Arjun Munda and wife Meera at the chief minister’s official residence on Kanke Road in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The political roller-coaster in Jharkhand has taken a toll on day-to-day governance at a crucial time when at least three top bureaucrats are on the verge of retirement, the budget proposal is unmade and the state machinery needs oiling to harness the plan outlay for development projects.
The urban development department had been sending files to then deputy chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren for over a fortnight, but not one was cleared. “Files pandrah dino se laut ke nahi aa raha hai. Par humlog apna kam kar rahein hain (Files are not coming back for 15 days, but we are doing our job),” a bureaucrat revealed the home truth.
Again, chief secretary S.K. Choudhary is scheduled to retire on January 31, while state police chief G.S. Rath will end his tenure in February. Principal chief conservator of forests A.K. Singh, who doubles up as chairman of Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board, will attain his age of superannuation on January 31. The post of Jharkhand State Electricity Regulatory Commission chairman has also been lying vacant for about a month, ever since incumbent Mukhtiar Singh retired.
But, senior bureaucrats admitted that no decision had been taken to fill up these important posts. “The erstwhile (read Arjun Munda) government was in a fix and its maximum energy was exhausted in trying to get out of the fragile situation,” one of them said.
Growth projects are understandably hit.
“So far, Jharkhand has been able to utilise only Rs 5,000 crore in 2012-13 against a plan outlay of Rs 16,300 crore. Out of the Centre’s proposed contribution of Rs 5,500 crore, it approved us only Rs 3,148 crore. However, the state will at best use around Rs 2,000 crore of the Centre’s share by the end of this fiscal,” said a concerned bureaucrat in the planning and development department said.
On January 4, then chief minister Arjun Munda had convened a meeting at his Project Building office to decide the plan outlay size for the 2013-14 fiscal. On January 7, he was supposed to convene a final meeting in this regard, but the same was postponed for “unavoidable” political reasons.
A query to the chief secretary’s on Wednesday received a curt reply: “Koi meeting nahi hai (No meeting is scheduled).” Normally, at least a couple of meetings are routinely scheduled at the chief secretary’s office.
Interestingly, since Tuesday, everybody at the twin secretariats — Project Building and Nepal House — has turned into self-proclaimed observers. From an office boy to a clerk to a department head — everyone is an enthusiastic participant in the guessing game about Jharkhand’s political future.
“The governor should ideally call for fresh elections. The JMM-Congress coalition in the past didn’t work. Congress was ditched last time too when it offered support from outside. I think the party will keep JMM on leash even if a ruling alliance works out,” said a clerk in the sports department.
The grapevine is ripe in the forest department too.
“Jo malik bante the woh aaj jhuke huye dikhe (Those who acted like kings are bowing now),” a senior official said, referring to pictures of Shibu Soren with the governor in newspapers on Wednesday. “But, he was not bowing out of respect. It looked like an attempt to urge the governor not to call for fresh elections,” he added.
The question is will fresh polls make a difference?
“Not at all. None of the parties can retain clear mandate. While the JMM is strong in Santhal Pargana, the Congress is better placed in Hazaribagh and Palamau commissionary areas. JVM and Ajsu are emerging strong, but BJP has a vote bank in urban centres. It is very unfortunate for the state,” said a bureaucrat.