Ranchi, Sept. 11: Chief minister Arjun Munda, who completed two years in office today, expressed strong views over Coalgate, which has emerged as the single most politically polarising controversy in India, seeking the Centre’s amendment in Coal Bearing Areas Act (1957) for Fifth Schedule areas to ensure people’s rights over natural resources.
“The government of India should look into the issue afresh to ensure that people residing in the state can participate,” Munda told The Telegraph.
The Fifth Schedule covers tribal areas in nine states — Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan — and is a guarantee to indigenous people on the right over their land.
Munda’s concern over developments in the coal allocation controversy is with reason. The CBI is probing the huge losses of Rs 1.86 lakh crore, as assessed by the CAG, incurred on allocation of 57 coal blocks from 2004 to 2009, of which 27 were allotted to industrial houses in Jharkhand.
“Why should the Centre allow minerals to be transported to other states from Jharkhand? Instead, it should frame a policy to compel industrial houses to set up plants in the state for value addition,” Munda said.
He did not think auction was the only route to mining coal. “Coal blocks should be allotted with full transparency and the aim to speed up the state’s industrial growth. Auctions can be one way to maintain transparency,” he said.
Munda also pointed out that 80 per cent of the displaced population in Jharkhand was due to different central public sector undertakings.
“The Centre should issue a White Paper. They (the Centre) are only interested in extracting minerals and leave the state to bear liabilities such as displacement and disease. The royalty we get is meagre and is exhausted in constructing roads in the areas,” he said.
He also disagreed with Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s view that creation of smaller states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh increased Maoist problems.
Shinde on Monday had observed that fear of Naxalite dominance in the proposed Telangana was “an issue” which figured while deciding the prospect of separate statehood.
“There are different opinions on it and we have to handle it carefully. States like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, which were divided to carve out smaller states, saw increased Naxalite problems,” the Union minister is said to have pointed out.
On his two years in power in his second term, Munda said his biggest challenge in 2010 was “regaining credibility” for the state.
“Many people, including those at the Centre, viewed us with disdain due to scams and political instability. Even officers felt shy to divulge their home cadre,” he said.
Two years later, the situation has changed, he claimed. “We have been able to wipe out the taint to a great extent. We focused on the social sector, youth mobilisation, infrastructure development and issued fiats to the departments to maintain transparency,” he said.
The threat posed by coalition partners has haunted him, but his responses stayed diplomatic. “I am trying to promote better understanding among coalition partners. Development is the main and common purpose of all alliance partners. President’s rule can’t be an alternative in a democracy,” he pointed out.
With three more years to go, will he complete his tenure? “Yes. I am hopeful that understanding among coalition partners will be better and we will be able to run the government smoothly,” he said.