Sushma Nath and M Govinda (in maroon sweater), both members of the 14th Finance Commission, walk through a mustard plantation at Hari Mahato Toli at Nagri, around 30km from Ranchi, on Thursday to get a sense of some of Jharkhand’s success stories.
What impressed them most was how the village had turned prosperous after some farmers made use of a drip irrigation scheme while others pursued dairy farming.
“Two years back my family was growing vegetables in 25 decimal land. But after the irrigation system was installed by the state government, we cultivate vegetables as well as wheat across four acres. Our economic situation is slowly improving,” said Basant Mahato, a farmer whose younger brother Vijay escorted the team.
The officials also visited a handloom cluster at Nayasaray where women were being trained under Jharcraft to weave silk, cotton sarees and towels. Text: Santosh K. Kiro; Picture: Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Jan. 9: Chief minister Hemant Soren and chief secretary R.S. Sharma today pulled out all stops to seek greater autonomy in matters related to Jharkhand’s top two concerns — mines and security — before the 14th Finance Commission (FC) team, while demanding central funds worth Rs 1.42 lakh crore between 2015 and 20 for all-round development.
Seeking to be taken seriously, the fledgling Hemant government set the tone of the meeting with the visiting team chaired by Y.V. Reddy by pitching demands with long-term implications — more central royalties for minerals, an independent mines regulator and only a supporting role from CRPF to combat Naxalism.
Hemant and his chief secretary Sharma, in separate speeches, reiterated Jharkhand was the biggest depository and supplier of minerals, including iron ore, and coal but got short-changed by the Centre.
“The state gets royalty of Rs 3,000 crore only against minerals annually but faces the brunt of environment pollution and degradation of rivers, forests and farmlands, ill health and displacement of its people. A state which feeds the entire nation is subjected to exploitation,” the chief minister said, adding Coal India Limited (CIL) subsidiaries like Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) operating in Jharkhand did not perform their duties as they were supposed to.
Sharma asserted royalty on coal should be a bare minimum of 20 per cent and an independent regulator should monitor illegal mining work.
“We have seen coal companies issuing permits to load coal three times more than the permitted limit on a truck. A DM acted against this in a district. As a state, we have been very, very polite and considerate, but not the coal companies, who don’t respect state and central laws,” Sharma said.
The chief secretary told the commission that the state did not want to stop coal supply as it might affect power generation at many plants across the country, but “the buck should stop at a point”.
Hemant did not mention the matter of paramilitary forces, but Sharma was candid.
“Left-wing extremism, or LWE, is our problem. The central forces (read CRPF) should only act as our support, we need more local battalions to give a tough fight to the rebels,” Sharma said.
He did not spell out the financial implication, but the hint was clear. Local battalions would lessen the cost of security, as paramilitary deputation poses a heavy burden on the Centre.
The finance commission members, in their response, were conciliatory.
Member Sushma Nath, former Union finance secretary, accepted that Hemant had “rightly said” Jharkhand had not got its due share compared to the resources it provides. She sought some studies in mining and forest sectors.
Senior member Abhijit Sen said: “Everyone has said that Jharkhand has to bear a huge cost in mining. The state should be given its due share.”
In the four-hour-long meeting, the state also presented its demand of Rs 1.42 lakh crore to develop key sectors. It demanded Rs 23,159.08 crore for HRD, Rs 14,093 crore for rural works, Rs 8,273.09 crore for health, Rs 19,275 crore for roads, Rs 14,650 crore for water resources, Rs 3500 crore for energy, Rs 1889 crore for transport and Rs 899.96 crore for industry, among others. Suprisingly for a state headed by a young chief minister and a capital marked by a sporting resurgence, only Rs 84.20 crore was demanded for arts, culture, sports and youth affairs.