Chief minister Arjun Munda works on his laptop during Vikas Mela in Lohardaga on Wednesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Lohardaga, Nov. 7: Chief minister Arjun Munda concluded the second phase of his Johar Yatra in Lohardaga today with a promise to upgrade 72km of roadways in the backward district into state or national highways.
“I know the district lags behind in several development parameters. There is much to do in the field of health, education and road sectors. Infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate here is more than the state averages while there is dearth of quality health and education institutions. That is the reason I am here and asked the officials to pull up their socks,” Munda said after holding a review of development schemes.
Lohardaga, situated about 80km from Ranchi, is known for its bauxite deposits.
Residents, however, claimed they were not benefiting much, as Aditya Birla Group’s Hindalco Industries Ltd was not adhering to corporate social commitment and a massive dump yard of bauxite was degrading the environment.
Shishir Toppo, chairperson of Lohardaga Nagar Parishad, said Hindalco should find a separate dumping ground. “Moreover, the company is doing precious little to improve the lives of local people. The district has only one college and one hospital. Roads are in poor shape, but the government and corporate houses are keeping their eyes closed,” he said.
BJP MP Sudarshan Bhagat also spoke up. “Work on the Lohardaga-Tori (Chandwa) railway project is progressing very slowly due to law and order problem. The dump yard of Hindalco is causing problems for residents, while Barki-Chapi should be given the status of an administrative block,” he said.
Ajsu’s Lohardaga MLA Kamal Kishore Bhagat, on the other hand, said that work on the 38km Kisko-Richuguta road under a central scheme could not take off in two years as 11 attempts to engage a contractor remained futile.
“Even after a contractor was chosen recently, the project is yet to get a nod from the Union ministry,” Bhagat said.
Munda replied that he would ensure the project is soon executed. He added the Kudu-Lohardaga-Ghaghra road (44km) would also be widened under a Rs 44 crore plan.
During Vikas Mela, he distributed assets worth over Rs 10.53 crore under schemes such as Mukhya Mantri Laxmi Ladli Yojana, Mukhya Mantri Kanyadan Yojana, besides seed money to self-help groups.
The police and district administration were on their toes to present a rosy picture before the chief minister.
But at Vikas Mela, organised by the administration, Surendra Oraon, a resident of Nawadi village in the Naxalite-hit Senha block, told The Telegraph: “I work as a labourer in Ranchi with my wife. My family has not been issued a BPL card and I am deprived of benefits of government schemes.”
No wonder his six-month-old daughter, who he had brought along, was not among the 1,077 girls whom the chief minister handed over benefits under the scheme during the mela.
Mukesh and Rakesh Kumar, both 10th graders at Rajkiya Prathmik Vidyalaya in Chotchorgain village, were not enthused by Munda’s promises.
“The road to our village is poor in shape. Classes are not held regularly in the school while the forests that are full of sakhua, kusum and other trees are fast disappearing,” said Rakesh.