New Delhi/Ranchi, June 30: The Jharkhand government is uneasy, a bit tense even, about tomorrow’s visit to Saranda by Union minister Jairam Ramesh who has time and again made public his displeasure at the slow implementation of his development initiative in the former Naxalite hub of West Singhbhum.
In his latest missive, sent to chief minister Arjun Munda on June 18, the architect of the Saranda Development Plan highlighted a number of “worrying” issues, namely, the lack progress on constructing roads and building homes for the poor, school teachers who play truant and most importantly, the absence of a special officer to monitor the development plan.
Ramesh was scheduled to arrive in Ranchi tomorrow. Accompanied by state development commissioner Debasish Gupta and principal secretary Santosh Kumar Satpathy, he would then leave for Saranda to lay the foundation stone of 11 new roads to be built under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, besides inaugurating two check dams and a micro irrigation project in Digha village under Manoharpur block of West Singhbhum.
The Union minister will also hold a public meeting at Domlai village and distribute solar lanterns and bicycles to local residents, apart from reviewing implementation of various central schemes. He will spend the night at West Singhbhum district headquarters of Chaibasa, before returning to Ranchi on Monday.
In his letter, the minister listed out several specifics. “In many schools in the interiors, absenteeism by teachers is rampant and midday meals are also not being served. Teachers are mostly non-tribals and are unable to communicate with students,” he said.
Ramesh also pointed out that no progress had been made to include eligible families in the list of BPL beneficiaries despite a letter from the ministry to this effect.
“I have also been told that the West Singhbhum district collector now handles additional charge of Seraikela-Kharsawan. Although I do not want to interfere in what is a state government prerogative, but I feel that the work will be too much and that it involves substantial responsibilities not fit for one person to do,” he wrote.
However, Ramesh’s concern on this front has been addressed. The state government has named Kripanand Jha as deputy commissioner for Seraikela-Kharsawan but with additional charge of Adityapur Industrial Area Development Authority as MD.
Also, West Singhbhum deputy commissioner K. Srinivasan felt they had not fared all that badly in implementing the Saranda development plan, given Jharkhand’s security imperatives.
“Development is a long-term process. There are security related issues involved in Saranda which are kept in mind while working in the field. I have not been officially communicated about the honourable Union minister’s letter, but I must say development in the Saranda area is comparatively far better that other Naxal areas,” he told The Telegraph.
Development commissioner Gupta, who monitors progress of the plan from Ranchi, also maintained that work in Saranda was progressing at a “more or less” satisfactory pace.
On the question of a development commissioner though, Ramesh was cutting. Hoping that the state government had finally issued the necessary notifications to appoint a special officer to monitor the progress of the Saranda Development Project, he said, “The last time I had checked this notification had not been issued. Who better than you can understand that without a government order an officer will be helpless in carrying out the responsibilities bestowed on him.”
Officials in his ministry confided that Ramesh was deeply disappointed and concerned that despite freeing 56 villages in the Saranda area from Naxalites, the development plan wasn’t going on at a desired pace.