JHARGRAM: West Bengal is going to add three new districts -- Kalimpong, Asansol and Jhargram -- to its list of 20 from April 15 which is the Bengali new year Poila Boisakh. However, even as the state administration is going ga-ga over creation of the new districts by bifurcating Darjeeling, Burdwan and Paschim Medinipur, claiming it will bring much needed development, many residents in the interiors of proposed Jhargram district have no clue that their residences in the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste dominated part of Paschim Medinipur will soon be a new district. For the largely rural poor populace, a separate district hardly matters.
"I had no clue of new Jhargram district. I got to know from you. Anyhow, we have to work really hard every day to make our ends meet which will continue even in the new district," said Jiten Marandi, a resident of Birgi village near the Jharkhand border. "I have to continue collecting sal leaves. Any difference on my life? No!," said Jhunu Hansda, a resident of Khandarani village near Belpahari.
For many residents, the only major benefit of the 3,000 sq km new district is that major works could be done in Jhargram town itself, which is nearer to their homes than present headquarter Medinipur or industrial town Kharagpur. However, Jhargram town's residents are fighting a separate battle. Even though Jhargram will become a district headquarter, no major trains stop here. Residents staged a rail blockade a fortnight ago demanding that express and local train stoppages be increased in Jhargram.
Officials of South Eastern Railway from Kharagpur promised the agitators that Jhargram would soon be a stoppage for Delhi-bound Purushottam Express, Ahmedabad Express and Puri-bound Utkal Express. Also, a new Jhargram-Digha train would commence and Jhargram-Santragachi local would be extended till Howrah.
However, the promises are yet to be materialised. "Lack of connectivity with railway crossroad Kharagpur is a major issue for Jhargram. The last train to Kharagpur in the morning is at 10.30 am and then return train is at 4 pm. In between, there are no trains to or from Kharagpur, which is well linked with the Kolkata suburban railway network," said Kishore Mondal, a tea-seller just outside the Jhargram railway station.