Fifty-fifty: Saranda forests in West Singhbhum
Ranchi, Jan. 19: The state will slash the proposed number of security camps at Saranda, indicating a welcome wane in Maoist presence and influence in Asia’s largest sal reserve, but the health of the showpiece action plan for 55 forest villages is open to question two years after its launch.
Around the start of the Rs 249-crore Saranda Action Plan in December 2011, soon renamed to Saranda Development Plan, 24 security camps were proposed for Saranda and seven CRPF ones set up.
Now, in the beginning of 2014, Kolhan DIG Arun Kumar Singh confirmed only two more CRPF camps would be added to the existing seven.
“We decided 24 camps aren’t needed in Saranda anymore. We proposed two new CRPF camps in Saranda by writing to the state home department. In these, 33 per cent would be Jharkhand police officers. As of now, no other camp is on cards,” Kolhan DIG Arun Kumar Singh said.
Adjoining and interconnected forests of Porahat, from which “stray incidents have been reported”, will get three new police camps, the Kolhan DIG added. “The Naxalite situation is under control in the area, but vigil is always good,” he said.
Singh added these decisions were taken after a recent security review with senior bureaucrats and CRPF officials.
When contacted, CRPF IG M.V. Rao said he was on leave and could not comment at the moment.
On the present security threats of Saranda, Kolhan DIG Singh said Naxalite incidents were “negligible” in Saranda, but recovery of arms and ammunition do get reported from time to time.
Currently, CRPF camps exist in Thalkobad, Chotanagra, Kiriburu, Karampada and other places. “We try to avoid making the sites of security camps too public for obvious reasons,” the Kolhan DIG said, adding he would not like to divulge where new police camps would come up in Saranda and Porahat.
Though security looks like it is on track, Saranda Plan, the brainchild of Union rural development minister, seems to have lost steam.
Insiders cite mismanagement and disconnect between Saranda officials and their counterparts in capital Ranchi.
The development plan, which aimed to usher in prosperity to 55 villages of Manoharpur block through integrated livelihood and development schemes, was to be the template of such initiatives across all rebel hotbeds in the country.
But not too many results are visible in Saranda.
“Eleven roads were proposed, but less than 10 per cent of the work is complete. A crucial bridge was constructed in Digha by spending over Rs 2 crore to connect it to Tirilposi, but it turned out that the link was put up where it wasn’t needed, wasting precious resources. Of the 6,000 houses promised, less than 10 per cent have been delivered,” an official in Saranda said.
SAP’s special executive officer S.R. Natesh till date stays officially unaware of his roles and responsibilities. His position has not yet been notified.
Another official summed up the situation. “We don’t know whom to go to for approvals and sanctions. Because of this, various departments undertake work in a piecemeal fashion, whenever they want. SDP was launched with a lot of hope and goodwill, but hardly anything has been achieved. Villagers are still deprived,” he said.