The SUV that was set ablaze by villagers near Naulakha Dam in Giridih on Thursday, while (below) local divers hunt for the body of the farmer feared drowned. (Tausheen Rubbani)
Hazaribagh, Jan. 2: Angry villagers in Giridih today set on fire the official vehicle of a senior bureaucrat when the district administration pleaded its inability to fish out the body of a villager from a dam in Rajdhanwar block.
Farmer Dinesh Yadav (25) of Thekatand, a village 33km from district headquarters, is feared drowned in Naulakha Dam since Monday morning when he went there for a bath. He is traceless even three days later, pointing to a greater malaise — the complete absence of basic disaster management facilities in the district.
The body could not be fished out from the dam because the district administration, scouting for expert divers in Giridih, Koderma, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad and Bokaro, could not find anyone suitable for the job.
A team of divers from Muzzaffarpur in Bihar did not turn up even after Rajdhanwar OC Rash Bihari Lal transferred Rs 10,000 to the bank account of one, using e-banking facilities, yesterday.
Around 10am today, when villagers found cellphones of the divers switched off, they realised they had been cheated and started shouting slogans against the district administration. When Rajdhanwar circle officer Nirmal Kumar Toppo reached the dam around 3.30am to take stock of the situation, villagers chased him and set his SUV (a Sumo, JH11B/2046) on fire.
Representatives of zilla parishad took Toppo to safety. When Lal threatened villagers with lathicharge, they yelled back. Soon, Giridih subdivisional officer Julfikar Ali and DSP Awadhesh Kumar Singh reached the spot with a large posse of policemen from various police stations as well as three local divers from Khandoli Dam. The divers, however, came up after 20 minutes without finding the body.
“It’s not possible to stay underwater for long in the absence of oxygen,” one of them said.
Now, with pressure mounting, both Giridih DC Diprava Lakra and Rajdhanwar MLA Nizamuddin Ansari are hoping that divers from Bengal would fish out the body.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the JVM MLA Ansari exonerated the district administration.
“I understand the anger and the sentiments of the people, but I know for a fact that the administration has left no stone unturned to find expert divers. In a state with so many dams, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, I don’t know why the government has not constituted dedicated squads of qualified divers for both rescue and recovery. I will raise the issue in the Assembly,” he said.
DC Lakra said it was unfortunate that the team of divers from Bihar tricked them. “I am trying my best to get divers from Calcutta as soon as possible,” he said.
OC Lal, who said he was well aware of the unrest surrounding the body of the victim, added he had done his best under the circumstances. The policeman said he paid Rs 3,000 from his own pocket and collected Rs 7,000 from villagers for the divers. The divers from Bihar had demanded Rs 20,000, to which Lal had said they would get half the sum before they came and the rest after they fished out the body.