Jairam Ramesh on his way to Jhumra village from a CRPF camp in Bokaro on Sunday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Jhumra (Bokaro), March 24: Union rural development minister today promised a Jhumra Action Plan, on the lines of the Saranda Action Plan, in the Maoist-affected hills in Bokaro, to overthrow rebels with his development agenda.
Ramesh, a frequent visitor to Saranda forest in West Singhbhum where his Rs 249-crore development plan has largely succeeded in undermining the influence of Maoists, today visited Jhumra and spent over 90 minutes interacting with poor villagers, including women and elders.
He promised to pump Rs 300 crore into a development plan in Jhumra for the all-round growth of 81 villages in 14 panchayats overlapping into the districts of Bokaro, Hazaribagh and Ramgarh.
He promised that once the “action plan” is set into motion, a radius of about 200 sqkm, known to be a Naxalite zone where development projects have largely been in the backburner so far, would finally witness progress.
Citing the logic of an idle mind being a devil’s workshop, the minister argued that once development sops are on offer, the clout of Maoists would be nullified.
“Though Jharkhand was formed more than 12 years ago, people in this zone still have to cover a 14km stretch from Rahwan to Jhumra, while many residents have to walk up to 70-75km to reach the block office. It reflects what little development has taken place here so far,” he said, adding that most projects had been non-starters or moving at snail’s pace.
He pointed out that work carried out under MGNREGS, rural road, health as well as education could not be termed “satisfactory” in Bokaro, especially Jhumra.
“Officers will also have to change their attitudes to complete development plans or they must be ready to face the music,” warned the minister, who appeared unimpressed after listening to residents, including women members of self-help groups.
A day after describing bureaucrats as khatarnak janwar (dangerous animal) in Ranchi, Ramesh took another dig at officials.
“Bureaucrats who work in an autocratic style will have to change their attitudes towards people and all the development projects must be completed with the co-operation of members of panchayat and block-level elected representatives. This will help bridge the discontentment brewing up in rural zones and to win back the confidence of the masses,” he said.
Asked why MGNREGS funds had been trimmed for Jharkhand, the minister said the state’s record of implementation of the job scheme was poor and it had failed to fully utilise sums meant for previous years.
Ramesh also came across Kamli Devi, the convener of a self-help group who deplored that she and her fellow members had to scale 75km to reach the Gomia block headquarters for opening bank accounts.
This prompted him to direct district officials to see to it that bank accounts could be opened nearby for people of Jhumra.
Shanti Devi, the widow of Maoist leader Devilal Mahto who was killed in an encounter with the police in 2011, and her son Dular Chand also entreated the minister that she had nothing to eat as there were no earning members in the family.
Ramesh assured them, asking district officials ensure the youth is offered training in an ITI and the family is bailed out through welfare schemes.
The minister also inspected development works under MGNREGA at Jhumra village and asked an elder, Vishweshwar Mahto, what was the biggest problem faced by them.
Mahto replied they desperately sought early construction of a road from Rahwan to Jhumra, which is cut off during monsoon.
Earlier, he reached Jhumra at 12.30pm by a chopper from Ranchi and was given a warm welcome by IG M.L. Meena, DIG Laxman Singh, deputy commissioner A. Rajkamal and SP Kuldeep Dwivedi among others. During his stay of over two hours, Ramesh also met personnel of CRPF’s 26th Battalion and JAP-I.