The Rameshwar Mahadev Temple, situated on the banks of the Ganga — which shimmers under the sweltering sun — presented a deserted picture at Daundia Khera village on Wednesday afternoon.
The nondescript village with fewer than 3,000 inhabitants hit the headlines last year after the Archaeological Survey of India conducted a massive excavation to retrieve 1,000 tonnes of gold, said to be lying buried in the dilapidated fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh here.
Prominent archaeologists criticised the ASI for wasting resources and following a wrong procedure. For all the hype, the ASI could unearth only a few pieces of pottery, terracotta beads, two bone points, a few broken glass bangles and some iron nails.
The villagers were disappointed and Shoban Sarkar, head priest of the Shobhan Temple in Unnao, became an object of national ridicule.
On Wednesday, Nagendra Pratap Singh, an unemployed youth, said after casting his vote at a booth, 1.5 km from the excavation site: “The government didn’t dig according to the procedure explained by Baba [Sarkar], so how could the gold be retrieved?”
His sentiment is shared across the village as the locals’ faith in Sarkar is unwavering, despite criticism from outside.
Mr. Singh is joined by Ram Srivat, a retired Railway employee, who said: “There is nothing in this village. We had hoped that the digging and media attention would bring us some change. But things are still the same.”
But locals still live with the hope that some day the gold can be retrieved and it would change their lives. Their hope rests on their faith in Sarkar, who is believed to have “miraculous healing powers.”
But Daundia Khera has other grievances, some very urgent. The village faces acute power shortage and has poor roads. Nor is educational and health infrastructure in good shape. “We rarely get power supply for more than 10 hours per day. Last night [on the eve of polling], we had power supply for the entire time. We don’t remember the last time we had power the whole night,” said Ummat Ali, a labourer.
The latest problem seems to be a spate of robberies which residents blame on poor law and order under the SP government. The village, lying on the banks of the Ganga, provides an easy escape route for robber gangs which operate from the neighbouring district, Fatehpur. “Nobody had ever hoped that a bridge would come up at the site. It has made transport easier. But it has also provided a safe exit for robbers,” says Hari Shankar Pandey, district vice-president of the BSP.
“Just three days ago, one Dwivedi’s house was robbed. He had collected jewellery for his daughter’s marriage. Since then there has been an atmosphere of terror in the village,” says Mr. Pandey.
Mahendra Singh, a young Thakur who works in a private company, believes that a change in political leadership will do the village much good. Pitching for Narendra Modi, he says “We want change. We don’t care what he did in Gujarat.”Observers view the sitting Congress MP Anu Tandon as the front runner in the election but in this village she has not garnered much support.