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Kannod Khategaon Seat: Urban pressure due to migration, increased deforestation

Ashish Sharma Interview Kannod Khategaon Vidhansabha BJP candidate

The Kannod-Khategaon Vidhansabha seat, a general category constituency in Dewas district, comprises a population where 38 per cent are members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes. This region, which borders the Narmada River and is encircled by forests, endures challenges such as unemployment, migration, deforestation, and unlawful mining.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nominated incumbent MLA Ashish Sharma for this seat once again. Sharma is vying to become an MLA for the third term. Meanwhile, the Congress party has fielded Deepak Joshi, a native of Hatpiplya and son of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kailash Joshi, who served as Chief Minister for 208 days between 1977 and 1978. Joshi’s candidacy has faced resistance from within his party since he is a leader from Hatpiplya and the Congress has assigned him a ticket from Khategaon. Local Congress officials, who have been serving in the region for five years, appear disgruntled with this decision.

Posters in Khategaon against Congress candidate Deepak Joshi

Kannod Khategaon Vidhansabha in statistics

The Khategaon-Kannaud Assembly encapsulates a total voter populace of 207326. Subsequently, within this vast figure, 14.3% represent the Scheduled Caste and 24.4% are part of the Scheduled Tribe. However, the Brahmin caste members are the chosen candidates to represent both BJP and Congress. Therefore, the electoral trajectory here is primarily influenced by the upper caste voters.

The BJP has once again chosen Ashish Sharma as its candidate for the third consecutive term. This can be a testament to his significantly increased support base throughout the last two terms within the region. During our visit to the area, feedback regarding Ashish Sharma was varied and diverse among the local people.

Map of Khategaon Kannod assembly constituency in Dewas district.

Jeetendra, a resident of Kannod, is a farmer and also runs a grocery shop. He says that,

“About 90 villages in this area are not getting Narmada water. We are settled on the banks of river Narmada. From here Narmada water is being sent to other districts and the farmers here have not yet received water through the pipeline. Also, bullying has increased here in the last 10 years.”

In our conversation regarding this matter with BJP MLA candidate, Ashish Sharma, he expressed his awareness of the issue and asserted that ensuring that the Narmada water reaches to these villages is a primary priority in his upcoming term.

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Recession in business

Upon conversing with various city traders, we discovered that challenging weather conditions over the past few years have led to widespread crop deterioration. The financial state of farmers, the backbone of our local economy, has been severely affected. In consequence, the market, largely dependent on customers from adjacent villages, is also experiencing a significant downturn. Shailu, who runs a utensil shop, says, “The farmer will spend only when he has money… only then will our shops function.”

Irregular water pouring during the 4-lane road construction from Kannod to Khategaon raises dust concerns for locals.

Deepak, a resident of Bavdikheda village, 29 kilometres away from Kannod. He had shifted to Kannod 2 years ago. He says,

“Farming is no longer profitable, so I have opened a shop here to earn some income. Now I do my farming work from here. There is no good system for educating children in villages. Now most of the people from our village are migrating to the city. If all the facilities were available in the village itself then why would we come here.”

BJP’s candidate from the constituency Ashish Sharma asserts that during his previous two terms in Kannod Khategaon Vidhansabha, he has successfully overseen numerous developmental initiatives. Primarily focusing on the construction of new roads, enhancement of healthcare facilities and ensuring punctual provision of fertilizers and seeds for farmers. Furthermore, he remains firmly committed to creating a ‘new Khategaon’, aiming for a society wherein all basic needs of its residents are efficiently met.

In Khategaon, forests are being cleared for tribal farming leases, reducing forest area

Migration from rural areas, increasing pressure on cities

Around 86.7% of Khategaon-Kannod assembly’s population resides in rural areas. Despite roads connecting these regions to the cities, people still need to go to urban areas for access basic health care and quality education. With a steady influx of people migrating from rural areas, population pressure is escalating on Kannod and Khategaon. This demands significant development work to be done in the foreseeable future. The growing population is also exerting immense stress on natural resources like forests and rivers.

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The unlawful deforestation activity in this area is escalating into a serious issue. Data from Global Forest Watch indicates that 16 hectares of woodland in Dewas district were wiped out between 2001 and 2022, accounting for 2.3 per cent of the district’s total forested land.

BJP’s incumbent MLAs, Ashish Sharma, concurred with the identified problems. He underscored to Ground Report how they are actively addressing these issues and working towards the development of all population segments.

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  • I am inherently curious about human experiences and the evolution of society. When he is not engrossed in a book, you can easily find him engaged in films.

  • Pallav Jain is co-founder of Ground Report and an independent journalist and visual storyteller based in Madhya Pradesh. He did his PG Diploma in Radio and TV journalism from IIMC 2015-16.

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