| Awaiting the pledge: The present condition of Motijheel in Motihari. Picture by Ajit Kumar Verma |
Chief minister Nitish Kumar will kick off the Sankalp Yatra from the East Champaran district on Saturday even as a promise he made to the people of Motihari 20 months ago remains unfulfilled.
The Sankalp Yatra is a JD(U) programme organised to mobilise supporters for the party. Nitish will kick off the programme from Chhangaraha village, around 20km north of Motihari. But, staring in his face would be a promise he made during his Seva Yatra in April 2012 — giving Motijheel a facelift.
Nitish had visited several spots on the banks of Motijheel and enquired about plans for the lake’s beautification from the then district magistrate (DM), Abhijit Sinha. He also issued the authorities concerned directions to conduct satellite survey of the area, remove encroachments and convert the lake into a tourist spot.
In May 2012, local teams under then additional collector Pramod Kumar Bihari started the survey of Motijheel after obtaining the original maps of the lake and the localities situated around it. On completion, around 46 acres of the lake were found encroached.
The DM also summoned a team from Patna in August to certify the earlier measurement. Sources, however, said the efforts were a mere eyewash for the residents — in spite of the transfer of three successive district magistrates since Nitish’s directive, the beautification of Motijheel remains a distant dream.
Motihari Nagar Parishad chairperson Prakash Asthana said: “During the survey work of the lake last year, around 169 houses and several shops were found to be illegally constructed over encroached land of Motijheel. But nothing was done to remove these structures.”
The district administration, with help from the police, is responsible for removing encroachments.
In the failure to do so, Asthana added: “The chief minister’s desire and his plan to develop the Motijheel as a beautiful revenue generating tourist spot of the state has culminated into a public or political announcement during his Seva Yatra.”
District magistrate S. Chiruvelu, who took the charge of East Champaran around two months ago, was unavailable for comment. Sources in his office said he was busy with preparations for the chief minister’s visit on Saturday. The current additional collector, Bharath Dubey, also drew a blank on the developments in the beautification plans for Motijheel.
Civic body chairperson Asthana also alleged that the survey work of the Motijheel, involving lakhs of rupees, had turned into an opportunity for government personnel to amass illegitimate wealth.
“In the past 20 months, the mutation of around 20 cases has been carried out following the registration of over 1.5 acres of encroached lake,” he added.
Among the directions of the chief minister for the beautification of Motijheel included a satellite survey of the whole area keeping in view the sewerage system and removal of encroachment and silt from the lake.