From VIP grounds to public toilet

On Gandhi Jayanti, governor Droupadi Murmu, chief minister Raghubar Das and civic mandarins had paid floral tributes to a statue of the Mahatma at Morabadi grounds in Ranchi and declared the capital open-defecation free.

By Vijay Deo Jha
  • Published 13.10.17
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Garbage littered on Morabadi grounds, beside the army recruitment venue, in Ranchi on Wednesday. (Prashant Mitra)

On Gandhi Jayanti, governor Droupadi Murmu, chief minister Raghubar Das and civic mandarins had paid floral tributes to a statue of the Mahatma at Morabadi grounds in Ranchi and declared the capital open-defecation free.

A week down the line, the sprawling green looks and smells like a community toilet and local residents are blaming an Indian Army recruitment drive, which began at adjoining Birsa Munda Football Stadium on October 4 and will continue till Monday.

More than 86,000 candidates have applied for jobs on offer and on an average 5,000 are taking the physical test every day. Since the recruitment drive begins early, most of the youths who come from far-flung areas reach the night before and, in the absence of a public toilet, they have little choice but to use the grounds as one.

Garbage mounds here and there, and the horrible stench have prompted morning-walkers - many of them VIPs like urban development minister C.P. Singh - to stay away.

Former chief minister and JMM patriarch Shibu Soren, whose residence is close by, is another unsuspecting victim. A couple of day ago, the party had protested against the lack of hygiene and sanitation for army aspirants. But, both the Ranchi district administration and civic guardian RMC are looking the other way.

That the official residences of Ranchi deputy commissioner Manoj Kumar and drinking water and sanitation minister C.P. Choudhary are a stone's throw from the grounds doesn't seem to make a difference. Let alone arranging modular toilets to stop open defecation, no corporation safai worker has been seen in the area in the past week.

"Morabadi grounds is a no-go zone for us now. It is embarrassing to see hundreds relieving themselves in the open. If this the situation in a VIP area, imagine what happens elsewhere in the city," said Manisha Singh, a local resident.

Another resident said makeshift food stalls that had mushroomed were littering even the Gandhi statue area.

Aspiring army jawans rued that they had little choice.

"Who likes to defecate in the open? We are required to queue up for entry pass (for physical test) from 2am. So, we stay here at night. But, there is no provision for us. There is no drinking water tap either," said Raghubar Kumar Das, who has come all the way from West Singhbhum, 190km away.

Deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya said the RMC could not make arrangements without prior information. "If the army is carrying out such a big drive, it should have made arrangements or it could have contacted us in advance. To my knowledge, the RMC received no communication from the army or anyone else," he added.

Colonel S.S. Parhar, the recruitment director, said the army had given a written request to the administration.

"Stopping open defecation or sweeping garbage isn't our job," he added.