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."