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Bandh blackmail

- Opp. enforces shutdown for special status

March 2: Opposition parties JVM and Ajsu, backed by the JD(U) and Left, today enforced a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Jharkhand to demand special state status from the Centre on the lines of the JD(U)-led shutdown in Bihar.

Termed “historic”, “massive” and a “cent per cent success” in Jharkhand by enforcers, the clampdown paralysed commuting and business across the state, sounding the first major pre-poll warning against the Centre.

Ajsu, led by Sudesh Mahto, intensified its demand for special status for Jharkhand by citing the state’s economic backwardness after the Centre announced a five-year package for Seemandhra last month.

“The Centre has always denied Jharkhand its due rights and wants to keep the state in permanent poverty. People have connected themselves with our demand, evident from the massive bandh,” Ajsu chief Mahto said in Ranchi.

Mahto, and his JVM counterpart Babulal Marandi, were arrested in the capital, while hundreds of supporters suffered a similar fate across the state. Road and highway traffic was disrupted and shops were forced shut, while morning train schedules went haywire at Tatanagar and Dhanbad.

Barring a few stray incidents, the bandh was largely peaceful.

According to central norms, a state is eligible for special status if it suffers from educational and infrastructural backwardness, hilly terrain, low population density and/or sizeable tribal population, national security concerns and fiscal problems. If this status is granted, the state will get 90 per cent plan assistance as grant and 10 per cent as loan, opposed to 30 per cent as grant and 70 per cent as loan to normal states.

Chief minister Hemant Soren had earlier expressed ire over the way the Centre treats Jharkhand. But, Hemant had put stress on coal PSUs giving the state its due.


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