The Telegraph
Monday , May 19 , 2014
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Exit Ramesh, enter doubts

- Cong blanked, fate of Saranda plan hangs in balance

Ranchi, May 18: Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s tweet after BJP’s thumping victory said: “India has won, acchhe din aanewale hain.” Saranda Development Plan, the showpiece project to rehabilitate the former Maoist stronghold, a brainchild of former Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh of the UPA, which suffered a crushing electoral defeat, is left wondering about its acchhe din.

For, with Jairam gone, Saranda isn’t sure which way the three-year-old multi-crore development plan aimed at a turnaround for six panchayats of Manoharpur block in Singhbhum constituency, will pan out.

With Ramesh’s ministry gone, Saranda is wondering about its fate. Digha village gram pradhan Niryam Topno said they conveyed their apprehensions yesterday to Chaibasa deputy commissioner Aboobakr Siddique and officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty.

Humlogon ka vikas ka yojana abhi bhi chalega ki band ho jayega. (Will our development welfare schemes go on or be stopped now)” Sunil Herenj, a resident of Lialor panchayat in Saranda’s Manoharpur block, asked The Telegraph.

His friend from Digha village, Suman Topno, added: “Sarkar mein Ramesh ka party Jharkhand mein ab bhi hai. Kaam toh woh karwa hi sakte hain. (Ramesh’s party is still in coalition in the state. He can still push the project if he wants to)”.

Ramesh echoed Suman’s thoughts. “I hope it will be continued,” Ramesh said. “I spoke to Arjun Munda this morning about this and other works that we began in Jharkhand and I will now also speak about it with the new Union rural development minister to have it (Saranda Development Plan) continued and expanded,” Ramesh told The Telegraph. “I will formally write to the new minister,” he added.

But what Ramesh is keenly aware of is that a wiped-out Congress, which faced its worst electoral drubbing in decades and got completely blanked in Jharkhand, can only wait and watch.

New central equations apart, even the fate of its alliance with JMM and RJD in the Hemant Soren-led government is in troubled waters. JMM supremo Shibu Soren, who managed to hold on to Dumka, reportedly said if Congress so wants, they were welcome to topple the existing state government.

Saranda, of which Manoharpur block and Assembly segment is an important part, did support the Congress partially. Riding high on the Modi wave, BJP’s MP nominee Laxman Gilua won from Singhbhum. Overall, Congressman Chitrasen Sinku, said to be Ramesh’s face, trailed behind Gilua and Jai Bharat Samata Party’s Geeta Koda. But still, going by the number of votes polled, of the six Assembly segments in Singhbhum, Sinku gave some fight only in Manoharpur, finishing second with 23,490 votes against Gilua’s 48,162 and Geeta’s 19,000.

The Congress, which teamed with the JMM and RJD for the UPA alliance, got the cold comfort of knowing that the only two seats the UPA won were of the JMM - Soren from Dumka and Vijay Hansdah from Rajmahal. Left in tatters, it makes Ramesh’s task of steering the Saranda plan, even if he intends to do so, more difficult than formerly.

But even with a Congress-led Centre, all was not well with the plan launched in 2011 after reclaiming Saranda from rebels. Envisaged as a Rs 249-crore initiative, the budget cro-ssed Rs 300-crore, but the plan was a repeated victim of lack of coordination between the Centre and state, whether it was led by BJP’s chief minister Arjun Munda or their ally JMM’s counterpart Hemant.

Promising roads, livelihood, homes, health and other aspects to link villagers with the mainstream, it performed only in fits and starts.

For instance, of the 11 proposed roads, less than half are complete. In Lachragarh on the Digha-Kiriburu stretch, around 5km road under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was invisible but The Telegraph team, during its visit last month, saw a board that read “Completed”.

Integrated Development Centre in Digha, planned as a one-stop destination for daily needs of village-rs, is not yet operational. Drinking water, sanitation and watershed management schemes were off track.

Still, with Ramesh — the Centre’s most frequent visitor to the state who started getting hyped as Jharkhand’s super-CM — at the helm of the development project, Saranda villagers were hopeful.

Acting chief secretary Chakraborty, who returned from touring Saranda this evening, summed up: “Without getting into politics, I think the Saranda plan needs to go on but with drastic changes.”