BECOMING the first Jharkhand Chief Minister to visit the former Maoist hotbed of Budha Pahad, Hemant Soren Friday unveiled development projects worth Rs 100 crore for the area.
Stating that instead of “crackling of bullets”, “echo of development” would be heard in Budha Pahad, an area spread across Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and over three districts, Soren said that under the Budha Pahad Development Project (BPDP), there would be a thrust on financial independence of residents besides providing them basic amenities like housing, health, education and safe drinking water.
Besides, the government will ensure that the benefits of social security schemes reach 11 villages each of Tehri Panchayat of Garhwa district and Aksi Panchayat of Latehar, to begin with.
Soren’s visit assumes political significance as twice in his recent speeches, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has referred to Budha Pahad being freed from Maoist control as a milestone under the Narendra Modi government.
The government announced the same in September last year, after continuous integrated operations by the state and central forces. Before that, Budha Pahad was considered a refuge for senior Maoist leaders based in the Jharkhand-Bihar-Chhattisgarh border areas. As per a senior official, members of the Politburo, Central Committee and Special Area Committee were among those planning and carrying out subversive activities from here.
Jharkhand DGP Niraj Sinha says they lost 59 personnel in operations in the area over the years, while 64 were seriously injured. “Besides, the villagers suffered the brunt of extremist attacks.”
Since the area was cleared, the state government has been reaching out to the people through its ‘Sarkar Aapke Dwar’ campaign of ensuring welfare schemes at the doorstep. In November alone, over 6,000 villagers in Tehri Panchayat were covered under the campaign.
Addressing the people at Budha Pahad, Soren said: “Once this area was witness to the terror of Maoists, who kept the area under their control. However, our security forces have made it Naxal free… Perhaps for the first time there is such a pleasant atmosphere. In the coming days, this area will see milestones in terms of development.”
Soren, who had lunch with villagers, launched schemes worth Rs 5.27 crore, reiterated the promise to promote forest products, and handed over enrolment letters to citizens under the Chief Minister Employment Generation Scheme, also appealed to youths of the area to stay away from violence.
“With the help of guns, you can create an atmosphere of fear and dread for some time, but it is neither in your interest nor in the interest of society. Leave the gun… Today the government is working to provide you coverage under schemes, by coming to your doorstep. By joining these schemes, choose living with self-respect.”
He announced plans to open a medicine shop in every village, with those who have studied up to intermediate eligible for licence to open the same. They would be connected with government doctors over mobiles for round-the-clock service, he said.