The Bundelkhand region is situated in the center of India. The region is spread over thirteen districts – seven in Uttar Pradesh – Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda, and Chitrakoot, and six in Madhya Pradesh – Datia, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Sagar, and Panna. The area in Bundelkhand has evidence of early settlements. Which have been found in the Path region of Chitrakoot as well as in the districts of Sagar, Panna, and Chhatarpur. which are depicted in the form of rock paintings. In the epic Ramayana, there are many references to the forests of Chitrakoot. Here, Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita spent their years of exile. In the Mahabharata, there is a description of the Chedi kingdom situated between the Ken and Betwa rivers of Bundelkhand. Chandelas were the astute architects of temples and ponds. Which were necessary to meet the needs of the large population in the non-monsoon months. He was aware of the scarcity of water. Who built several ponds to deal with the situation in this area. Ponds were usually located near the temples. This shows that they had divine importance to water as a natural resource, especially one that was so scarce. These Chandelas were attacked by the Afghan invader Mahmud of Ghazni and captured. In the 14th century, the Bundelkhand region came under the control of Alauddin Khilji. In the 16th century, the entire region came under Bundela Rajput’s rule. After this, although the region came under the Mughals, the rugged topography made it difficult for them to maintain a strong rule here. Under Akbar, there was only nominal Mughal authority over Kalpi. Thereafter, under the leadership of Chhatrasal, the Bundela chiefs revolted and fought for freedom. The Marathas also assisted in this effort and In return, they took a large part of a kingdom that included Jhansi. Wars continued against the Marathas and the Bundelas resisted until they liberated the region from Maratha control in the late 18th century. The parts of Bundelkhand that came under the British during the British period were known as British Bundelkhand.
Natural Resources and Climate of Bundelkhand
The Bundelkhand region is rocky and mainly non-cultivable land divided into four sub-regions—the Bundelkhand plain in the north, the Bundelkhand Uplands in the center, and the Sagar and Damoh (Vindhyachal) plateau in the south. As a geographical region, the Sagar plateau is part of Malwa and Damoh plateau is part of Vindhyachal. The soil of this region is a mixture of black and red-yellow soil, which is rich in organic nutrients. There is a variety of red clay here, which is called Parua. This soil is found in UP Bundelkhand and is good for wheat cultivation. There are two types of black soil – Kabar is found in the upper and plains in Lalitpur, Jalaun, Banda, and Hamirpur districts. The region presents a unique set of geologic and geographic features that have had a deep impact on human development in this region. The climate of Bundelkhand is hot and semi-humid. Usually, the hottest days are in May and the coldest days are in December or January. Temperatures are very high locally due to conditions such as haze and lack of radiation from rocky soils. Small intermittent local thunderstorms occur in summer. This often results in the formation of a cloud of dust that can be so dense that it is cloudy during the day. The average annual temperature here is more than 25 °C. The average temperature in summer is around 30 °C and may rise above 40 °C in May-June. The monsoon from June to September brings down the temperature to around 22 °C – 25 °C, with relative humidity between 70 and 80%. Average annual rainfall ranges from 75 cm in the north to 125 cm in the south-east. The average rainfall of this region is considered to be 100 cm. the rain mainly occurs between June to September around 75%. The remaining 25% of the rainfall occurs during the rest of the year. Due to which a very uncertain ratio of rainfall is seen here. This uncertainty has been responsible for a large number of famines, droughts, and floods in the region since ancient times. The Bundelkhand region is an important source of some of the rarest minerals in the country. The Panna district of Madhya Pradesh was world-famous for its diamond, especially in the medieval period, but since then it has become bleak. Nowadays Bundelkhand is more important for the availability of stone for construction. Jhansi, Lalitpur, Mahoba, Banda, Datia, Chhatarpur, Panna, and Sagar are famous for medium to thick-sized varieties of pink, red and grey granites found in these districts. Two varieties namely Jhansi Red and Fortune Red are mined in Chhatarpur. which are unique. Various colored sandstones like white, buff, cream, pink and red sandstone are found in Panna and Sagar districts. Sandstone is soft. These stones can be easily carved to create exquisite designs and architecture. Many rivers of the Yamuna river system flow in the Bundelkhand region. The main rivers are the Yamuna in the north, Ken in the east, and Betwa and Pahuj in the west. The Yamuna river flows from west to east and its first tributaries – Betwa, Ken, Pahuj, Baghain, and Paisuni – flow from south to north. Betwa, Ken, Pahuj, and Dhasan are very important for irrigation in this region. However, their seasonal fluctuations are huge. For example, the average annual water flow of the Ken River is about 800 cusecs, but in winter it drops to about 300 cusecs and remains practically nothing in May. Such fluctuations weaken the safety of irrigation.
Problems of Bundelkhand
Evidence of the drought in Bundelkhand from the Middle Ages. The famine of Bundelkhand that came during the Rajputana famine of 1869 was very terrible. Which later spread throughout the country. In which about 10 lakh people were killed. Significant changes in weather patterns have been observed since 2003. This has adversely affected farmers and farming, including decreased annual rainfall and increased incidence of hail, storms. Due to this people are suffering a lot due to severe damage to crops. Crop failure and debt have prompted over 400 farmers to commit suicide in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh. Many families have even migrated elsewhere in search of wages to survive, most of whom are working in dangerous and exploitative conditions. The Bundelkhand region of UP and MP experienced drought every 16 years in the 18th and 19th centuries. Which tripled during the period 1968 to 1992 and has now become an annual feature. The most recent and continuous poor rainfall in Bundelkhand was recorded in 2004-10. Below-average and random rains were recorded in most parts of the region throughout the year. There are many manifestations of drought such as late arrival of rains, early return, long intervals, lack of sufficient water in reservoirs, and drying up of wells. Due to which the crop gets spoiled and even the sowing of crops is not done. Which ultimately reduces livelihood.
The region’s water scarcity is one of the major problems faced by the people of Bundelkhand. The region is dependent on monsoon rains for its water needs, but due to the erratic monsoon, the region often faces water shortages. The region also lacks proper irrigation facilities, which results in poor agricultural productivity. The region is facing a serious water crisis due to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources and lack of proper water management.
The government defines poverty as a per capita monthly expenditure corresponding to the per capita daily requirement of 2400 calories in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas. The monthly expenditure per capita is obtained from the National Sample Survey Organisation. Which conducts a comprehensive consumer-expenditure National Sample Survey (NSS) every five years. According to the National sample survey organization 1993-94 data, Bundelkhand of UP was the poorest region in the state. Where about 70% of the population lived below the poverty line. Which was later revised to 27% and finally to 41%. According to the 2003 Human Development Report- Uttar Pradesh, the real poverty rate in rural and urban UP Bundelkhand is around 38%.
3. Food Insecurity (Starvation)
Food insecurity exists at a particular place. When most of the people living there do not, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs – according to the United Nations
Access to food is also affected by caste and gender discrimination. Food insecurity is a complex issue, the India Food Insecurity Atlas uses 19 indicators, which include per capita consumption of food grains, percentage of population consuming less than 1890 calories a day, percentage of drought-prone area, poverty line percentage of is included. The first report of ‘starvation death’ in Bundelkhand made national headlines in 2001. Subsequently, in 2003, in the interior areas of Madawara block of Lalitpur district, following media visits organized by Bundelkhand Seva Sansthan, an NGO affiliated with ABSSS, there were reports of poor families forced to survive ‘by eating grass’, where Sahariyas live in large numbers. This practice was also reported from Tikamgarh during the drought of 2003-2007. The grass is washed and its seeds are ground and mixed with wheat flour. And the stomach is filled with this mixture. The 2003-2007 drought in Bundelkhand created a ‘nutritional emergency’.
The region’s poor agricultural productivity is one of the major reasons for the high poverty rates in the region. The region’s farmers are dependent on monsoon rains for their crops, and due to the erratic monsoon, they often face crop failures. The region also lacks proper irrigation facilities, which results in poor agricultural productivity. The region is also facing a serious problem of land degradation due to the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
4. Education and Poor Healthcare
The literacy rate is the most basic indicator of the educational development of a country. In the case of the Bundelkhand region of UP, more than half the population of this region is without any literacy. Statistics show that the literacy rate of this region is 48.41% as compared to the national literacy rate i.e. 65.38%. Female literacy is considered a more sensitive index of social development than the overall literacy rate. Yet, only one-third of the women (34.98%) in this field are literate.
The region’s poor healthcare and education facilities are also a major concern. The region lacks proper healthcare facilities, and the people are often forced to travel long distances to access healthcare. The region’s education facilities are also not up to the mark, and the literacy rate in the region is very low compared to the national average.
5. Lack of Industrialisation
Before British rule, Bundelkhand, especially in Jhansi, had a number of traditional industries, which depended on the patronage of the ruling houses and those associated with their court. After the control of the British Crown in 1857, these industries faced an inevitable death. Thereafter, there was no significant industrial development in this region. At the end of 2008, there were only two large manufacturing units in the entire region – a unit of the public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals, which was set up in Jhansi in the 1970s, and a cement plant of the Birla Group in the 1980s, Damoh. The bidi industry is the single largest source of non-farm employment Established in Bundelkhand, providing direct employment to over 200,000 persons, a quarter of the main workforce engaged in non-agricultural occupations in MP Bundelkhand. While Uttar Pradesh has the largest share of sugar in factory output, Bundelkhand has no sugar industry. The tourism sector is underdeveloped and only a few products from the region have an export market.
The lack of industrialization in the region is another major problem faced by the people of Bundelkhand. The region is not attracting any major industrial investment, which is one of the major reasons for the high unemployment rates in the region. The region also lacks proper infrastructure, which makes it difficult for small and medium-sized industries to set up their units.
6. Poor Connectivity
The region’s poor connectivity is also a major concern. The region lacks proper road, rail, and air connectivity, which makes it difficult for the people to access markets, healthcare, and education facilities. The region’s poor connectivity also makes it difficult for industries to set up their units in the region.
7. Political Problems
The demand for a separate state of Bundelkhand has gained pace in recent years. But as a result, the political parties promised a separate state only for political gains during election promotions.
The Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha has welcomed the demand for a separate state. But the MP ministry declined the prospect of a separate Bundelkhand.
- Drought proofing means the ability to complete the basic needs of the local population. The nature of drought – during the two periods can vary greatly by function and activities. For example, in normal years, land and water management should focus on increasing the biomass on the land of marginal farmers and landless people. During drought, they should be the target of job creation programs.
- Encourage the non-traditional methods for water use such as inter-basin transfer, artificial recharge of groundwater, and salt water desalination as well as traditional water conservation practices such as rainwater.
- To make an area drought-free, comprehensive planning at the block or panchayat/village level should be based on three aspects- (i) ecological profile, (ii) production status, and (iii) socio-economic status.
- An industrial corridor should be developed between Jhansi and Kanpur.
- Both UP and MP governments should promote Jatropha cultivation on a large scale in Bundelkhand for the production of biodiesel.
- Health and education in Bundelkhand need special attention.
- Special attention should be given to the skill development of the people so that the industries can get skilled workers and such industries should be encouraged to come up in the Bundelkhand region which does not require water.