| The air-conditioned room in the community hall. Picture by Srinivas
Kukru, Jharkhand, Feb. 10: This little corner of India has no electricity but it has a chandelier.
When evening spreads out against the sky over Kukru, a village of about 1,700 people, candles and lanterns flicker to life in clusters of little huts, bhut-bhut-bhut-bhut ' a 7 HP generator bombs the silence.
Power flows through the wires into the chandelier, which hangs at the entrance, carving out an island of dazzle in the darkness, one after the other lights come on in the hall on the ground floor and in the rooms on the first. At times, the soft whirr of an air-conditioner provides the sound to the lights.
This is Vidhayak ki Haveli ' like the Taj on a sunny morning seen from Agra Fort.
'It seems like a full moon in the shadow of darkness. The community hall is a landmark and we don't forget to take our guests to have a look at Vidhayak ki Haveli,' said a village youth.
Vidhayak ki Haveli has another name: community hall. The local community may not have had an opportunity to see its insides, but at least one community ' of itinerant election campaigners ' is thankful it's there.
Khadi kurta-clad leaders arrive in cars to slip into the oasis of comfort to refresh. Arvind Kumar Singh, the sitting MLA of the BJP, recently spent two days in his haveli built with government funds allotted to each legislator to develop his constituency.
The pink building boasts a large hall, office, kitchen and toilet on the ground floor. Of the three rooms on the floor above, one is fitted with a split AC, a TV and a VCD player.
Budhram Kalindi, a member of the Singh-headed committee of three that takes care of the building, revealed that it cost Rs 15 lakh to construct. 'The house is built from the MLA fund. Electronic gadgets have cost extra,' he added, helpfully.
When he visits Kukru in his constituency Ichagarh, which is about 40 km from Jamshedpur, close to Jharkhand's border with Bengal, Singh usually puts up in the AC room, Kalindi said.
He disclosed a grand plan to use the hall to hold marriages in the future. 'We'll work out the rental after the elections.'
Villagers have so far not been allowed use of the hall since the rates have not been fixed. Ichagarh will vote on February 15.
Agarpit Soreng, deputy commissioner, Seraikela-Kharsawan, admitted he had recommended building the community hall from the MLA fund, as is required under rules. But he hastened to add that the MLA had spent his money to instal essential comforts like the AC, the large double bed, carpet and teak furniture.
Singh, who opened the building last October, said: 'More community halls have been established at Aadardih, Tikra and Chilgu. Rooms in these community halls are not air-conditioned but they don't lack comfort. TVs, VCDs, dish antennae are available in each of the rooms,' Singh added.
Such luxury in a desert of backwardness does not impress the opposition. Hikim Chandra Mahato, the All Jharkhand Students' Union candidate, asked: 'What was the need to instal an AC at the community hall in Kukru where residents are crying themselves hoarse for electricity' The BJP MLA has installed the AC for his own comfort.'
Mahato said Singh had installed a party symbol on the terrace of the community hall. 'It's a BJP community hall.'
Sadhu Kumar, a BJP activist, explains why electricity could not be brought to Kukru. According to him, high-powered railway lines near Kukru are standing in the way. 'These lines will intercept the cables that have to be put up to draw electricity to Kukru. Singhbabu has tried his best to bring electricity to this village. He has also tried to persuade the railway authorities.'
Meanwhile, awakened to the world of illumination, the more imaginative village youths are planning their honeymoon inside Vidhayak ki Haveli.