Ranchi, Sept. 12: Birsa Munda led an ulgulan (revolution) against the British, now his great-great grandson Kanu Munda, 30, is almost witnessing another one in his hilly village Ulihatu in Khunti, which happens to be his revered ancestor's birthplace.
Only, it's the state and district government's frenetic race against time to make Ulihatu, 70km from Ranchi, a model village before BJP national president Amit Shah comes to visit and share a meal with Kanu and other descendants of Birsa on September 17, which also happens to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday.
Shah's scheduled visit is part of the 1,000 days celebration of the Raghubar Das government, the first BJP majority government in Jharkhand.
For the past fortnight, tribal village Ulihatu, that falls in Badinijkal panchayat, Arki block, has witnessed a flurry of activity that it never had, said old-timers belonging to the 70-odd households. A marathon facelift to present Ulihatu's best face is underway with new toilets being constructed, solar lampposts installed, roads laid, water taps set up, government school whitewashed.
Work is on 24/7, raising one to ponder about the durability of the structures that are coming up overnight.
Kanu and his elder sister Champa Munda are also gainers of this largesse. Their dilapidated ancestral home is getting a facelift with state funds, including a pucca room, a tiled floor and a boundary wall. "This will be where Amit Shah will dine, I'm told. I don't know about the menu. Perhaps food will be brought from outside," a bemused Kanu said.
An assistant engineer of PWD (building construction) of Khunti district present on the site explained the kind of work being done. "Last night, we completed erecting the boundary wall of the house where two families (read descendants of Birsa Munda) stay and set up couple of solar lampposts. In this room, we will lay vitrified tile floors and distemper roofs and walls. Concrete pavers will be laid on the premises outside the house. We are working day and night. The work will be over in the next couple of days," he said.
Without any irony, he added in all seriousness that they had to build a swachalaya (toilet) at Munda's house a couple of days ago, pull it down yesterday after Khunti DC Manish Ranjan pointed out that its height was only 4 metres and no adult would virtually be able to enter it, and rebuild it overnight to a respectable 7-feet height.
"For last one week, we haven't slept," remarked other senior government official standing with the engineer. " Bahut kaam ho raha hai. Pura Ulihatu ka jirnodhar kar rahe hain. (A lot of work is being done. Entire Ulihatu is getting an overhaul). Right now, over 200 labourers are working. Half the district administration is camping in the region. Generator laga ke kaam karwa rahe hain raat mein. (We have pressed gensets for work at night)," he added.
Next to Kanu's house is the Birsa memorial (or janmsthal), which is also getting a massive facelift with new tiles, a coat of paint and stairway repair.
At Birsa Awasiya Vidyalaya, a kilometre away from the memorial, a pucca road was laid about a week ago and laying paver blocks on roadsides was on. At the school and its hostels, old chairs, benches and windows were being replaced, defunct drain pipes fixed and the building premises spruced up. Over 70 toilets are under construction with a completion target of two days.
Is Kanu happy? The man who over a year ago got a state government job as a Grade IV employee and is posted at the subdivisional magistrate's office in Khunti, knows better than to speak his mind. "Some progress is happening, better late than never."
Badinijkal panchayat mukhiya Raizan Munda is more candid. "Before VIPs come, babus arrive in droves with the media," the mukhiya of the panchayat with 10 villages, including Ulihatu, said. "It's good that many developments are happening. Let's see how sustainable they are."
Prodded, he said the new Ulihatu-Charu road was supposed to be built after sufficient watering of the soil to prevent a cave-in. "I didn't see that happening. When I questioned engineers, they said next time," he said.
Munda revealed that many households in his panchayat had power meters but not power. "Power didn't come a single day. Bills come though. For the last few days, a doctor is coming to the health centre daily. Will he come after September 17?" he asked.
Agreed another Ulihatu woman Pyari Purty. "When VIPs come, all else comes. Then, they vanish and life goes back to normal."