Construction of Morang’s Santhal settlement in limbo

Even two years after the tender notice to construct a Santhal Integrated Settlement Development Project at Rateholi in Urlabari-9 Morang was published, works the project has not begun.

The Urban Development and Building Construction Department of the Ministry of Urban Development of the Federal Government had initiated the process for the construction of the project in 2020.

Former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had laid the foundation stone of the project on February 18, 2020 by organising a lavish ceremony. Then Oli had announced that the Santhals, one of the ethnic groups of eastern Terai, would move from their huts to new concrete houses. However, even 23 months after he made the announcement, the houses have not been built.

The project had aimed to build houses for 132 extremely poor families of the Santhals, and it had brought the smiles in the faces of the poor Santhals then.

It has already been seven months since the government awarded the contract to Sagun Construction to build the houses at a cost of Rs. 170 million.

The Santhal Integrated Settlement was to be built in seven Kattha and 16 dhur of land. There was also a plan to build a children’s garden and Santhal ethnic museum inside the settlement.

It was alleged in the past that the integrated settlement construction project did not move ahead because of non-cooperation from the then mayor to vacate the land of the project site.

Now, new representatives have been elected in the municipality, but they have also not cooperated with the project, said Birendra Mardi, a local.

Since no house was built there for about two years, many of the poor Santhals have started building houses elsewhere. Even the pillar erected by Oli while laying its foundation stone on February 18, 2020 has now collapsed.

Ganga Prasad Kharel, Mayor of Urlabari Municipality, said that he was able to hold discussions on the project twice. “The local landowners who registered the land of the river in their names had become positive to the project in the first discussion, and they agreed not to disturb the construction of the project in the latest discussion,” he said. Mayor Kharel said they would build the project at any cost.

Budhilal Soren, a leader of the Santhal tribe, said that his dream of living in a house built by the government has now been shattered. He blamed lack of coordination among leaders for the failure of the project.

“Even though the President and Chief Minister of India are from the Santhal community, in ours, the leaders do not know the reality and we have stopped believing that a settlement will be built for us,” he said.

Source : TRN,