By Pragya Kaushika
Rohtak (Haryana) [India], Oct 17 (ANI): Barely 50 kilometres away from Rohtak district is Meham assembly constituency, the Jat heartland, where development and abrogation of Article 370 have taken a back seat as election issues against the 'Beti Padhao' campaign in the poll-bound Haryana.
However, it's not the BJP candidate who is being credited for implementing the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' campaign made popular by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Balraj Kundu, an independent candidate contesting against BJP's Shamsher Kharkhara and Congress' Anand Singh Dangi, is posing a serious challenge to the candidates from the two national parties.
The reason is simple, Kundu had been instrumental in ensuring that girls do not face harassment while commuting to reach educational institutes, thereby ensuring that there are lesser dropouts.
Kundu has acquired a fleet of 12 buses-reserved for girls-over a period of six years that ply through Rohtak and Mahem and also covers the Garhi Sampla Kiloi constituencies. The most important factor being they ply completely free of cost.
Sonia Malik, a first-year student of IC College, Rohtak believes that the bus service for girls has ensured that she goes college each day.
Speaking to ANI, Malik said, "I and my friends faced difficulties in commuting to school and then to college. Half of them did not even go. Even I skipped school most of the times. With buses plying for us, most of us have become regular and drop out ratio too has come down."
A housewife from the region, Munni, too was all praises for the initiative taken by Kundu.
"The buses that are plying have done well for girls. The service is free and most importantly it is safe," Munni said, while the other residents of the village agreed to this.
Upon being questioned what prompted him to start and run this bus service free of cost, Kundu said, "Approximately six years ago I was coming from a program in Lakhanpur Majra village and saw girls getting heckled by boys. Realising how much pain they took to travel to colleges, I thought of running a bus service for them and with time the fleet grew to 12 buses."
Kundu was working as BJP's district council chairman but decided to contest as an independent candidate after the party denied him a ticket.
According to aides of Kundu, the girls' dropout ratio has gone considerably down after the bus service was launched.
The first bus began plying from Mokhra village to Maharishi Dayanand University in Rohtak. Soon, the demand started pouring in and the fleet was expanded to meet the needs of the girls from the region.
According to Kundu' aide Vicky, the buses are parked in various villages like Nindana, Farmaan, and Lakhanmajra among others. They drop girls at institutes, academies and university, as their timetables are made as per the time of institutes. All buses then go to are parked at the university and return to villages after picking them up from institutes to drop them at their respective villages.
Meham, a Jat heartland in Haryana, has been a Congress turf for long. However, BJP candidate, Shamsher Kharkhara too has people backing him.
"There used to be a bribe for giving out every job. Now, the poor are also getting jobs. And if you are competent, you will get a job. This is an honest government," said Saroj, a resident of the village.
"We will make Shamsher (BJP) win," said another resident, Chandrabhan, of the Kishangarh village.
On being questioned about the bus service, Kharkhara dismissed it as a small measure and instead spoke about the development made in the state and region by the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar led government.
"Buses are a small thing. Our chief minister has got so much development done in this village. There are people who do politics in the name of social service. Government after coming to power will ply more buses for girls," Kharkhara said.
A staunch Jat heartland, no BJP candidate has ever won the Mahem seat till date.
Elections for the 90 Assembly seats in Haryana will be held on October 21. The counting of votes is scheduled to begin on October 24. (ANI)
Haryana: Independent's 'Beti Padhao' campaign giving tough fight to BJP's Article 370 move on Meham seat
Pragya Kaushika | Updated: Oct 17, 2019 12:01 IST
By Pragya Kaushika