|Residents launch an indefinite fast near Bagbera police station on Tuesday. Pictures by Bhola Prasad
Eleven campaigners from the parched southern fringes of Jamshedpur launched an indefinite hunger strike near Bagbera police station from Tuesday to make their water plea heard.
Under the banner of Sampurna Ghaghidih Vikas Samiti, these fasting men and women from Bagbera, Kitadih, Karandih, Parsudih and Ghaghidih — supported by some 100 others — are protesting against the non-execution of a Rs 132-crore rural water project that had promised piped supply to more than 200,000 fringe residents.
The group of crusaders had begun a phase-wise dharna from March 16, but they decided to up the ante because “the administration did not seem very responsive”.
The multi-crore project, sanctioned by the drinking water and sanitation department, is yet to see the light of day despite being on paper since 2006. Five detailed project reports have been prepared, but there has been no groundwork reportedly because of some design glitches that are in the process of being sorted out.
Erstwhile chief minister Arjun Munda and his cabinet had promised succour when the Samiti spearheaded a padyatra to the state Assembly in August last year, but they did not keep their word, prompting fresh agitation.
The disgruntled residents are also concerned over the plunging water table, which has rendered several tube wells defunct, aggravating the water crisis in the region. “The water table has gone down to at least 300ft over the years, but tube wells are engineered to reach only up to 150ft below the ground. As a result, we are unable to fetch water,” said Chotrai Murmu, the president of the Samiti.
“We have been on dharna since Saturday and have even apprised the governor of our problems. This morning, we faxed him about our indefinite fast. Prolonged agitation is on the cards if the administration does not sit up and act. It will also be responsible for any law and order situation that may arise because of this perennial water crisis,” warned Subodh Jha, the convener.
The Samiti members plan to lock the South Eastern Railway’s water filter house, which is the supply lifeline for railway quarters in Bagbera and Kitadih, on March 21. A dawn-to-dusk road blockade in Jugsalai is slated for on March 22, while the protesters plan to gherao Raj Bhavan in Ranchi on March 23.
“We have sent copies of our demand and planned agitation to the principal secretary of drinking water and sanitation department, the deputy commissioner of East Singhbhum and subdivisional officer of Dhalbhum,” Jha said.
He added that if their indefinite hunger strike and string of protests failed to evoke desired response, local residents might even boycott the general elections in 2014 and also the next Assembly polls.
Executive engineer, drinking water and sanitation (Jamshedpur division), Raghunandan Sharma said their central design office had raised objections to certain pointed in the last project report drawn up by New Delhi-based Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited.
“A representative of the agency is expected to submit a fresh report, incorporating suggestions of the central design office, today (Tuesday). We will forward the same to Ranchi for approval within a day or two,” Sharma floated hope.