The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two years is nothing in the life of a state. But for a state like Jharkhand, they are important because the state was born out of a movement and its birth was accompanied by rising expectations among the inhabitants of the area. The expectations and the promises were based on an assessment of the potential of the region as a centre for growth and development. The advocates of the state of Jharkhand believed that the new state would succeed where Bihar had failed. And the only way the region could fulfil its immense potential was by separating itself from Bihar. But many, if not most , of the promises and expectations have been belied. The record of the government of Jharkhand on the development front is not a particularly heartening one. Unemployment is on the rise; basic issues like health, education and drinking water are neglected. In Jharkhand, this neglect is devastating as nearly half of the population of the state lives below the poverty line. The general feeling in the state is that there is nothing much to celebrate in the second anniversary. The latter customarily is represented by paper suggesting fragility or the susceptibility to tear. The government of Jharkhand should be aware of this symbolism because, underneath the apparent gaiety of the celebrations, there runs a strong current of disaffection.

The immediate cause of the disaffection could very well be the nature of the celebrations. The government has planned a six-day long jamboree that includes singers from Mumbai. There is also a local component to the function: local folk artistes have been invited to perform. The extravaganza is going to cost the state exchequer a fair bit of money which, at this juncture, it can ill afford. There is the feeling among a large number of people in the state that the government has deliberately chosen show over substance and that this is symptomatic of the priorities of the government. This may sound a trifle harsh and the critics of the government can be accused of being kill-joys. But the fact of the matter is that the government could have saved itself unnecessary expense by arranging a function with local artistes, instead of artistes from Mumbai. This would have saved money and would have set a healthy precedent. But it may not have added to the governmentís over-all popularity. The Jharkhand government has been striken by that incurable Indian malaise called populism. All state governments think in this way. It is unfair to expect that the government of a new state will have the courage to think outside the groove.

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