The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vote sinks in water woes

Dumka, Feb. 22: When the people of Shivpahar Colony in the state's second capital wake up tomorrow morning, their main task would be not to cast their vote but to arrange for drinking water for the day.

For that, they will have to wake up as early as 4 in the morning and trudge 2 km to the nearest public water supply tap and queue up.

'Casting my vote first' Are you kidding' says Saurav Rai, a resident of the colony. All male members of the family, he explains, will have to wake up early and walk to the tap where they will put their containers in the queue.

Elections have lost relevance for the people of Dumka, a city plagued by massive power shortage, lack of drinking water and virtually no healthcare. 'There was a ray of hope when Babulal Marandi became the chief minister and Dumka was declared the second capital. The development process also began at a very good pace and everyone was hopeful of good days ahead. But four and a half years later, things stand as they were before,' said another resident, Ashok Gupta.

With the onset of summer, the people are headed for another phase of power and water crisis. The ambitious Rs 40-crore water supply project, grandly christened 'Vrihad Jalapurti Janodhar Evam Unnayan Yojana', stands sidelined while the construction of a new power grid at Maharo is yet to start.

Dumka is dependent on the Hijla drinking water supply project, which was set up in 1957 for a population of only 20,000 and has a capacity of supplying 2 lakh gallons per day. Now, the population has grown over two lakhs but the water supply system was never updated in spite of many elections and promises. 'The municipal area requires almost 15 lakh gallons per day to cope with the demand. We are unable to supply that quantity since the Hijla project does not have the capacity,' said a senior official of the Dumka municipality.

Dumka deputy commissioner Ajay Kumar Sinha said the drinking water project was initially estimated to cost Rs 27 crore, but it has now escalated to Rs 40 crore. He assured that work on the project would begin soon.

But the people of Dumka are not ready to pay heed to any more assurances. They contended that most of the development projects launched during the tenure of Marandi have been shelved by the government in a similar way.

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