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Ramesh to flag off R-Day in Saranda

- Erstwhile red den to celebrate after a year

Ranchi, Jan. 1: A “liberated” Saranda is all set to observe its first Republic Day in over a decade. And guess who will do the Tricolour honours? Its architect of development, of course.

Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who now considers Jharkhand to be his second home, has decided to host a function on the erstwhile Maoist turf on January 26 and hoist the national flag to instil a sense of patriotism among villagers, besides boosting the morale of the forces.

Asia’s largest Sal reserve in West Singhbhum was liberated following concerted efforts of police and paramilitary in 2011 and the Tricolour was unfurled for the first time in 11 years that August. However, this will be the first time an occasion of national integration will see the august presence of a Union minister.

Ramesh confirmed his R-Day plans during an interaction with The Telegraph in Ranchi early this afternoon. “Isn’t it a good idea to have Republic Day celebrations in Saranda? It will be a great message, I think,” he smiled.

On a three-day tour of the red bastions of Latehar, Palamau and Garhwa since December 30, Ramesh headed back to New Delhi later in the day.

Though his hurricane trip was largely aimed at strengthening his party’s base in rebel-hit areas across the country in the run-up to the 2014 elections, the minister also promised to spare time to review the progress of rural development projects under MGNREGS and PMGSY among others.

Today, Ramesh travelled on road from Garhwa to the capital, a distance of 250km, after completing his village visits in the past two days.

Disappointment was writ large on his face over laggard rural development, but MGNREGS remained the saving grace. “Over 78,500 wells have come up under the scheme, which is the best thing that has happened here so far as a part of watershed management activities. The whole idea is to enable farmers take up two crops instead of one. They will not have to depend on rainfall alone,” he said.

On the other hand, more than 30 PMGSY roads in Bokaro, Garhwa, Latehar and Palamau have been delayed from six months to over a year because of NOC hurdles from the forest department. So, Ramesh summoned principal chief conservator of forests A.K. Singh and chief wildlife warden A.K. Malhotra, and sought explanations. They have reportedly assured him that the projects would be cleared as soon as possible.

Before leaving, the Union minister had a few words of praise for the chief minister. He hailed Arjun Munda as the “true champion” of the direct cash transfer scheme, which began in select districts across the country today. “Munda is one person who was very excited about the scheme right from Day One. Also, the unique ID programme is doing great (in Jharkhand),” Ramesh said.

He added that the direct cash transfer scheme could become an economic game-changer for cash-strapped states like Jharkhand. “It may click, it may bomb. But, if it clicks, it will be a great game-changer. We needed a fresh approach to reach benefits to the beneficiary and, I think, this (scheme) is the solution.”