Chief minister Hemant Soren laid the foundation of a new Assembly building on the outskirts of Ranchi on Tuesday, amid massive security cover as a Congress MP and an Ajsu MLA joined around 600 local residents in dharna against his government.
Octagonal in shape, the new Assembly building will be a part of Jharkhand’s core capital, coming up at Kute, whose residents want the state to return portion of their land acquired to set up Heavy Engineering Corporation in the ’60s.
“Approximately, Rs 400 crore is expected to be spent on construction work. Of the estimated amount, Rs 100 crore will be provided in the forthcoming budget session,” said Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta.
He said work would begin from February 10. “Rs 2 crore has already been provided from the state contingency fund to begin construction of a boundary wall,” he added.
As many as 600 protesters, who began trooping in from 8am, carried their own sound system to raise slogans.
As soon as Hemant’s vehicle drove in, they shouted: “Core capital project wapas lo, visthaphiton ko unka haq do (withdraw core capital project. Give the displaced their rights).”
Finance minister Rajendra Singh tried to pacify them, but that did not work. The slogan shouting continued till the end of the function.
Spearheaded by Jankalyan Samiti and backed by several politicians, including Congress Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay and Ajsu MLA Naveen Jaiswal, the protesters have staked claim to part of the land on which the Assembly is coming up.
They want the state to return excess land acquired from their forefathers in the ’60s for the construction of HEC.
Both Sahay and Jaiswal were the state government’s special invitees but they stayed away from the function, choosing to sit with the protesters instead.
The Ranchi MP was among the first leaders to reach, around 10.40am, heading straight to the protesters, seated about half a kilometre away.
Some of Sahay’s supporters waived a Congress flag but the villagers asked them not to make their protest a political issue. Jaiswal arrived next.
Asked why he was opposing the project, Sahay said he did not want the core capital to come up at Kute, but preferred it to be at Sukurhutu in Kanke, where IIM-Ranchi has been allotted land for a permanent campus.
“The already crowded capital will be overcrowded once the core capital comes up in Kute. It should be established at the place where IIM-R is under construction. Besides, local residents have cited land issues,” the MP said.
The administration had made elaborate security arrangements.
Around 300 armed policemen were deputed in the area. Three door-frame metal detectors were erected at the entrance of the venue.
Among Hemant’s cabinet colleagues who were present today were housing minister Hazi Hussain Ansari, social welfare minister Annapurna Devi, tribal welfare minister Simon Marandi, tourism minister Suresh Paswan and agriculture minister Yogendra Sao.
Principal secretary (planning) D.K. Tiwari, building construction department secretary Raj Bala Verma and several other government officials were also present.
Will the government be able to resolve the deadlock over the core capital project?