Other States

In former Maoist zone, Congress hopes development schemes will yield returns

Soon after paramilitary forces launched a massive operation to flush out Maoists in the Saranda forest area in Singhbhum in 2011, the Ministry of Rural Development launched a Rs. 250-crore Saranda Development Plan (SDP) to bring in development and to consolidate the government’s hold on the area. The then Union Minister, Jairam Ramesh, took a personal interest in the implementation of projects. But the distribution of welfare varies depending on the location of the villages.

Digha, connected by roads via Odisha which Mr. Ramesh visited several times, is the only panchayat where the Steel Authority of India (SAIL), that operates iron ore mines here, has completed an Integrated Development Centre out of the 10 it was originally asked to construct as part of the SDP.

Deeper in the forest, in villages like Thalkobad, Tirilposi, Baliba, there are no such facilities even now, though new schools are under construction after the existing schools were blown up in the conflict between the CRPF and the Maoists.

Nearly all the villages have no clean drinking water as the rivers and channels crisscrossing the forest are polluted from runoff from SAIL’s and other private mines.

This time, Geeta Koda, MLA from Jagannathpur under which Saranda falls, and wife of Madhu Koda, Jharkhand’s Chief Minister, will contest here on Jai Bharat Samanta Party (JBSP) ticket — the party floated by Mr. Koda. Her strongest rival is considered to be BJP’s Laxman Gilua, MLA from Chaibasa.

“Geeta Koda gave us only 2-3 handpumps, but Mr. Ramesh’s visits have resulted in more roads, regular rations, and a checkdam is being built,” says Dennis Topno, the munda (head) of Digha village.

In Baliba, 30 km away, Bindrai Gudiya is among several who lost their voter IDs when the CRPF raided their village. She hasn’t been able to obtain a new card.

Then there are 110 villages, locally known as “Jharkhandi”, inhabited by Adivasis who settled here in the 80s during a resistance movement against the forest department’s decision to replace sal trees (considered sacred) with teak plantations. Over 5,000 adivasis here still do not exist in administrative records.

But will the people in villages where some development has taken place vote for the Congress? “The Congress gave handpumps etc. to the village but the halla (the buzz) is not in Congress’ favour,” said Chotanagra resident Prakash Gop, a young man dressed in jeans and T-shirt, as he left a BJP meeting.

In the district headquarters in Chaibasa, Congress’ Bagun Sumbrui, who represented Singhbhum five times till Madhu Koda defeated him in 2009, admits the party workers are upset and divided after Sumbrui intervened to prevent Geeta Koda from getting the Congress ticket, instead backing Chitrasen Sinku who left the BJP to join the Congress in 2012.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 7:36:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-former-maoist-zone-congress-hopes-development-schemes-will-yield-returns/article5869040.ece

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