You Reported
Why Giridih had been left out of the 10 districts shortlisted for the naxal-prone districts development scheme in Jharkhand ?

Telegraph / June 25: The one-time summer getaway of the rich and famous of Bengal is today ruing its transformation into a Maoist stronghold, the gnawing bitterness aggravated by the Centre giving it the short shrift while choosing districts for a pilot project to kick-start development and give the campaign against extremism a social face.


Giving voice to this resentment, 26-year-old right to information activist Chandan has written to the state home secretary invoking the sunshine law to ask why Giridih had been left out of the 10 districts shortlisted for the Centre's project.


With an eye on winning over alienated regions under the influence of Maoists, the Centre identified as many as 33 extremist-prone districts across the country and sanctioned for each Rs 10 crore for an integrated development and security scheme in 2007-08.


Initially, Chatra and Palamau were chosen in Jharkhand, but later eight more districts were added, namely Chaibasa, Bokaro, Gumla, Garhwa, Lohardaga, Hazaribagh, West Singhbhum and East Singhbhum.


"We will be sending the plan to the Centre for the districts soon," said state police spokesman B.B. Pradhan, but had no comment to offer on why Giridih wasn't included.


Under the development component of the scheme, he said the focus was on employment generation, health, education and power. A fifth focus area would have to be chosen based on local needs. Under the security component, the focus was on construction of roads, bridges, helipads and campsites at remote areas.


"The irony is unmistakable in the Centre's decision to ignore Giridih, which has seen some of the most daring acts of Maoist violence ever since the inception of Jharkhand," said Chandan, who feared another Lalgarh-like situation brewing here too.


For instance, former chief minister B Marandi lost his son in a sensational guerrilla operation by Maoists in October 2007 when armed squads raided Chilkhari, killing as many as 20 people.


Today, Giridih is a Naxalite hotbed, with a training hub unearthed at the Parasnath Hills. And Maoists are said to be active in Khetko, Mundro and Pirtand, known as the Uttarakhand of Dumri.


Even government schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme are in a shambles here. In 2008-09, Giridih, according to official records, got Rs 97 crore but spent only Rs 67 crore. Deputy commissioner Vandana Dadel has announced a freeze on salaries of 500 in the NREGS cell after detecting a fraud of Rs 32 crore due to doctored muster rolls at Bagoder.


Ask people's representatives and they claim helplessness. "Since the last two years, there is no government functioning in Jharkhand. That's why Giridih, which should have got top priority, wasn't considered worthy of the Centre's benevolence," said Giridih MP Ravindra Pandey, adding he would soon approach the Governor.


"I have raised the issue in the Assembly and personally met DGP V.D. Ram on this," said Bagoder MLA Vinod Singh.


Chandan feared the state's bureaucrats were unable to comprehend the seriousness of the issue. Referring to the Bengal government's operation to flush out Maoists from Lalgarh, he said, "Our officials must understand that Naxalites have taken over Giridih because the district's prolonged neglect. Without development, there will be several Lalgarhs here."

Dilli Haat model for rural craft centres in Hazaribagh, Deoghar & Giridih to promote artisans, attract tourists

Come July, shopping will be redefined at Kalagram, as rural artisans sell their handicraft items directly like in Dilli Haat.


Six years after it was conceptualised by the state industries ministry, three Kalagram centres — better known as urban marts — are all set to be inaugurated in Hazaribagh, Parasnath and Deoghar. The projects in Hazaribagh and Deoghar cost Rs 2 crore while the one in Parasnath is pegged at Rs 95 lakh.


"It indeed took a long time to complete the infrastructure at the three places. But once it is thrown open to the public, it will definitely be an added attraction to visit the state. The basic idea is to promote artisans and their handicraft and handloom through Jharcraft, an initiative of our department," said Dhirendra Kumar, the special secretary of the industries department.


The Dilli Haat in the national capital is a hub of craft and cultural activities, and has become a major attraction for tourists, especially foreigners.


Each of the Kalagram centres — prospective shopping destination for both domestic and foreign tourists — would be spread over two acres.


The inauguration of the marts is scheduled in July and the industries department is gearing up to select guests and choosing the final date.


According to the special secretary of the industries department, each Kalagram centre will have about 30 shops displaying the indigenous handicraft of the state. The artisans will also have full freedom to sell their products.


Like in Dilli Haat, the Kalagram centres will also have a food court with seven kiosks, an exhibition hall, a live demonstration counter and accommodation facilities for artisans. The marts will store handicraft items worth a minimum of Rs 3 lakh.


The Kalagram will be a kind of centralised market, which will not only provide a platform to artisans and weavers to display their products, but also create a space for people and art lovers to buy a variety of products from one place.


"We will first start these centres on an experimental basis. If they do well, we may plan extension units in other cities. As of now, the marts will be used for domestic purposes and will serve as a place to make people aware about the traditions of this tribal state," said Kumar.

June 28 / Telegraph

Raid takes lid off illegal mica trade

Forest officials today seized two vehicles loaded with illegal mica and bark of Arjun trees at Pachamba in Giridih.


The market value of mica is estimated to be around Rs 5 lakh while that of Arjun trees, which have medicinal value, is around Rs 2 lakh.


The drivers and helpers of both the vehicles (JH 12A 7841 and JH 11B 6257) were arrested. The arrested have been identified as Sudhir Rai, Sukar Murmu, Vinod Rai and Doman Rai.


Acting on an intelligence tip- off, a team of four forest officials led by range officer Sudama Ram raided the two vehicles, which belong to one Madhukar Ram, at 6.30am.


The mica is of refined quality, indicating a rampant illegal trade in the mineral in Giridih.


After the administration had tightened its noose on mica trade and tried to fix royalty, illegal trade of mica has become rampant. Businessmen dealing in the mineral trade claimed that they purchased scrap mica from areas like Tisri, Gawah and Deori region in Giridih while the refined variety was bought from Rajasthan, this recovery proves otherwise.


"The recovery of Rs 5-lakh mica proved that the mineral is being mined on a large scale and in a planned way. The claim of businessmen in this trade has proved to be wrong. They do not only purchase scrap mica from Giridih, but refined ones also.


"They are indulging in illegal mining to avoid the royalty but we will soon crack down on them. Mica business is being conducted on the pretext of unemployment and fear of Naxalites but anything done against the law will not be tolerated," said divisional forest officer (DFO) Akhilesh Sharma.


The businessmen said that since these areas fell under the Naxalite belt, if the practice of mica mining was stopped it would lead to unemployment and Maoist could take advantage of that.


"We have identified 20 mines in forest areas where illegal mica is rampant and will take action against those who sell and purchase mica from these mines. If required, we will close down the mines," said the DFO.


Telegraph / June 15, 2009

The large no. of Australian and Chinese workers are engaged in Bokaro, Giridih and Latehar industrial site of Jharkhand

Calcutta-based Electrosteel Castings Limited, at the centre of a foreigner vs local row raging at the site of its upcoming steel plant near Bokaro, had been apprehending trouble for sometime and had even apprised the local administration about their fears.


While revealing this, state industry secretary N.N. Sinha also alluded to the hand of vested interests in the dispute over attendance that was triggered on Monday and blew up into a full-scale confrontation between local villagers and the Chinese workforce of the plant yesterday.


"This kind of problem erupts suddenly and we do not know if there are vested interests working from behind," Sinha said, even as he applauded companies investing in Jharkhand for engaging "highly-skilled foreign workers" in their projects here.


At least three ongoing industrial projects are using overseas talent from China and Australia — as many as 650 Chinese engineers and workers, engaged at various project sites, were currently living in the state.


Calcutta-based Electrosteel Integrated Limited (EIL), which is a subsidiary of the Rs 1,400 crore Electrosteel Castings Limited, has engaged 600 Chinese labourers at Parbatpur, 35km from Bokaro, where they are helping set up a 3MTPA steel plant.


Giridih-based Atibir Industries Company Limited, that's building a Rs 350 crore steel unit of 0.6MTPA, is using 22 Chinese engineers at its site in Mahtodih, about 8km from the district headquarters.


Abhijeet Group's Corporate Power Limited has engaged Shanghai Engineering Power Construction Company (SEPCO) as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for its 1,200 MW thermal power plant that's coming up at Chandwa in Latehar. At least 20-25 SEPCO engineers are working at the site.


The group has also engaged Australian mining company Thiess with expertise in deep mining activities (beyond 300ft) at the Chittarpur coal block in Chandwa where it has been granted mining rights over 55.34 hectare.


Company sources said once mining would start, they would have at least 50 Australian engineers stationed at the site.


All these company's have their own reasons for hiring foreign expertise. "They are skilled workers who are very fast in their job," said an EIL official, referring to their Parbatpur project.


"We have hired their services on a turnkey basis and given that our project is already delayed, they come in handy for us," he added.


At Parbatpur, EIL has a workforce of 1,800, including the 600 Chinese workers.


But in state that is politically volatile with an unemployment rate that's higher than the national average, using foreign expertise could turn out to be a tricky affair.


"It's probably a cost saving mechanism, but I don't think foreign labourers are wanted for civil or machinery commissioning work for a steel plant," said Lazrus Khess, assistant general manager (projects) of Maharashtra-based Mukand Engineers Limited, a company specialising in such work.


Jayant Jaipal Singh, senior manager (corporate affairs) of Essar Steels, Jharkhand Limited, said without taking local villagers into confidence and ensuring them jobs in the sector, no company can think of prospering in any state. "Moreover, there is widespread resentment in Jharkhand over giving up agricultural land for industry," he said.


May 14, 2009 / Telegraph


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