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Strike delays Church varsity plans

The ongoing strike by state land revenue employees has become a source of concern for the Roman Catholic Church, which over the past several years has been desperately trying to get land for a composite university in Ranchi.

“Over the last eight years we have been desperately trying to get the requisite land for our prestigious project. At present we are negotiating for land near Khunti. However, all our efforts to start the project have come to a complete halt because of the strike by land revenue employees which is already more than two-and-a-half months old. There seems to be no end to our problems,” an exasperated Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo told The Telegraph.

The project proposes a medical college and a 500-bed hospital, undergraduate and postgraduate colleges, law university, nursing training centre, school, accommodation for church officials etc. Around 300 acres is needed for the purpose.

Since September 1, land revenue employees comprising circle inspectors, surveyors and karmcharis have been on strike in support of their 10-point charter of demands that include promotion of revenue employees to circle inspectors, promotion of circle inspectors to assistant settlement officers, constitution of a separate cadre for revenue service and a service code for circle inspectors.

As a result of the strike, all work relating to grant of permission to Scheduled Tribes and Castes to buy and sell land, mutation, verification and updating of land records, payment of revenue, issue of caste and income certificates etc have come to a complete halt.

“I had mooted this project in 2004 when I was first chosen to head the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the highest policy-making body of the Roman Catholic Church in the country. I was re-elected for the second term in 2006. Many wanted the project in Patna, Delhi or the Northeast. It was after a lot of persuasion that a consensus was reached to set up the composite project at Ranchi,” the Cardinal said.

Initially, Church officials had scouted for land along NH-33 linking Ranchi with Jamshedpur. When that did not materialise, church officials shifted focus to Khunti-Chakradharpur Road. Cardinal Toppo said they were in the process of clinching a deal for land near Khunti, but declined to give more details.

Toppo added that with delays dogging the land acquisition process near Ranchi, Odisha Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat, in a letter to John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack, with copies marked to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Toppo had requested that the project be shifted to Baripada, Odisha. However Cardinal Toppo declined the offer.

Toppo expressed the hope that the strike by land revenue officers would be sorted out soon and the Church would be able to get possession of the needed land to kick start its project without any further delays.