The Maoists no longer call the shots in Saranda,Asia’s largest sal forest.
This was evident from the Union Rural Development(URD) Minister Jai Ram Ramesh’s latest visit to this forest on Wednesday.
This forest –dotted by Sal trees and hills and inhabited by Adivasis in 56 villages -encompassed the boundaries of Jharkhand with Orissa and West Bengal,where the headquarter of the banned CPI(Maoist)was located and where no body from the ‘mainstream’dared to enter into it.
Saranda was considered a liberated ‘red’zone and there was no sign of ‘development’any where there.This was till last year.
Now,after the anti Maoist operation was undertaken by the security forces,the URD in league with the state government had launched Saranda Development Plan.Alongside,while the CRPF was stationed in strength inside the forest,the plan envisaging a number of schemes such as distribution of bi cycles,solar lamps,construction of roads,Indira Awas and water harvesting facilities were being implemented by various agencies of the government.
To inspect the implementation of this ambitious plan,Ramesh had always used the chopper to land there,interact with the forest dwellers and kick start development schemes three times this year.On his fourth visit on Wednesday,he took the road route,travelled from Saraikela to Digha,a village located deep inside the forest,and inaugurated a Rs 43 lakh watershed project there in presence of many welcoming Adivasis.
With the security forces driving away the Maoists,these Adivasis who had suffered untold miseries due to a series of incidents of violence perpetrated by them,were in cheers.“See to it that these Maoists don’t return”,Ramesh exhorted these Adivasis who greeted the Union Minister.
Ramesh,who was accompanied by a host of the state government officials including Santosh Kumar Satapathy,Principal Secretary of the state’s water resource department,used the occasion to distribute documents related with Indira Awas Yojna to beneficiaries.The state administration had sanctioned over 3000 of the 6000 odd IAY houses planned for the forest dwellers under the plan.
From Digha Ramesh went to Chota Nagra village inside Saranda forest,nearly 200 km from Jamshedpur where he promised Rs 28 crore roads connecting these Saranda villages with Manoharpur block in West Singh district under the Pradhan Mantri Grasm Sadak Yojna.
While with the presence of the CRPF,the Maoists were no longer in control of Saranda,Ramesh in his untiring and zelous effort to boost the income of these forest dwellers,asked the state government to ensure the purchase of consumables including vegetables and poultryfor security forces from them.
Said Satapathy:”Since we are duty bound to implement the development schemes,all of us were doing our best to make the people of Saranda feel the state government was sensitive to their concerns.”