Jobless youth destroy highway for work
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Jobless youth destroy highway for work

Unemployed youth in Jharkhand’s Garhwa district have found a unique way of demanding work — digging up roads and arm-twisting contractors for the repair jobs. B Vijay Murty reports. Gaining from destruction

india Updated: Jun 16, 2011 01:47 IST
B Vijay Murty
B Vijay Murty
Hindustan Times

Unemployed youth in Jharkhand's Garhwa district, around 210 km north west of capital Ranchi have found a unique way of demanding jobs — cut the roads and bargain with the contractor. In the ambitious overdrive, they are not even sparing the National Highway (NH).

Inspired and provoked by vested interest groups, mostly led by local influential politicians, the youth have dug the 78-km stretch of NH 75 from Padwa Mod to Mudisemha village on the Uttar Pradesh border at 153 different places. In some places, they have used JCB machines to dig the road creating huge pits. They now want the job of building culverts on the road given to them.

Impact of the lawless act is beyond repair. Accidents have increased. Vehicular movement on the road connecting four states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Chhatisgarh—has been badly affected. While smaller vehicles are somehow moving through the diversions, heavy vehicles have stopped entering the town, thus badly affecting production at the district’s lone industry, Aditya Birla Chemicals (India) Limited (ABCIL) that is into manufacturing of chlorine, bleaching powder, aluminum chloride and few other chemicals primarily used in steel industry.

With an annual per capita income of Rs 14,990 Jharkhand ranks 24th among 28 states in India. Jharkhand government’s own youth policy report says that 12.5% do not get two square meals a day, 46% are below the poverty line and around 37% of them are unemployed. In Garhwa, one of Jharkhand’s highly Naxal affected district, sans ABCIL that directly employs around 1000 local people and provides indirect employment to more than 2000 families, there is no other industry.

With the area facing drought for last four years, agriculture, main occupation of local people, has also failed miserably.

“As the trucks have refused to bring raw materials and take away our finished produce due to the deplorable road conditions, our plant is facing closure threat,” said ABCIL manager, CSR & Administration, Shatrughan Singh. He said they cannot use the raw materials in stock and continue manufacturing as the chemicals produced are highly inflammable and hazardous prohibiting storage beyond a certain quantum.

Iqbal Khan, AGM marketing said they have already shut the bleaching powder unit and would commence production only when the stock is cleared. He said the closure will affect production in major steel industries namely Tata Steel, Bokaro Steel, Hindalco Muri and Usha Martin.

Deputy commissioner Rajendra Pratap Sinha holds the contractor, Patil Constructions responsible for the sorry state of affairs of the road. "Nowhere have I seen people digging roads making it a source of employment," he said, as he awaited green signal from superiors to take legal action against the errant company.

"It’s so difficult to expedite work in Jharkhand as locals’ personal interest determines the fate of a project and authorities remain helpless," said Umesh Patil, proprietor of the construction company said. He said it is always better to take locals help to accomplish a project, but in Garhwa managing the locals’ interests has become a daunting task.

With monsoon approaching, Garhwa is likely to turn an island if the damaged NH is not repaired at the earliest. “We are sorry for the inconvenience and shall try to at least fill up the pits during monsoon,” Patil said. Former legislator Ram Chandra Keshri said he has moved the High Court against the government’s neglect.

First Published: Jun 15, 2011 18:49 IST