Yet traditions die hard in UP, malign ones especially. At the very time
Akhilesh was speaking, a five-year-old girl, Soni, was breathing her
last in Raitara, a dirt-poor hamlet 320 kilometres (200 miles) to
the south-east. She belonged to the Musahar, or rat-catcher, caste. The
village school does not teach Musahar children, who work in brick
factories most of the year. Musahar adults cannot get the temporary work
that the government supposedly guarantees to all, and supplies of
state-subsidized food are patchy. Soni died of malnutrition.
A lot rests on Akhilesh’s shoulders. With 200m people, UP is the
world’s largest local-government unit. It is bigger than Brazil and
contains more than 20% of India’s poorest people. Anyone who can dent
poverty there would make a difference to global poverty statistics.