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Censure after rough ride - Ramesh questions use of central funds on Dumka visit

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  • Published 30.04.12

Dumka, April 29: Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh today frowned upon the state government and demanded greater reliability on the question of funds use after enduring a bumpy ride to a Dumka village, which to his surprise lacked road connectivity.

Ramesh, who arrived in Dumka from Calcutta this morning, met self-help groups (SHGs) engaged in tussar silk production at Dhaka village, 30km from the district headquarters, in rebel-hit Shikaripara block.

The minister appreciated the silk producers, who have planted Arjun trees across 210 acres of barren land in the past three years for rearing silkworms with support from Pradan, a national NGO.

But the lack of road connectivity in a scheduled area (Santhal Pargana) left him unimpressed.

“Under Schedule V of the Constitution, any village in a scheduled area with a population of minimum 250 is supposed to have road connectivity under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). But strangely, people in these remote areas are still deprived of such benefits,” Ramesh told a gathering of around 500 silk producers from Shikaripara and Kathikund.

The minister, whose recent action plan for Saranda focuses heavily on building road network in the erstwhile Maoist stronghold, pulled up the state government.

“Jharkhand government failed to execute works under PMGSY and other central development schemes for the last three years,” he said, pointing out that roadways were a prerequisite for overall development of an area.

JMM legislator from Shikaripara Nalin Soren complained that roads built under PMGSY in his constituency were incomplete.

Ramesh responded that the state government had to utilise central funds effectively before asking for more.

On Maoist presence in most districts of Santhal Pargana, he said the problem could only be overcome with the support of the masses and not armed forces.

“Both the state and central governments have committed grave errors in the last 50 years by not being able to ensure constitutional provisions in real terms. As a result, numerous tribals have been displaced from their native land due to the setting up of industries and influx of outsiders,” Ramesh said, pointing to violation of tenancy acts and false cases against tribals lodged by the forest department and other state agencies over the years.

The Centre, he said, was committed to fighting Maoists by adopting political means and stepping up development in red zones.

“The difference between Maoists and the democratic system has only been ideological. There have been instances of former rebels becoming chief ministers after joining the mainstream,” he asserted, adding that extremism in Punjab and the Northeast had been controlled not by using force, but gaining the confidence of the masses.

The Union minister lauded the women of Shikaripara and Kathikund blocks for taking the lead in forming SHGs to generate income for their families.

He also advocated greater representation of women, from rural bodies to the Lok Sabha. “As of now, more than 50 per cent of the elected representatives of panchayat bodies are women. They have to play the role of watchdogs to prevent misuse government funds in their localities,” he said.

Member secretary of Central Silk Board Ishita Roy said they were targeting involvement of 30,000 households in Santhal Pargana, as against 10,000 at present, in silk production this fiscal.

Ramesh left for Ranchi this evening after meeting Congress workers in Dumka.