GN Bureau | July 9, 2012
The area has 25 percent of the known iron ore deposits in the country. There are at least 12 mining firms operating 50 mines (and more could be on the way). Chiria mines, which has the biggest iron ore deposit in Asia, is also here. And, yet, the modern state as we know it does not exist here. Even a government note admits, “Presently the Administration does not have its presence in Saranda and there is no information about the implementation of the government schemes in Saranda.
While the state would like to make good use of the mineral reserves and arguably help improve living standards of the tribals, the area had been under the control of Maoists for several years. CPI (Maoist) had its eastern headquarters here and conducted many training camps in the Saranda forest.
Where is Saranda?
Saranda literally means ‘land of seven hundred hills’. It is a dense forest spreading over Manoharpur and Noamundi blocks of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. The rich forest spread over about 800 sq km is on the tri-junction of Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Once upon a time, it was the private hunting reserve of the Singh Deos, the erstwhile royal family of Saraikela. Decades of mining has wiped out much of its forest cover.
It is home to the Ho tribals, who speak the Ho language. There are about 7,000 tribal households with a total population of 36,500 in 56 villages in this forest.
Because it is strategically important. On one hand it is extraordinarily rich in mineral reserves, and on the other hand, the area was in the grip of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) since 2000. It was only last year that security forces claimed area dominance over the ultras, allowing the government to take up development works.
Saranda Action Plan
One way to deal with Maoist violence is to use force. Another way is to address the problems faced by tribals and thus leave no room for the radicals to exploit people’s grievances. This second approach is concretised in the Saranda Action Plan. A team of the rural development ministry visited Saranda during October 18-20 last year and prepared a report. It includes short-term interventions (to be completed in six months) and medium-term ones (to be completed in two years).
* Solar lamps, bicycles, transistors and musical instruments for all 7,000 families
* Out of the 7,000 household, some 3,000 have been left out of the BPL list though they are eligible. So they do not get benefits under Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) or the national pension scheme. They don’t get subsidized ration either. A quick survey is planned to put them on the BPL list. About 4,000 IAY houses will be built. Cash payments will be made for pension.
* Forest right titles will have to be distributed quickly, with the help of those NGOs that are doing good work in this field.
* Employment guarantee under MGNREGS by creating awareness about the scheme, ensuring provision of job cards and monitoring payments.
* Livelihood interventions include job-oriented skill training for youth who can then find work with mining firms.
* Mobile health unit and health camps, drinking water supply, watershed management programme
* Eleven roads to be taken up under Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna.
* Livelihood interventions through NGOs like Pradan. These can include improving agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry.
* Watershed programmes, residential schools, integrated development centres.
The Saranda Development Plan, A Primer:
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