Argora pond in Ranchi cries for civic attention. (Prashant Mitra)
Pious or putrid — help us caption this telltale picture of Argora pond in Ranchi that once hosted divine rituals and teemed with water life.
Sprawling over 3.62 acres along Harmu Bypass, a stone’s throw from Team India skipper M.S. Dhoni’s residence, this century-old water body is yet another glaring example of administrative neglect, which is almost synonymous with Jharkhand.
No one can fault a visitor for mistaking the historical pond for a sewer tank, thanks to scum, polythene and miscellaneous unmentionables that kick up a terrible stink. Few would like to venture anywhere near such foulness, rituals and bathing being absolutely out of question.
Argora pond falls under Ward 37 of RMC, but the onus of its maintenance lies with the state fisheries department.
According to former ward councillor Shibu Tigga, the department has outsourced the job to an incompetent agency. “The pond has only been exploited and rarely maintained. For the past two years, the agency — roped in to promote fisheries — has entered a nexus with unscrupulous builders. Together, they dig up soil, but do nothing to revive the water body. Unplanned digging has rendered the pond bed uneven and dangerous,” he said.
On what steps he himself had taken to save Argora pond during his RMC tenure, Tigga claimed he had sent many an application to the civic brass, but funds for reviving the water body was never sanctioned.
Current councillor Arun Kumar Jha admitted posers.
“On May 7, we had a meeting with residents on the issue. It has been decided that the matter will be broached with urban development secretary Arun Kumar Singh. Argora pond has religious significance. There was a time when devotees used its ghats during Chhath and Manda Puja, which, however, is not possible now. Besides, the pond also helps maintain the water table. We have to act now to save it,” Jha sounded a crusade.
However, Ranchi’s district fisheries officer Manoj Kumar parried questions, saying he was busy at a meeting in Khunti and this correspondent could contact one of his officials, Shyamlal Choudhary, instead.
Choudhary said the pond had been leased out to Matysajeevi Sahyog Samiti for pisciculture, but the latter had not even deposited the agreed money to department over the past year.
Samiti secretary Doman Nishad could not be contacted for his comments. A fisherman, who knows him, said: “Nishad stays in Tatisilwai. You can find him for only three hours every morning.”
Director of state fisheries department Rajeev Kumar promised action, but with a rider. “So far, the matter has come to my knowledge through unofficial sources. Once it comes through proper channel, action will be taken. We are committed to the cause of fisheries. We want to make each and every water body in the state productive,” he said.