Shake hands on pond revamp

Hazaribagh, Oct. 17: Navratra goodwill on Wednesday rubbed off on Chhath Talab, Hazaribagh's best-known public venue for rituals, as two warring groups arrived at an amicable compromise of live and let live to pave the way for the reservoir's beautification stalled since October 5.

In September, Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha had convinced National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to shell out Rs 18 lakh for the pond's beautification in time for Chhath in November third week.

But around 4,000 residents of nearby Nawabgunj Mohalla wanted the boundary wall to not leave an inch of space for encroaching snack vendors and car rental businessmen on the pond's surrounding land, claiming they dirtied the water. Residents also alleged that BJP ' Sinha is a BJP veteran ' was soft on the 120-odd encroachers.

With both residents and encroachers locking horns, NTPC stopped work in a day.

On Sunday, Sinha asked Hazaribagh DC Manish Ranjan to quickly resolve the issue. On Wednesday, at the DC's behest, sadar circle officer Shailesh Kumar met representatives of both residents and encroachers ' numbering 150 in all ' for two hours at noon.

In the discussion, everyone agreed that the pond needed to be cleaned and beautified before Chhath. Another worry was common ' that NTPC would pull out if the row went on.

Now, according to the unanimous agreement by residents and encroachers, a 6ft wide footpath will be built outside the pond's boundary wall.

District authorities have decided to inform NTPC that the conflict had been resolved and work ' cleaning water, erecting a boundary wall with eight gates, stairs, lights and seats ' could start peacefully.

While this agreement will ensure that the pond gets beautified well in time ' NTPC is known to work fast ' some questions raised by residents remain unanswered.

It is not clear who will inhabit the new 6ft wide footpath around the pond.

Fifty snack pushcarts and 70-odd cars used to be illegally parked on the acre of open khas mahal land surrounding the pond. If the new footpath is used for the purpose, it would seem that residents had to bow down before encroachers.

"Sinhaji's partymen support the footpath demand for the convenience of those who park vehicles and snack thelawalas as they are part of the votebank. If anti-encroachment drives target shops, why should vendors be spared?" a resident had asked earlier.

Sinha, who laid the foundation stone for the beautification project on September 12, however, spoke only on how the beautification would help the Chhath vratis. "Beautification will give a new lease of life to this well-known pond. People can do their arghya with devotion," he said.

Perhaps, the festive season is not the time to answer uncomfortable questions.