Ranchi, Feb. 10: A select group of Christians met Rahul Gandhi in Ranchi last week to raise pertinent questions about the plight of tribals in Jharkhand, a state especially carved out to safeguard the interests of indigenous population and original settlers.
Among the contentious issues that were discussed were the lack of a domicile policy and the question of fair compensation whenever ancestral property was acquired by the state, in addition to implementation of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act.
“We raised the matter of a non-existent domicile (local resident) policy in the tribal-rich state of Jharkhand and subsequent disadvantages suffered by locals as a result of which,” said Jayant Jaipal Singh, son of the legendary hockey star and politician, late Jaipal Singh.
Jayant met the Congress vice-president on February 7 at a city hotel along with senior priest of Church of North India (CNI) Cyril Hans, former principal accountant general Benjamin Lakra, former IAS Binod Kispotta, former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi and others.
“We also demanded that not only the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 be implemented in letter and spirit, but age-old laws like Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act should also be enforced,” Jayant added.
Lakra, who is hoping for a Congress ticket to contest from tribal-dominated Simdega Assembly constituency, said issues concerning educational and health institutions run by Christians were also raised.
“There are 1,700 quality institutions, from primary schools to those imparting management education, with 8,000 teachers and over 4.5 lakh students. But when it comes to extend financial or other benefits, the state government’s treatment is always step-motherly,” Lakra said.
The Christian leaders also impressed upon Rahul the need to bring about an appropriate amendment to the Constitution to freeze the percentage of seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Jharkhand as had been done in several northeastern states.
The leaders demanded a separate category for those following the Sarna faith in the Census of 2021 so that tribal identity could be safeguarded.
The issue of the state government diverting central funds earmarked for the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) for various projects was also discussed. The leaders also complained about how tribals faced large scale displacement and fraudulent alienation from lands.
Rahul, said Congress sources, listened to the concerns of Christians as well as other minority communities, including Muslims and Sikhs.
Their concerns, he assured the leaders he met, would find voice in the party’s manifesto.