Ranchi, Sept. 1: New chief minister, new plan of action.
This seemed to be true for the old building of Birsa Munda Central Jail, located on Circular Road in the heart of the state capital. In casuals, chief minister Hemant Soren today vroomed into the jail premises on his car with chief secretary R.S. Sharma for company.
Hemant reached the jail at 11.30am and went around the campus along with Sharma, principal secretary Sukhdeo Bhagat, urban development secretary Arun Kumar Singh, forest and environment secretary Alka Tiwari, deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey and other officials.
He spent half an hour at the old jail. “I do have some plans for conservation of this site. I will be making them public once everything is finalised,” the chief minister said, hinting that the plan might differ from the earlier one drawn up by his predecessor Arjun Munda.
Later, Hemant is learnt to have held a meeting with some senior officials at his residence and discussed his plans for the old site.
Built in middle of the 19th Century, the old Birsa jail complex sprawls over 23 acres. While on one corner stands the cluster of cells, the rest of the land is vacant.
Given the JMM’s penchant for tribal fighters, Hemant’s plan is likely to differ from that of his predecessors.
“The chief minister has directed government officials to come up with a better and feasible plan of action. However, he will reveal his draft only when it is ready,” said a close aide of Hemant.
This is the third time a conservation plan is being drawn up for the historical building.
In 2006, then urban development minister Raghubar Das had planned to convert the place into a shopping mall, a plan that had invited the ire of tribal organisations and residents alike.
Organisations instead demanded a museum on the life and struggle of Birsa Munda and his contemporaries.
Again, in April 2012, Arjun Munda visited the old building and asked his men to prepare a detailed project report for “conservation and development” of the site.
According to plan, the cell in which Birsa Munda spent his last days was supposed to be conserved, while the rest of the complex was to be renovated into a gallery on freedom fighters, a children’s knowledge park, a mall and an urban haat. Munda had estimated the cost to be around Rs 5 crore for this plan. However, nothing materialised.
Later last year, the art, culture, sports and youth affairs department sent a proposal to include the old jail on the list of heritage sites to be conserved under the 13th Finance Commission. But, the jail did not feature among the lucky 27.