Pihani, Uttar Pradesh: For 16 years, Kailash Rai (not his real name), 49, has been commuting six hours every working day between his home in the state capital Lucknow and the government degree college where he teaches in Pihani, 135 km to the northwest.
A political-science lecturer, Rai cannot move with his family to Pihani, a cluster of over 100 villages (called akasba) in Hardoi district, with less than 40,000 families as per Census 2011. When he started working there in 2000, it lacked the basic public facilities–regular power supply, good roads, public transport and good medical services.
Pihani remains an economic backwater. In the ongoing assembly elections, UP’s incumbent and contestingpoliticians are still promising the basic facilities they did 16 years ago: Electricity, buses and jobs, along with laptops and free data for poor youth.
UP’s story parallels that of Pihani. The kasba’s population of 206,743 is serviced by four colleges–a government degree college, a state-run industrial training institute (ITI) and two private degree colleges–more than the Indian average of 27 colleges per 100,000 youth in the 18-23 age group, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2014-15. But it has been unable to produce talent to run local educational institutions, banks and medical centres. Read more