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CM turns to Advani after Atal refusal

New Delhi/Ranchi, Sept. 16: Disappointed with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “reluctance” to attend the third statehood day celebrations on November 15, chief minister Arjun Munda today knocked on the doors of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and requested him to grace the occasion.

A release from the chief minister’s office said: “Advani gladly accepted the invitation and assured him (Munda) that he will definitely try to come to Ranchi on that day. The visit is, however, subject to finalisation.”

If Advani makes it to Jharkhand, it would be the third time he would be the chief guest on November 15 since 2000. Vajpayee is yet to visit the state after it was carved out of Bihar.

As chief guest last year, Advani had inaugurated the Greater Ranchi project at Sukurhutu, a scheme which has fallen on bad times with Munda replacing Babulal Marandi at the top. Work on the other projects inaugurated by the deputy Prime Minister — the new Ranchi University campus and the sports complex — has also not started.

The chief minister handed over a letter to Advani regarding the appointment of “gram sevaks” in 6,000 extremist-affected villages of Jharkhand and reiterated his request for a Rs 388.8-crore central grant for constituting village defence committees (gram raksha dals).

Each gram sevak, whose job is to counter extremism, will be paid a monthly stipend of Rs 1,800.

“The deputy Prime Minister assured Shri Munda that he would favourably look into the matter and take a decision shortly. Shri Advani highly praised the courage of the common citizens of Longo and congratulated them. He said this is an example that the extremists are losing moral support of the common people,” the release said.

“The deputy Prime Minister was briefed about the recent trends in the villages and the willingness of the rural folk to uproot extremism. This is an opportunity that should not be missed and he has assured us all assistance,” Munda claimed at Jharkhand House after meeting Advani.

The chief minister also met officials of Telecommunication India Limited (TCIL) and took stock of how it could help in the modernisation of the state. TCIL has been retained by Jharkhand as its IT and communications consultant.

The chief minister said measures to strengthen the police were on and a decision to fill up the huge backlog in the police would be taken soon. “Once the vacant posts are filled up, the dependence on paramilitary forces would go down.”

Justifying his asking for Rs 388 crore from Delhi, Munda said villagers were fed up of extremist activities. “They themselves want to initiate action against the Naxalites and the gram sevak scheme fits the bill. I am not suggesting a police solution, though the police will always have to be vigilant. More necessary are measures on the socio-economic front,” the chief minister said.

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