Jaag utha Bihar

Amit Kumar Pandey

Little fingers that once fondled triggers of rifles now fiddle with the mouse of computers. They no more offer Lal Salaam nor sing the songs of Laal garh (liberated zone). The new slogan is development and growth. Ab jaag utha hain Bihar (Bihar has awakened now).

CM in Sikaria

This is the tale of Sakariya in Jahanabad. The belt had been ‘prohibited or liberated zone’ in central Bihar. Jahanabad had been the epicentre of naxalite activities in the state since 1967. Dr. Vinayan Sharma, Arvindji and Jangbadur Singh had crafted an organisation to usher in revolution. Soon the movement that started as a trickle became a ‘mighty river’. Naxalism was born. As an antidote came the Ranvir Sena of land-owning people, mainly Bhumihars. Blood flew faster than water in the century old Sone canal system. Tit-for-tat massacres at regular intervals had become a fait accompli.

The turning point, however, came with the dawn of the new century. Dr. Vinayan Sharma was gone. Arvindji moved into the Maoist movement after the re-jig of extremist groups. Jangbadur Singh was a frustrated man. “We wanted to bring in a revolution for complete social change. Gun battle was our last resort. But, in course of time, gun became the main weapon”. The Ranvir Sena chief Barmeshwar (Singh) Mukhia was caught in the police net. People too were tired and frustrated of running gun battles. Youth of the Sikariya villages migrated to other towns to earn a decent living. ‘It is the result of these migrations that the Sakariya post office distributes more money-orders than letters’, says the post master.

Thus, a sort of vacuum was created in this once extremist stronghold or liberated zone. The villagers were groping in the dark. The ‘leadership’ had slipped into younger hands. Elder people had become tales of yesterday. Here treaded in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ambitious project ‘Sarkar aap ke dwar’ (government at you doorsteps). The villagers lapped up the idea like a hungry child. Soon the poor among them were seen paving and building roads or erecting electric poles to bring electricity to light up the dark villages.

The chief minister had launched this programme at Sikariya, on January 26, 2006. In his first outing among the masses after securing the office for the second-term, Nitish Kumar revisited the village in the last week of this January. On the 123rd birth anniversary of the veteran freedom fighter, Dasu Babu, the chief minister pledged to pace up various development work in Jehanabad district. He announced to spend Rs 9.53 crore on different schemes. The dream is still to assume its full dimensions. Work is going on a number of projects. New buildings are coming up fast. A new Community service centre has sprang up at Sarakariya. In one portion of the centre young people learn arts and science of working on a computer. The enthusiasts among them will tell you how to open a ‘file’ in this ‘magic machine’ and write messages. E-mailing is becoming popular. In another cluster young people are taught how to repair mobile (cellular) phone sets. It may be noted here that mobile phones have broken all caste-creed-economic barriers and invaded each and every household in rural Bihar.

Not to lag behind are the girls and women. They sit in clusters at the centre to learn tailoring, knitting and embroidery. Elderly ladies are seen busy in learning three ‘R’s. A new building is also coming up to house, as villagers said, gram panchayat office. “Now petty disputes will be settled in village kutchery”, they said and hoped “now fewer cases will go the law courts”. The Community centre has also an extension bank counter for the villagers. The Vasudha Kendra imparts lessons in computer applications, provides caste and income certificates. BPL and APL lists are also there and PDS shops provide essential food articles and kerosene oil. Solar energy will soon run hand pumps to supply drinking water to the villages. In the past village women had to trek a distance of four to five km to bring drinking water. Internet links provide prices of grains and vegetables in other cities.

The Sarkar Aap Ke Dwar programme has, apparently paid off. Prior to beginning of this venture, Sikariya was described as a ‘fortified home’ of Maoist guerrillas. The dreaded CPI (Maoist) leader, Arvindji, hails from Sikariya. So does Pawanji. The two Maoist leaders are in prison now, while Sikariya area has witnessed the coming up of roads, school buildings and electric power poles in the past five years. It is truly the story of a dream come true. Villagers now hate to talk of naxal activities. “We have buried the past”, said many villagers. A popular saying in the rural Sikariya areas in Jahanabad district is: Road barha, naxalite hawa (wherever roads go naxalism vanishes in ‘thin air’).

Benefits still pipe dream for villagers

The peace-marchers of a Dhanbad college have discovered that expecting any benefit from government’s poverty alleviation scheme has become a pipe dream for villagers in Dhanbad and Giridih districts. Drinking water still remains a major problem. A group of 50 students started padyatra (foot march) on January 26 and reached Tundi, one of the worst Maoist-hit pockets in Jharkhand. They surveyed government schemes implemented in 20 villages during their peace march. They stayed in the villages and made detailed analysis of different schemes.

Naresh Kumar Ambastha, a teacher of the college, who led the peace march in naxal-affected villages found that red cards meant for BPL people were not given to genuine persons. Ration cards for the villagers are kept by the dealers themselves. At Mohbani the villagers were collecting ‘red water’ from the hand pump for consumption. The students were told by the guardians that the government scheme for distribution of cycles to the girls was not implemented. Girls have to foot-march seven to eight kilo meters to reach the nearest school.

The peace-marchers were overwhelmed by the warmth shown by tribals. “We were given nice food to eat during our stay there”, they said. There are eight girl students among the peace marchers. (BJMC).

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