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Apathy leaves Kharsawan parched - Abandoned multi-crore irrigation project has been poll fodder since 1986

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PINAKI MAJUMDAR Published 17.12.09, 12:00 AM

Kharsawan, Dec. 16: The foundation of the Suru irrigation system was laid twice — in 1986 and 2004 — but the ambitious project never took off and remains the classic example of government apathy in Kharsawan.

The abandonment becomes an issue every election and is conveniently shelved once polling gets over. “In 2005, every party harped on Suru to garner support. This time, too, it was on the agenda of candidates. But only time will tell whether the project will happen,” said Bhim Singh Munda, a farmer.

Munda isn’t alone. Most people in Kharsawan share his sentiment and wants the plan to irrigate 4,000 hectares of land in Kharsawan and Kuchai blocks to materialise.

The foundation of the irrigation system was laid in unified Bihar. After the state’s bifurcation, the same was laid for the second time by then Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda. The initial project cost was pegged at Rs 3.86 crore, which was revised to Rs 6 crore in 1990. In 2004, the BJP government made a fresh estimate of Rs 40 crore. Of the total amount, Rs 80 lakh was released and only used for constructing branch canals.

Talking to The Telegraph, BJP nominee from Kharsawan Mangal Singh Soy contended that the project failed to take off because of land acquisition hurdles, including delay in getting a clearance from the forest department. “We are serious about implementing the plan because it has the potential to turn around the economy of this constituency,” said Soy.

Many voters, however, refused to buy his argument. “Woh jeet jayenge aur phir iss project ko bhool jayenge. Yeh toh ek achcha chunavi mudda hai (He will win the election and forget about the project. It is a good election issue),” said a villager.

While the people of Kharsawan want the irrigation system to see the light of the day, villagers of four tiny hamlets — Chaitanpur, Raziama, Redadah and Barsiadah — located close to the Suru dam do not. “We vehemently oppose a project that can cause our displacement. Candidates remain mum when they come seeking votes,” said Budhram Sardar, a resident of Chaitanpur.

The four villages have a population of 7,000 that cannot be ignored when it comes to building a vote bank. And this perhaps is the main reason why the project never took off.

Of late, Naxalites have penetrated the Suru area. In fact, two rebel sympathisers seemed to appear from nowhere to confront The Telegraph’s reporter and photographer. “Hamare hith mein likhiyega (Write in our favour),” one of them said before disappearing into the forests.

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