hustle and bustle about the elections. it goes to polls on May 20. The Congress has not yet announced its candidate.

    Rumours are swirling that Rahul Gandhi will file his nomination after the Wayanad polls (the constituency voted on 26 April). A pugnacious Smriti Irani waits for her adversary. 

    I passed by a village market in Pratapgarh district. It seemed as if the entire village was congregated in that particular place. I realise the efficiency of the operation. All the service providers from barbers to cobblers to people serving food to vegetable sellers everybody arrive at an appointed time, and transact and leave. 

    Seems a banal gathering, but I overthink about efficiency of the self-imposed time limits of these gatherings. There seems to be no need for any infrastructure to carry out these transactions making them low-cost affairs. I passed by a PM Shri School, the first one of the trip. 

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    I finish the day in Rae Bareli. It is better than Amethi for sure. I decided to stay in a UP Tourism Development Corporation hotel. It was very well maintained and clean. It reminded me of the hotels run by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments. Signs of good governance. 


    "All my mornings are Mondays stuck in an endless February" . Give her a soda, please! 

    A classmate from 20 years ago learns about my travels from Twitter (now X). He invites me to stop by his office at Kanpur.

    Unlike me, Mayur Kajaria (name changed), has aged a bit. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and Purdue University, he chose to return to his family business after dabbling in investment banking in Mumbai.

    His runs a fleet of trucks for transporting gas. He also runs a petrol station. After reminiscing the good old days for a bit, I sneak a few questions on what Kanpur has been up to. 

    I ask him about what has changed over the last 10 years. He says that everything has changed for the good. Being in the logistics business he is very pleased with Union minister Nitin Gadkari and the roads. 

    A new terminal at Kanpur airport was inaugurated in May 2023. He says people from Kanpur, in spite of being a big city, used to go to Lucknow to catch flights till a few years ago. The Vande Bharat train from Delhi to Varanasi passes through Kanpur. 

    Improvement in law and order has been remarkable. Vikas Dubey, the dreaded gangster, was killed a few years ago near his place. The time when rowdies stopped by for hafta vasooli is in the past.

    Bulldozer raj has played a role in minimising Hindu-Muslim clashes in Kanpur city. The city has many CCTV cameras and helps in keeping a check on troublemakers. 

    He also feels that GST (goods and services tax) has improved the ease of doing business tremendously. To buy even simple packaging material from other states, a few authorisation forms had to be filled. All that inefficiency is gone now. He travels extensively and feels that the work done over the last 10 years will reverberate for the next 25 years. 

    He wants the number of flights from Kanpur to be increased. He gets competitive and says that the Centre should not fall for the "Lucknow lobby" that captures all resources earmarked for the infrastructure.

    He cites a recent example of the Gorakhpur-Lucknow Vande Bharat train. Apparently, it was not running full-capacity. He is miffed that instead of extending it to Kanpur, which is the trading hub, the rail ministry extended it to Prayagraj because of political compulsions. 

    He says that any horse will win from a BJP ticket here. His complaint against the BJP was that the party always fields outsiders in Kanpur. Hence the MPs do not have a personal stake in the development of a city. 

    Besides Noida-Ghaziabad and Lucknow, Kanpur is the key driver of growth in UP. He feels that development of Kanpur is a low-hanging fruit. 

    EOTD Notes

     "You left your typewriter at my apartment

    Straight from the tortured poet's department.."

    Sit down Arijit!

    Of the holy trinity of roti, kapda and makaan — the government is providing roti through rations and low-cost loans for makaan to the poor people.

    I play devil's advocate and wonder aloud whether the government should provide kapda once in a year as well. The government could thus provide impetus to the Khadi industry as well. 

    My driver isn't taking any of it. He too feels that even rations should be gradually reduced to target only the poorest. It is harmful to human beings galat hai — he says. 

    He too, it seems, has been ruminating on the 'pangu' remark. Our countrymen are not simply transactional. There pervades a sense of duty and of the right and wrong. What is the word for it? 


    This report is part of Swarajya's 50 Ground Stories Project - an attempt to throw light on themes and topics that are often overlooked or looked down. You can support this initiative by sponsoring as little as ₹2999. Click here for more details.

    Read the previous articles in this series:

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 1: What Moradabad, Pilibhit, And Rampur Think About Modi Sarkar And 2024 Election

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 2: Discussing National And Local Issues In This Slice Of Northern Uttar Pradesh

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 3: The Uttar Pradesh Capstone — Election Trail Chronicles From Ghaziabad To Kushinagar

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 4 — 'Phirse Modi Ho, Bihar Me Bahar Ho'

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 5: Too Much Negativity Peddled About Bihar — Notes From Mithila And Seemanchal

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 6: North Bengal — A BJP Fortress In The Making

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 7: Meghalaya And Nagaland Voters Give A Big Thumbs Up To Central Government Schemes

    Hridayapath, Dispatch 8: On Politics, Progress, And Poetry From Assam

    Hridayapath, Dispatch #9: Culture, Infrastructure And Cash Transfers Power Assam, As Progress Reaches Nooks And Corners Of State

    Hridayapath, Dispatch #10: Saffronisation Of Assam Has Made The "Psychological Reintegration" Complete

    Hridayapath, Dispatch #11: Bihar Redux — Of Bengali Woes And Begusarai's Bumihars

    Hridayapath, Dispatch #12: Old Ghosts Stare From Samastipur And Saran

    Banuchandar is a political and public policy advisor. He posts at @Banu4Bharat.

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    A road trip through the poorest regions of India — its heartland