Malaise of Jharkhand

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In 2000, the exhausting but inspiring struggle of natives did yield positive result. Much to our delight, we had won ourselves a separate Jharkhand state. Our long cherished aspiration for a separate homeland was reality. Our dreams have been realized in our lifetime. It was happier times for all of us. Cautious optimism surrounded all the local citizens, as we dreaded the unforeseen enemies.

In 2016, the dreadful nightmare is killing our dreams, slowly but surely. Today, teenager Jharkhand state lay besieged by strange alien disease. This soul-killing malaise has afflicted almost all the vital organs of the state. At present, we, the natives dwell over tragic death of our dreams. Yet we silently carry on surviving. We live in a hope. We wish better days for us. Maybe someday, our elected Government will listen to our voices. Perhaps, the Government will think about our welfare and start working for us.

But will incumbent BJP Government do so? I really doubt that.

In August 1989, more than 25 years ago, at that time the Government of India had constituted Committee on Jharkhand Matters (COJM) to look into the growing demands for a separate Jharkhand state. This COJM consisted of the representatives of Central and State Governments, the leaders of Jharkhand Movement and Sadan Vikas Parishad, and not forget the few experts. After almost a yearlong study tours and serious deliberations, the COJM prepared its insightful report. It submitted its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs in May 1990.

Interestingly, this COJM Report contained a chapter, aptly named as ‘The Malaise of Jharkhand’.

Today, let’s discuss the following key points mentioned in this old COJM report, one by one. Let’s find out how much of positive changes have been ushered in here in the last few decades, since then.

Jharkhand region is a neglected backward area

At present, the human development index hovers around lowly 0.461. The state’s literacy rate is still around 65%. There are inadequate numbers of schools, colleges, technical institutes, etc to cater to the needs of youngsters. The quality of education remains questionable, to say the least; not to forget the missing teaching faculties here. Less I write about the depressing health facilities and the severe shortage of doctors, nurses, qualified health workers, etc; better it will be. I can go on writing about the harsh reality of a mineral rich state that has only been neglected by the successive governments.

Indigenous Population has been subjected to exploitation, oppression, etc

If we trace our history, then we find that the demand for separate Jharkhand state begin as natives’ movement to push back the unending waves of exploitation, oppression, etc in their homeland by an outsiders. Our ancestors fought back these Dikku (exploiters) for more than 50 years. We won a battle but lost a war. As a common Jharkhandi native, we simply wanted to have a say in writing our own blissful future. Alas that did not happen, even after the creation of separate state.

For 14 long years, the leading political leaders blamed the voters for giving them a fractured mandate in state assembly. Finally, the electorate listened and elected a government with a comfortable majority. We had patiently waited for all those years. We thought that at last Jharkhand will usher in new era of inclusive growth for the locals. Instead, we were stabbed in our backs.

BJP Government introduced an unfavorable “Domicile-Policy” for the Adivasi and Moolvasi population. This Government’s flawed policy once again reiterates the past policy of repression.

We do not really understand. Why this government is continuing with the internal colonial policy? How could a Government snatch away the education, employment and various other opportunities from the natives and hand them over to outsiders in such a blatant fashion, by introducing a faulty domicile policy? Having lived in states like Punjab and Maharashtra for considerable period, I can safely state that their elected governments cannot dare to compromise their native’s rights. But in Jharkhand, anything is possible.

Tribal land has been alienated from them in a various ways

Jharkhand has always been a region populated by the farming community. Little wonder, land is considered one of the most precious possessions of a Jharkhandi. During British Colonial era, our forefathers had fought relentlessly for safe-guarding our agricultural land. Their violent resistance yielded result in the form of two land mark laws, namely, Santal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT) and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) being executed here by British Colonial Government.

Nevertheless, in an independent India, even these two stringent laws have failed to deter the predatory land-sharks. Across the state, there are large-scale land-grabbing incidents. There is no end in sight. The hostile and corrupt ways of local administration has only facilitated this wide-spread illegal land-grab. Also the costly and lengthy legal proceedings on the land-related cases do not really help our poor people who lose their precious lands. The indifferent government has only speeded up land-alienation.

Scanty Minor Irrigation Facilities

According to the government statistics, more than 70% of state’s populations continue to reside in long forgotten rural hamlets of the state. Our farmers and agricultural workers constitute nearly 60% of total workers, yet only 13% of our agricultural land is irrigated. Consequently, 40% of our denizens are forced to survive below poverty line. No doubt, Jharkhand faces huge challenges in the form of large-scale forced migration, rampant human-trafficking and the dangerous rise in left-extremism.

Poor Electricity, Transportation and Communication Facilities

In our state, less than 60% of villages are electrified, where majority of local population live. Roads of all varieties (National Highways, State Highways, District Roads, PWD Roads, Village Roads, etc.) are generously filled with potholes, with very few exceptions, off course. For Indian Railways, our Dhanbad circle continues to generate one of the highest revenue earnings. However, railway connectivity remains bare-minimum here. There is only one national airport to cater to our entire state. When left-extremists took roots in our state, the government silently withdrew from the rural and semi-urban areas. It adversely affected the expansion of these basic facilities in most parts of our state. And that’s a shameful tragedy of our state.

In my next article, I shall discuss the remaining 10 key points mentioned in COJM Report.

Evidently, the key issues mentioned in this 1990 Report remain unresolved. Not much has changed in the last 25 years or so. The vision associated with Jharkhand Movement has been forgotten.

Even after the birth of Jharkhand in 2000, more than 15 years have gone by, yet the ground realities remain harsh, hardy, hostile and inhospitable. There is little chance of improvement in all these fronts.

The creation of new state did help a political party, but it did not help the local Adivasi and Moolvasi populace. Our state’s indigenous populations fail to reap the benefits of being local residents.

Perhaps, it is time to launch another Hul-Movement, a revolution in Jharkhand, to bring in positive change in our lives. So let us get united, join our hands, stand up and raise our voices for our future

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Sameer Bhagat

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Social-Activist. Author of SALVAGING ADIDWEEP.


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