|(From top) The dirty toilet complex at the government primary school in Kathargonda, Ranchi, on Wednesday; and one of the five hand pumps installed by the RMC. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
The shiny Galaxia Mall on Ratu Road, Ranchi, is barely 2km from Kathargonda, but seems to belong to another planet.
Tribal-dominated Kathargonda, with some 500 households and around 3,000 residents, is one of the hidden secrets of the new face of the state capital. It’s an underdeveloped village in a city that is drawing big brands and luxury wheels and thriving on a culture of mushrooming, albeit unplanned, high-rises.
But situated in overlapping Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) wards of Nos. 32 and 33, Kathargonda still has huts. Of them, 10 per cent of the homes have toilets and barely three per cent have bathrooms.
Earlier, residents worked on agriculture fields. Now, as fields are fast being gulped by the realty explosion, they have joined the construction sector as daily wagers.
Ironically, the very realty explosion that gives most of the residents their two square meals a day has shrunk open spaces where they defecate.
And no surprises here, the worst sufferers are women and girls.
“It is during open defecation that most assaults and rapes on women and girls take place. The RMC should take the issue very seriously and give immediate relief to Kathargonda and slums in Ranchi,” said Ranchi women’s rights activist Sweta Kujur.
Even RMC officials admit no public toilet has ever been set up in slums.
Earlier this year, XISS students surveyed problems of Kathargonda and other slums under the aegis of Knowledge Management Resource Centre set up by Unicef at the institute.
“The living conditions of Kathargonda people are really shocking,” Job Zachariah, chief of Unicef (Jharkhand), told The Telegraph.
“Our reports are ready to be uploaded on the Unicef portal. I agree the situation is pathetic,” said XISS professor Sanjay Verma, also in-charge of the Unicef Knowledge Management Resource Centre.
But, the sorry saga of slums has escaped the notice of MLA C.P. Singh and MP Subodh Kant Sahay.
When The Telegraph visited Kathargonda, residents said forget MPs and MLAs, even RMC councillors Sunita Devi and Ashok Yadav of ward Nos. 32 and 33 hardly visit them now.
“We do not earn enough to set up and maintain toilets inside our huts. We women and girls suffer unspeakable misery in the absence of toilets and bathrooms,” added resident Munni Devi.
Economics undergraduate at St Xavier’s College, Ranchi, Suman Linda hails from Kathargonda’s creamy layer. Her family home has a toilet. But the girl who studies in one of the best colleges in the state can’t believe that winds of change have entirely bypassed her locality.
“The entire city has changed. But our lot has not bettered by even an inch,” said an angry Suman.
Five hand pumps are all that the administrative machinery (read RMC) has given residents of this locality by way of infrastructure.
As the XISS report also pointed out, Kathargonda has no drains or public toilets.
When contacted, deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya said he had recently visited Kathargonda. “In the next few days, I will sit with my officials and prepare a detailed plan on public toilets and bathrooms not just in Kathargonda but other city slums,” he said.