Dialogue  July-September,  2012, Volume 14 No.1

Jharkhand: the Missing State

Naresh Kumar Ambastha

Politics, in right sense of the world, is the most important component of development. Political competence is a virtue in the Greek sense of the word as Plato declared politics to be the noblest activity of all. These days, the word "politics" has depreciated in value and content and also in public image. Strangely, politicians themselves contribute to this distorted understanding in practice and pronouncement. Politics is often confused with polemics and politicking .But it is necessary to strengthen the political process without decrying it. Politicians should reduce politicking to restore public confidence in politics. It is feasible if the present political systems are modified. Raising the political consciousness of the people and their participation in development at the lowest level as well as political stability at the national and state levels are essential for orderly progress. Gradually, in recent years, political institutions are getting destabilized adversely affecting natural development. Parties owing allegiance to regional, linguistic, caste and religious groups are gaining strength; and national level parties are fastly loosing all India acceptance i.e. Congress, BJP, and Communists. A part of the reason for this unfortunate trend lies not so much with the individuals, but with the ‘systems’ we have adopted. Social responsibility, humane nature and moral conduct and objectives do have a place not only in politics but also in management. Systems also play a part in individual and group behaviour. Individuals design systems. True. But, a system established by a group — class, linguistic, etc., — can condition the people to behave in predetermined ways. Initially at the time of struggle people believe in the policies of the welfare state aimed at mitigating extreme suffering meeting needs and social security and economic security. Certain minimum standards of life are specified, in terms of subsistence, health, housing, education, recreation, etc. and the state seeks to guarantee that no individual would sink below this level.

After a prolonged struggle, Jharkhand has achieved statehood. But it is not the state the people of Jharkhand wanted. It is not the governance that those who struggled for it wanted it to be. Jharkhand is a child now of eleven years and seven months. Its future depends upon as to how we build it today. The people of the Jharkhand have an invaluable opportunity, because it has enormous natural resources. If leaders of the masses will not utilize it properly, posterity and history will treat Jharkhandis as fools.

Today, Jhakhand is passing through a period of crisis; and, young men and politicians of the State in their impatience, have not realized that the development of the nascent state is likely to be lost or yield nothing if we will not appreciate that it is our duty to make an united effort for consolidated and integrated development. I know that today Jharkhand has not the same enthusiasm and the spirit as it had during the struggle for the state. It is resentful and sullen. It is somewhat despirited. It is the general feeling of the people that the state government is inefficient, incompetent, ineffective, highly corrupt and impotent. People know what kind of Government it is, what acts of omission or commission it is committing. If masses accept all this; and, if, in spite of it, the Government carries on, then we shall realize that we all have to share the blame.

Why are these Maoists creating trouble and disorder in Jharkhand and also in the country? How did they grow and spread through-out the state, except in two or three districts? It is because the state Government is incompetent enough to allow them to grow due to non-governance and corruption and had no control to suppress them and see what is happening these days. In last eleven years, five thousand innocent people, or more, have been murdered! Is this a sign of governance? Much of the unrest in society, especially that which has given rise to militant movements, such as the Naxalite movement, is linked to lack of access to basic resources to sustain livelihood. Development benefits are pre-empted by the upper crust of rural society. They are so strategically situated as to he able to manipulate rules and norms to their own advantage on the one side, and also to influence the decision taking by leaders and officials on the other. The file system or the system of monitoring by a hierarchy of civil servants is intended to protect them against public criticism. Often, improper actions, acts of favouritism and jumping the queue are regularised in the files ex post facto. We know that the fifty percent of the cabinet members of the ministry of Jharkhand Government are behind the bar including former Chief Minister Sri Madhu Koda, due to their indulgence in corrupt activities and siphoning the state’s natural resources. Even the Constitutional post-holders i.e all the former members of JPSC are behind the bar because of corruption. No Chief Minster is free from charges of corruption. Even Mr Babu Lal Marandi, who had appointed the inefficient, incompetent, ineffective, highly corrupt pseudo-academics as members of JPSC, has to share the blame for corruption indulged in by the JPSC members. The complexity of the procedures overwhelms even the educated middle class. What about the fate of 20 million illiterate peasants and landless labour! The middlemen often dupe the beneficiary. So fifty percent of our population still do not benefit from the country’s and State’s development programmes and the associated policies. It is a fact that decentralisation has not gone far enough, either at the political or at the official level in Jharkhand in spite of the Panchayati Raj system. The power has not percolated down to Panchayats. Recently in June 2012, High Court has asked the state Government to file an affidavit regarding the powers of Panchayats. Therefore, the first reform to be attempted is decentralisation and devolution of authority to a level as near as possible to project sites and the operational level and to the beneficiary population.

Inclusive growth can be possible when people’s organizations and institutions, which provide space to the poor and the excluded, are encouraged to play an important role in decision and policy-making. Planning from below will make a difference. It will lead us to rework alternative strategies which should aim at structural changes to arrest the process of exploitation, oppression, deprivation and marginalization to ensure the right to livelihood and freedom from poverty. Displacement in Jharkhand, which is, in fact, enforced eviction of people from their lands and natural habitats, has for long been a serious problem. Displacement takes place on account of development projects such as large irrigation projects, industrial and mining projects, power plants, declaration of sanctuaries and national parks, setting up of firing ranges and a myriad other activities of the State. Displacement is a multi-dimensional trauma, with far-reaching impacts, which cannot easily be compensated.

Medicine is one of the noblest of professions with infinite scope for serving the masses. Jharkhand Government claims that a handsome sum is being spent on the same, yet, medical facilities are not available to the large masses of people in the rural areas. It is my empirical statement because we had travelled on foot 70 kilometres from Dhanbad to Giridih to make a survey of several government projects ,ie by Padyatra and found the inadequacy.. We obviously need more, by way of health care and public health facilities. Our urban hospitals, medical colleges and health centres are not so structured as to meet the public health needs of either our urban or rural areas. Even the Chief Minister has to be hospitalised in a private hospital after his helicopter accident. How do you expect the proper medical care of the poor people?

While discussing the problems of school education in Jharkhand, a few issues are repeatedly raised, which are: absence of teachers from schools, lack of interest on the part of the parents or guardians, deficiencies in curriculum and syllabus, wrong methods of teaching etc. But these problems cannot be viewed in isolation and in a fragmented fashion. For, their roots are spread deep in the entire system. Therefore, if one wants to solve these problems, then it would be necessary to transform the entire education system. Now what are the systemic and fundamental problems of the Indian/.Jharkhand school education system? Firstly, there is the problem of access. School education is simply unavailable to the vast number of children in the country and especially in rural area. During the last few decades, there has been some progress in improving enrolment. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) from Classes I to VIII was 94.9 percent and from Classes I to XII, 77 per cent. (Educational Statistics at a Glance, 2005-06, the Ministry of HRD, 2008) The government primarily relies on the GER to bolster its claim for progress made in expanding school education in India and also in Jharkhand. But enrolment is a very unreliable basis for assessing the degree of access to school education. Firstly, enrolment figures are generally rigged and exaggerated for various administrative and political purposes. Moreover, in order to assess the progress in expanding school education, it is important to take into account the figures for attendance and also for drop-out from among those who are enrolled. The attendance has generally been found to be at least 25 per cent below enrolment. The drop-out rates are very high indeed. For the country as a whole, the drop-out rate from Classes I-X was 61.6 per cent: in a State like Jharkhand it was above 72 per cent. Among those, who drop out the percentage of children belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the country as a whole is 70.6% and of the Scheduled Tribes, is78.5%. In Jharkhand, the figure was close to 81 per cent for both the categories. The net result is that a sizeable percentage, as much as 30 percent, of children in the school-going age in India are out of school; the percentage is as high as 48 in Jharkhand (50 Lakhs out of one crore children in the school going age-group).

Thus a huge number of children are excluded from school education. This is thus a colossal waste of human resources. Besides, educational exclusion is the worst form of exclusion because it means exclusion from other walks of life and areas of activities such as livelihood, knowledge, status in society, human dignity etc. Moreover, educational exclusion becomes cumulative as it is carried over from generation to generation. For, it is seen that educated parents are more inclined to educate their children than those who are uneducated. Besides, exclusion from school education, particularly at the primary level, is a denial of human rights both in accordance with the provision in the Indian Constitution and the relevant provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Poverty is a condition of life having malnutrition, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality and low life expectancy. It is responsible for the loss of countless lives, especially among infants and young children. When poverty does not cause death, it still causes misery of a kind not even seen in the affluent countries. Malnutrition in young children stunts both mentally and physically. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 180 million children under the age of five suffer from serious malnutrition.

So let us look at how the present policy performs in Jharkhand. Our study has shown that between one third to half of kerosene supplied through the Public Distribution System gets diverted to adulterate diesel and does not reach the intended persons. In my survey from Dhanbad to Giridih in our Pad Yatra, we found that the people were getting only rice at PDS shop The BPL card holders are far less than the really needy. As for example, in Tundi Block (Dhanbad) only 9 thousand house-holds under BPL were getting rice through PDS and three litres of kerosinone once in a month. But as per the government record, the actual figure of the BPL is about 27 thousand. As per our estimate the people living under poverty line are much more in the block. Maximum people don’t have the ration card because in name of renewal of the card people surrendered it to the PDS shop contractor and it has not been returned to the villagers. Lessons learned from the grassroots in my experiences tell us that an outcome in terms of increased financial investment on development schemes does not necessarily lead to an increased number of beneficiaries or a decrease in equalities. We have also witnessed the total failure of Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission. In a village people drink water from which leaders will not clean even their feet (The Photo published in all the News Papers.) Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in fact do not meet the actual needs of the deprived and impoverished mostly belonging to the STs, SCs, OBCs, landless, small and marginal farmers ,children women, homeless the old and sick. In the whole track of 70 kilometers we have witnessed the violation of the main spirit of the schemes, which aimed to keep out the middlemen / contractors/ traders. According to our assessment from the field corruption and leakages are common.

Former Governor Ved Marwah states," For the poor people living in these areas, the extremists are the only functioning authority. In absence of state administration; the people depend on the extremist cadres even for essential supplies and services. The ministers and senior officials are reluctant to visit these areas to understand the ground situation. I learnt this during visits to the district headquarters in the worst affected area in Jharkhand during my tenure there in 2003-2004. During one of my visits I found that in one district hospital, that the beds were empty during an epidemic because it had run out of medicines, in spite of having an annual budget of over rupees one crore. The district school was hardly functional with very few teachers and no teaching- aids. The students in primary classes did not have textbooks, though on paper they were entitled to get free books from the education department. Most of the government funds allocated for health, education and housing had apparently been siphoned. When I brought these facts to the notice of the CM, he took no action. On the contrary, he complained that the governor was interfering in the state administration" (Ved Marwah, India In Turmoil Rupa. Co. p145) In Jharkhand politics is the main source of power, which in turn, is the source of wealth. George E. Taylor writes, (The Phillippines and the United States: Problems of Partnership, NewYork, Praeger, 1964, p157."More money can be made in a shorter time with the aid of political influence than by any other means" The use of political office as a way to wealth implies a subordination of political values and institutions to economic ones. The principal purpose of politics becomes not the achievement of public goals but the promotion of individual interests. During last twelve years we have number of scams and it proves that Parliamentarians and legislatures are more corrupt than lower-level ones; ministers and senior officers are perceived as corrupt. Almost all political parties and their leaders who run their politics on the black money collected through corrupt means. A traditional society like rural India or Jharkhand is still relatively uncorrupt, norms are still powerful but corruption is like a lubricant easing the path of modernization. Corruption as we see as a product of modernization and it is an expansion of vulgar politics.

Indian philosophy from its very beginning is advocating an ethico-spiritual view of life—simple living and high thinking. Mahatma Gandhi had said that ‘there is enough in the world for everyone’s needs but not for their greed’ and advanced the theory of trusteeship for business. Sri Aurbindo said "You must neither turn into an ascetic shrinking from the money power, the means it gives and the object it brings, nor cherish a basic attachment to them or a spirit of enslaving self-indulgence in their gratification ….. All wealth belongs to the Divine and those who hold it are trustees, not possessors"

It is time we get our values right if we have to create an honest corruption-free society and state of Jharkhand.

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati