It was October 2006. Rajiv Goyal, a mechanical engineer from Punjab, had recently joined the Abhijeet Group’s power project in Jharkhand as chief construction manager.
The day he landed in Ranchi, he headed straight for the plant site near Chandwa — around 100 km from Ranchi — in Latehar district for inspection. It was 6 pm, an unsafe time to travel back by the road he came.
“Despite warnings, I set off only to find the roads deserted, the entire Chandwa market closed, and not a single soul on the highway up to a 30-km stretch,” he recalled. Goyal reached Ranchi safely. But passengers on a bus behind him were not as fortunate they were looted on the highway.
Latehar, one of the poorest and worst Maoist-affected districts in Jharkhand, was synonymous with killings, loot and Maoist violence.
Today, Chandwa is almost unrecognisable. With innovative strategies and community welfare, the company drew a 33-KV transmission line to Chandwa town from the nearby Kudu grid, 45 km away, at its own cost in 2007. And the initiative brought unimaginable results.
The town that generally had one hour of power every three days began getting more than 22 hours of electricity a day. The market now remains open till 10 pm.
Business has grown manifold. Crime rate has gone down considerably and Maoists have been restricted to few rural pockets.
“The creation of basic amenities and infrastructure after the improved power scenario has improved the law and order situation in Chandwa town,” said Latehar SP Kuldip Dwivedi.
Amarendra Kumar, owner of Khatri Jewellers at Chandwa market said, “The vastly improved power scenario has changed our lives. There is no fear any more.”
The 1,080-megawatt power plant, the biggest in the state, is set to start production from August 2012. It has employed over 4,000 people, including some former Maoists. Company CEO Arun Kumar Gupta said, “Our ideology of providing development among the underprivileged perhaps matches the Maoists’ ideology. That’s why they are not disturbing our project.”