Welcome Hon'ble Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi reads a signboard lying in a pile of rubble on way to Bhadua Birhor Colony; a hamlet inhabited by a minority primitive tribe--Birhor--some 20 kms off Ghatsila block office in East Singhbhum. Proceed further, and you find several other sign boards, most of which have worn out.
Wonder, what these signboards are doing in the woods? These were erected for the former Prime Minister Late Rajiv Gandhi, who was scheduled to visit this village and spend a day with the primitive tribesmen on March 12, 1988.
Although, Gandhi failed to turn up, his proposed visit did change the contours of this tiny, remote hamlet. Besides, it instilled a fresh lease of life in the primitive natives, who till then had been living on the flesh of the wild animals and used leaves and barks of trees to cover their skin.
Around 16 years have elapsed since Rajiv Gandhi passed away, but, the majority of Birhors here are ignorant about his death. They still anxiously await the VVIP's visit. Among the 21 families comprising around 74 members, only four of them, who have attended school, know about Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.
"We still remember rumblings of bulldozers and road rollers that were pressed into service for three days and nights at a stretch for completion of the road that would have taken the PM's convoy to our village. The entire stretch of 8 kilometers, connecting our village to the main road that leads to NH33, was prepared in just three days. Never before or after, have the administrative officials shown so much of promptness," says the village mukhiya Somra Birhor.
"We were handed out VIP treatment by officials on the eve of PM's arrival. Senior administrative officials including deputy commissioner (DC), superintendent of police (SP), paid maiden visits to our village, enquiring about our problems and almost instantaneously fulfilled many a demands. Even more surprising was the fact, that a day before the PM's visit, that is on March 11, 1988, the then Union Welfare Minister visited us to give some tips on how to answer the PM's queries," the mukhiya recalled.
As luck would have it, the PM called off his Bhadua trip. "Since then, government officials have disappeared like eels into the mud. A model village in the making returned to its original past. Our conditions deteriorated miserably. There are around 4 TB patients, who are dying for want of medicines," lamented Bilom Birhor.
While travelling to Bhadua, one can see some development in the adjoining villages including Chakla, Chapri, Digha, Baliguma, but Bhadua seems to have regressed 100 years back.
Block Welfare Officer (BWO), Arjun Majhi admits alls not well with the Bhadua Bihors, but blamed their lifestyle for their worsening condition. "They have been given Indira Awas, but they sold them off brick by brick. Gas stoves provided to them also seems to be making way to the markets."
Leading an ostracised life, these ignorant Birhors are still awaiting a VVIP (preferably Late Rajiv Gandhi) to change their fortunes overnight.