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UNKEPT PROMISES

Getting a state of their own does not necessarily make a difference to people’s lives. Three years after its creation, Jharkhand continues to be one of the poorest states in India. Grim statistics in just two areas are enough to give an idea of the state’s poverty — 57 per cent of its households live below the poverty line and the per-capita grain available to the people are less than half of the national average of 523 grams.Yet, political leaders who agitated for the creation of the state had always complained that the growth of the Jharkhand region had been stunted because of the indifference and incompetence of the rulers in Patna. Plentiful mineral resources and forests would usher in a new era of growth and prosperity, the people were told, once the region was separated from Bihar. The same leaders must now take the blame for failing to live up to their pledges. And leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the coalition government in Ranchi, have to take a larger share of the blame than others. The party has been more busy keeping its own house and the alliance in order than tackling serious issues of governance.

One consequence of this lack of governance has been disastrous for the new state. It now shares with Andhra Pradesh the dubious distinction of being the most Naxalite-infested state in the country. The Maoist rebels cynically exploit the people’s frustrations and take advantage of the government’s failure to reach out to the poor in remote areas. It is no use arguing that the Naxalites had penetrated deep into Jharkhand long before the state was born. The recent spread of the Maoist menace is directly linked to the failures of the mainstream political parties. Villages went without water, electricity or basic healthcare, while politicians in Ranchi played ethnic politics with the government’s domicile policy or job reservations. Uninvolved and uncared for, more and more poor people fell to the lure of the Maoists’ subversive propaganda.The government of Mr Arjun Munda seems to be clueless about how to wean the common people away from the rebels. Yet, the longer this state of official inaction persists, the more difficult it may become to free Jharkhand from the spectre of Maoist militancy. The political cost of this failure will be high for the BJP, but the real losers will be the people who pinned such high hopes on the birth of their own state.

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