Nearly 8,000 Santhal residents of Gadra village, under Jugsalai assembly constituency around 15km south of the steel city, have threatened to boycott the vote on December 7 to protest the poor road condition in their area.
On Friday, The Telegraph had reported in its Ranchi edition how residents of Surratand locality, near underground fire-hit Indira Chowk in Jharia, Dhanbad, on Thursday staged a demonstration over the lack of basic facilities and threatened to boycott the upcoming Assembly election.
“We have been demanding a pucca road for a decade but we have only got assurances,” said Sukhlal Hembrom, gram pradhan of Gadra.
Nearly 3km of the 15km Gadra Road connecting the village with Jadugoda has stones protruding from the kuchcha road due to lack of maintenance. The road has caved-in at several places, making it difficult for vehicles to move.
“This road is used by villagers to go to Gadra market and also to various companies (Tata Motors, Tata Power, Cummins India and Nuvoco Vistas Corporation Limited) for work,” said Komal Deogam of Bada Gadra. “There have been several accidents on the road. In the rainy season it becomes waterlogged and very dangerous. No auto-rickshaw agrees to come to our village and we have no option but to ride on bikes or walk the bad stretch.”
The villagers had approached Jamshedpur MP Bidyut Baran Mahato, Jugsalai MLA Ramchandra Sahis, and earlier this month also approached East Singhbhum deputy commissioner (DC) Ravi Shankar Shukla.
“The representatives had offered lip service; The DC cited hindrance due to imposition of the election model code of conduct. We have decided not to cast votes till our demands are met,” said Devendra Hembrom, elder brother of the gram pradhan and a resident of Chhota Gadra.
Gadra is a predominantly tribal village comprising two tolas, Bada Gadra and Chhota Gadra. There are two polling booths in the Panchayat Bhawan of Bhumijtola, Gadra.
Jugsalai Ajsu candidate and sitting MLA Sahis said he was aware of the problem. “But due to the model code of conduct for the election, we cannot undertake any repair work,” said Sahis.
Asked why the road had not been repaired earlier, he said: “I cannot comment due to restrictions imposed by the model code of conduct.”
East Singhbhum DC Ravi Shankar Shukla said that the villagers had met him to apprise him of their problem.
“We will try to convince them against boycott of votes which is their democratic right. Due to the model code of conduct I cannot speak much on our plans at the moment,” said Shukla.
How tribals vote could swing the election.
According to the 2011 census, Scheduled Tribes make up 26 per cent of Jharkhand’s population, though experts believe the actual figure is closer to 32 per cent.