|(From top) Concrete poles are a part of the unplanned construction that is rampant at Edalhatu in Ranchi; a mesh of wires on bamboo poles pose a fatal threat; and a squelchy stretch that passes for a road. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
The neighbourhood is a warren of unplanned constructions and bamboo poles that prop up electricity lines hanging like festoons. And yet, Edalhatu is a mere 3km from chief minister Hemant Soren’s residence on Kanke Road in Ranchi.
At any moment, a bamboo pole can topple and electrocute people to death. But some 300 households of this ward No. 2 neighbourhood have been living on the edge of fear for years thanks to sustained administrative indifference.
The area, less than 2km away from posh residential areas Morabadi and Tagore Garden and their multi-crore mansions, doesn’t have cement poles or wires for electricity supply.
Its roads are so badly pockmarked that walking or riding a two-wheeler without a mishap takes dexterity and courage. In addition, roads have no street lights.
Half the area gets water from Ranchi Municipal Corporation, the other half begs, borrows and steals. If they can afford it, they invest in deep bore wells.
“Bijli toh hai, par taar aur cement pole nahin hai. Isiliye jisko jahan jagah mila baans gaad ke bijli ka taar tana ghar ke liye apne kharch pe. (There’s power but no wires or cement poles. So, people installed bamboo poles to hang wires and draw electricity at their own expense),” said retired railway employee C.S. Dwivedi.
Standing at the entrance of his lane (Shiv Path Road No. 3), Dwivedi said: “Jahan jahan nazar jaye, aapko baans ka hi pole dikhega (You can find bamboo poles as far as you can see).”
Lakshman Shah, an Edalhatu resident for two decades, chipped in. “Kabhi bhi jaan pe ban aa sakta hai kisi ka par koi chara nahin hai. (At any moment, it can be life-threatening but we don’t have any option),” he said, pointing towards a partly decayed bamboo pole.
Shah added they would replace decayed bamboo poles soon. Neither Jharkhand State Electricity Board nor the district administration heard their pleas to mount permanent poles, transformers and wires.
Ward councillor Surendra Nayak seems to be missing in action. He did not take calls from The Telegraph despite repeated attempts.
“Our councillor Surendra Nayak is non-responsive. He says you haven’t given me votes so I won’t do anything. If people didn’t vote for him, how did he win?” asked resident Narendra Dua.
Work, if and when it happens, occurs in piecemeal fashion that helps no one.
“Around six months ago, the electricity department gave our area 36 cement poles by taking Rs 40,000 from us. To erect them on ground, they demanded Rs 8,000. Now, they are demanding more. Some poles were erected so badly that they fell within days,” Dwivedi said.
“Last week, a truck driver narrowly escaped death as a bamboo fell on his vehicle,” he added.
JSEB (Ranchi division) junior electrical engineer Amit Kumar, whom residents claimed were pursuing with their demands for long, pleaded helplessness.
“In road No. 2 and 3, we gave 20 and 36 poles. However, we have crisis of wires now. I can’t do anything till the new consignment comes,” he said.
On why the problems were not solved before, he couldn’t give answers.
“Bamboo poles have been in use here for years. After people requested us for permanent poles, we immediately got it done in a phased manner. Many jobs are in process,” he trotted out the standard phrases.
Residents dub it a farce.
“They keep saying all this. Just as a model civic project, where the best is showcased to the world to attract tourists, the government should also declare Edalhatu a model disaster hub. It will attract many tourists,” Dwivedi sarcastically.
As the JSEB and the RMC keep mum, disaster tourism may be the viable only option for Edalhatu.
Which is the basket-case area of your city?