Ranchi, Nov. 2: IIM-R director M.J. Xavier has said that he would not pursue construction of their proposed 76-acre campus in Nagri in view of violent protests, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the prestigious knowledge hub envisaged on the outskirts of Ranchi.
The state government as well as the IIM-R and the proposed Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) appear to have lost their appetite to take on Nagri protests over land acquisition issues head-on. But, the proposed National University for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), whose campus is also coming up in the area, doggedly soldiers on.
The most visible Nagri signpost after yesterday’s vandalism on the disputed site is posse of 90 JAP personnel standing guard on Ranchi-Patratu double-lane road. An extra 20 — “on permanent posting” some joked — were inside the campus. The only evident activity was the painfully slow construction of the 2km boundary wall of the law cradle.
But the major shifts are happening below the surface.
“Ideally, we’d like the government to allot us some other plot. We are not in favour of building a campus on the (Nagri) plot after all the violence unless it is clear that it is government land,” Xavier said, adding he would meet the chief minister and chief secretary soon.
“We hope the government finds an amicable way out,” the IIM-R director added.
The state government is also not pursuing the 75-acre IIIT campus after the special committee, headed by revenue and land reforms minister Mathura Mahto, found “lacunae in acquisition of some portion of the land”. The state government has informed the Jharkhand High Court, that has been periodically nudging the state government on Nagri imbroglio, that no land was allotted to IIIT.
This is not a pretty picture Jharkhand is presenting to neighbouring states and the word outside.
The young state, which will complete 12 years of existence on November 15, is unable to start a knowledge hub without getting caught in land politics. It sends worrying signals to possible investors who need large chunks of land for one-stop-shop integrated projects — IT or food processing hubs.
Billed as a game-changer by the Arjun Munda government, the triple campuses of NUSRL, IIM-R and IIIT have been jinxed from the word go.
Insiders say that for whatever reason, the main targets of rural ire are the IIM-R and IIIT campuses. Construction on IIM campus could not resume after a portion of a boundary wall was demolished on July 4, with the firm entrusted with the work allegedly leaving due to police inaction.
Villagers have been sowing paddy defiantly on the IIIT plot after July 4. They bring cattle over to graze on the IIM-R plot, ignoring a common wall between the two rectangular plots.
It now remains to be seen if at all and how soon NUSRL comes up. The first brick on the 63-acre plot was laid in January 2012. Ten months down the line, workers were seen painting the wall and plugging holes that protesting villagers made yesterday, apparently provoked by Jharkhand High Court’s fiat to deploy extra forces at the construction site.
This, and the posse of policemen, sums up the present state of Jharkhand’s showpiece knowledge hub. The state government, which claims that it acquired land in 1957-58 as per law, hasn’t been able to convince tribal settlers.
Over the course of the months, the state was left with one constant friend — Jharkhand High Court. Tribal settlers, in contrast, acquired a whole legion of sympathisers — political parties of all hues, NGO workers, activists and rabble-rousers.
From rallies to fasts to high court orders and another round of protests, trouble followed a predictable cycle. October peaked with activist Dayamani Barla’s arrest, announcements of fasts with the high court ordering to deploy more personnel on the site.
In this environment of fear and uncertainty, work limps along. “Work happens in fits and starts,” pointed out Md Arif, a contractor engaged by Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
“We began work on January 9, stopped on March 4, started on May 2 on high court directive. That’s when district administration deployed 20 security personnel on campus,” he said, adding their initial workforce of 100-150 labourers was now down to 50.
“If there’s no more trouble, we’ll complete the wall by November-end,” he continued bravely.
Modi Mehta, a mason from Hazaribagh (Ichak), has been there since January. “Nagri villagers often tell us to stop work and leave. We tell them we are poor people working for our livelihood and won’t fight them. They haven’t harmed us yet,” he said.
CPWD engineers have to maintain low profile. “It is natural for us to be afraid. We visit the construction site to supervise work secretly on our bikes and try not to be seen by the locals,” pointed out an engineer.
“Our next task is to lay 2.5km of road inside the campus. The agency is likely to begin work on Monday,” he said.
NUSRL is satisfied with the “steady pace” of the work.
“We have engaged CPWD for the main building. We want to set up an academic building and hostel in the first phase with Rs 50 crore available with us,” said registrar Alok Sengupta.