In a welcome development, the Saranda forest in Jharkhand, once a den of Maoists, is being developed as a tourist destination. Saranda did not see any development work until four-five years ago. In fact, a team of the Union Ministry of Rural Development and World Bank had termed the Saranda forest a “Liberated Zone” due to the strong presence of the Maoists there.
Aboobacker Siddique, Deputy Commissioner of West Singhbhum (also called Chaibasa), under which the forest area comes, told The Sunday Guardian that a forest guest house, which was in a shambles, has been renovated at Thalkobad and tourists have started coming in. The forest is also called the “Land of 700 hills”.
Siddique said that boating facility has also been started by constructing a check dam near the guest house. “We are focusing on improving the road- and mobile-connectivity in the region. Out of 11 roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, work on eight has been completed, while the remaining three roads would also be completed soon,” Siddique said, adding that a residential “Ashram school” has been opened in the Digha area, which is the central part of Saranda forest. According to sources, all this has been possible because of the considerable decline in Maoist influence in the area.
Sources said that this is a welcome development for the area, where even government officials did not dare to unfurl the national flag until a few years ago. “Tourism is picking up gradually. Tour operators from Jamshedpur have started tour packages for Saranda forest. However, most of the tourists still prefer not to stay overnight. They come here in the morning, remain here for the day and leave towards the evening,” said a forest department official.
The Sal forest of 800 sq metre in the trijunction of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, houses the rich Chiria iron ore mines and was under the control of the Maoists for many years. In 2013, the Tricolour was hoisted in Digha village after more than a decade.