Ranchi, Dec. 9: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today lauded Jharkhand officials for setting up 78,000 wells under a flagship job scheme of the Centre and claimed that the state enjoyed total control of Saranda, brushing aside fears of Maoist clout in the erstwhile bastion.
Ramesh asked the officials to prepare detailed reports on wells dug across Jharkhand under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and upload all information on the government website. “The state has managed to dig as many as 78,000 wells under MGNREGS, which is no mean feat. Now, the (rural development) department should prepare details of all the wells and put them up on the website, so that people can learn about them,” he told mediapersons.
The minister, who arrived in Ranchi this morning, chaired a meeting with senior state officials, including chief secretary S.K. Choudhary, at Project Building.
Unlike on a few of his previous visits, Ramesh was visibly happy with the state’s performance. He said no other state had built such a large number of wells under MGNREGS, adding Jharkhand had set an example for the rest.
The wells have been built in the last two financial years, 2010-11 and 2011-12. Activists and villagers have earlier complained about incomplete wells and many structures caving in during monsoon rain.
In the two financial years, the state government spent Rs 1,100 crore and Rs 1,200 crore in carrying out various projects under MGNREGS.
This year, the state has spent only Rs 670 crore until November. However, rural development officials claimed that the total expenditure this fiscal would go up to Rs 1,200 crore or more.
Ramesh, who also reviewed the progress of Saranda Development Plan during the two-hour meeting starting at noon, pointed out that two of the 11 roads that were being built in villages across the forest in West Singhbhum were nearly complete.
The two roads are from Domari to Salai (2.85km) and Kashiapecha to Jojogutu (3km). “We will be able to open the two roads in the next fortnight,” said the minister, also the architect of the Rs 249-crore development plan.
Asked whether the government had lost its grip in Saranda — it was purged of rebels following a joint operation of the CRPF and police last year — after armed Maoists torched heavy vehicles engaged in linking villages on November 26, Ramesh firmly said no.
“The area is totally under our control,” he maintained.
The minister flew to Delhi shortly after the meeting, which was also attended by development commissioner Debashish Gupta, rural development secretary R.S. Poddar, rural works secretary S.K. Satpathy, planning secretary Avinash Kumar and West Singhbhum deputy commissioner K. Srinivasan, among others.
“The Union minister was happy with the state government’s performance on MGNREGS as well as the development plan in Saranda,” A.K. Prabhakar, special secretary, rural development department, told The Telegraph.
Ramesh, in his previous visit to Jharkhand in September, had toured Saranda, where the development plan aims to transform 56 villages of Manoharpur block. On that occasion, interactions with the people of Saranda had left the minister convinced that they had shed Maoist fears.