HALF-BAKED IDEAS AND EMPTY PROMISES
Nine months aer the Saranda Development Plan to counter the Maoists was announced, villagers in the ‘liberated zone’ are yet to see its trickle-down effect, reports
WHENEVER THE villagers of Saranda hear the word ‘action’, it brings back grisly memories: the sudden appearance of heavilyarmed paramilitary troopers, destroyed houses and slain family members. That’s what Gangaram Munda, 45, remembers of a month-long CRPF operation last September to purge Maoists from the region in the mineral-rich West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.
In a bid to bring development to the region, which was considered an impenetrable bastion of the Maoists until last year’s Operation Anaconda, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh announced the Saranda Action Plan last October. It was a 264 crore project aimed at building roads and houses for tribals in this 800 sq km patch of dense evergreen forest. However, some villagers believe that the real beneficiary of the plan will be mining companies who have been drooling over the area’s mineral riches.
Gangaram Munda, whose ageing parents were killed in the CRPF operation last September, and many of his neighbours in Thalkobad village will attest to the fact that Saranda Action Plan was renamed Saranda Development Plan after their concerns about using the word ‘action’. Regardless, nine months later, the only work that has happened here indicates more ‘action’ and hardly any development.
“We were supposed to build 6,000 houses for BPL (Below-Poverty Line) families under the Indira Aawas Yojana, but there are only around 2,500 or so families who have BPL cards. So technically, it’s impossible to spend all that money only on building houses,” says SR Natesh, Divisional Forest Officer ( DFO) of Chaibasa, who