Raja Talab in Jharia, Dhanbad, on Thursday. (Gautam Dey)
Furious with the miserable state of Jharia’s century-old Raja Talab, three ward councillors and prominent residents staged a daylong dharna on Thursday, accusing Dhanbad Municipal Corporation and district administration of gross negligence towards the historic pond.
Councillors Anup Sao (ward No. 37), Krishna Agarwal (ward No. 36) and Susmita Dutta (ward No. 39) sat at the six-hour protest near the pond, part of the Raja Talab campaign launched by Sao.
Jharia Chamber of Commerce president Manishankar Keshri, Congress head (Jharia town) Naval Kishor Sharma, Jharia Chamber of Commerce secretary Upendra Gupta and others, accompanied the councillors at the sit-in from 10am to 4pm.
“No one from the municipality or district administration bothered to enquire,” Sao said. “The apathy of authorities has forced us to organise an effigy burning of Dhanbad deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar on October 18. We will take out a torchlight rally on October 23,” he added.
Raja Talab, established by erstwhile Jharia king Durga Prasad Singh in the early 20th century, was a grand reservoir of one of the richest estates under Calcutta Presidency.
Though the pond remains the centre of all religious rituals for residents till date, it has lost the battle against garbage and hyacinth.
Poor drainage, lack of desilting activities and upkeep of embankment by civic authorities and widespread misuse of the pond by people nearby — including washing of clothes and cattle — have led to the pond’s misery.
In 2010, one M/S Sujit Construction was given a Rs 25-lakh contract for the pond’s beautification, including strengthening the embankment to avoid seepage, barbed-wire fencing to prevent the entry of cattle, installation of streetlights, construction of a PCC road and desiltation.
Though 22 streetlights were put up, the contractor stopped work when the earthmover couldn’t desilt the pond due to the inflow of drains.
The municipal corporation ordered a probe against the contractor in 2012 and stopped payment other than Rs 6 lakh provided as initial amount.
Contacted, ADM (law and order) B.P.L. Das, also the chief executive officer of Dhanbad Municipal Corporation said: “I have sought the details about the contractor’s failure from councillor Anup Sao. We will clean the pond before Chhath festival.”