The cure for Ranchi’s haphazard growth looks distant once again.
The capital’s civic guardian has extended till January 15 the deadline for submitting suggestions and objections to a proposed master plan, which is already grappling with land politics and lack of consensus among stakeholders.
In the most recent mark of protest, Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey put up an aggressive show in the Assembly on Thursday, dubbing the draft “poor and inadequate” and demanding termination of contract with consultancy firm Feedback Infrastructure Services Private Limited.
Sources said the decision to stretch the deadline came from the urban development department soon thereafter.
Chief executive officer of Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) Manoj Kumar said they had started inviting suggestions and objections afresh and would continue doing so into New Year. “The date has been extended from today (Friday) to January 15 following orders from the office of the urban development secretary (A.K. Singh),” Kumar added.
With 2037 as its target, the master plan envisages how the state capital should be developed to support physical, social and cultural aspirations of its people.
At a growth rate of 4.56 per cent, the number of residents is expected to burgeon to 22.90 lakh from the present 10.73 lakh in these two and a half decades. The plan proposes a roadmap for civic amenities, markets, transportation, healthcare, tourism, employment avenues, et al to buffer the population bomb.
It was more than a year and a half ago that the RMC had outsourced the job to Feedback Infrastructure Services. A final draft was readied and uploaded on the civic body’s website in April this year, seeking suggestions by May 31 before formal approval.
The state government had even set a deadline of September 2013 for launching the master plan. But, RMC insiders say, lack of political will, tribal land politics and difference of opinion between bureaucrats and leaders have remained major deterrents.
Sources told The Telegraph that former urban development secretary Nitin Madan Kulkarni’s directive to include in the master plan 134 more villages in the district as well as parts of Khunti, which come under the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA), has further complicated things.
“This order was issued around three months ago and it froze the master plan. When we had selected the consultancy firm, it was for Ranchi alone. The Rs 1.5-crore job was allotted to it through tender process. Now, to include RRDA areas, the agency is demanding another Rs 20-30 lakh. So, the ball is in the government’s court now. Our job is done,” said RMC’s public relations officer Naresh Kumar Sinha.
Other senior officials in the know of things preferred to speak off the record on the master plan delay.
“The major hindrances are lack of political will and the issue of tribal land. Many local leaders had objected to the plan, saying the draft was in a foreign language (English) and not Hindi or indigenous tongues. Technically, it isn’t easy to translate everything. Still, we converted it in Hindi,” said an official.
“Now, they are asking us to exclude all Adivasi and tribal land from the master plan. In that case, there will be no space to expand the city. With the elections ahead, no one is ready to risk the tribal vote bank,” he added.
Given Jharkhand’s project record, the future of the master plan is anybody’s guess.