The entrance to Gautam Buddha Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of which lies in Chouparan in Hazaribagh, on Tuesday. Picture by Vishvendu Jaipuriar
Hazaribagh, Dec. 18: Middle class farmer Baijnath Mahto of Silodar village, Chordaha panchayat, is an MNC television set maker’s dream customer in a saturated urban market.
Mahto, 56, wants to come back home after a hard day’s work in the fields, put his feet up and watch television programmes. Only, Chordaha panchayat on Jharkhand-Bihar border, 80km from Hazaribagh and 3km from Gaya, is waiting for electricity even after 62 years of Independence.
Why Chordaha has been without power for so long is because the 14km stretch from where electric wires are supposed to criss-cross include forests within Jharkhand border that are a part of Gautam Buddha Wildlife Sanctuary, Bihar.
It means that for the 4,380 residents of panchayat’s 11 villages — Chordaha, Danuwa, Silodar, Murtiya, Sablaas, Sanjha, Doriya, Sikda, Moraniya, Aahari and Garmorwa — something as basic as a television set or a mobile phone is a luxury, even though most have the money to buy them.
Ask any management guru and he will exult about growth at the bottom of the pyramid. Which means, in plainspeak, that the creamy urban layer has been buying for years, but it is people like Mahto who are raring to spend on the goodies of life.
Mahto has a pucca house, a bike and an annual income of Rs 1.5 lakh. His three children go to school. “Par ek baar sham ko ghar aakar television on kar programme dekhne ki tamanna hai (But I want to come home and switch on the television),” he said, his appetite whetted by the wonders of the idiot box in electrified Chouparan block headquarters, 14km away.
No electricity in the panchayat is a glaring oddity where villagers are a prosperous lot from growing paddy, wheat and green vegetables, zip around on bikes, live mostly in pucca houses, love to hear FM radio on battery-operated transistors and send youngsters to schools and the nearest private college.
Chordaha mukhiya Sukhdeo Paswan said five homes in the entire panchayat area have TV sets that run on solar panels. “They are the superstars here,” he smiles. “But these families help out villagers to charge cellphones when needed for emergencies,” he added.
Many residents buy cellphones, but batteries are down. Students and homemakers use day hours for studies or cooking.
Tetar Ganjhu, a schoolboy in Danuwa village, is frankly embarrassed. “When we go out, we don’t tell anyone we come from an area without power,” he said.
Farmer Mahto said former external affairs minister and Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha visited them and promised them electricity while contesting the Lok Sabha elections of 2009.
“Sinhaji’s efforts have resulted in electric poles with wires stretching up to the villages,” he said. “Par humlog dhibri yug mein reh rahe hain (But we are still in oil lamp era).
What he and many villagers would be glad to know is that Chordaha panchayat’s case has moved to Delhi.
Sinha’s prod did get DVC up and about — and work started to erect poles. But the forest department feared wires were a threat to wildlife. Then, a plan was mooted to use insulated wires and sent to state wildlife advisory board headed by chief minister Arjun Munda, who cleared it in October.
Sinha told The Telegraph that the matter was now with Wildlife Board of India headed by Union minister Jayanti Natrajan. “I will push the matter,” he promised.
Chordaha, waiting for 62 years, still waits, patience wearing thin.