A new state is a hope for the people, but its politicians can be their disappointment. This seems to be pretty much the story of Jharkhand in the third anniversary of its existence. Of the three new states created three years ago, Jharkhand has fared far worse in almost every respect than Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal. Nobody expected a new and economically backward state to work wonders in three years. But Jharkhand’s first rulers seem completely clueless even about the road ahead, thanks mainly to repeated spells of political uncertainty. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the coalition government there, must take the blame for this failure. In three years, the state had two chief ministers, none of whom ever seemed in control of the administration. If pressures from his own party and other coalition partners forced Mr Babulal Marandi out prematurely, his successor, Mr Arjun Munda, looks just as unstable. Many of the schemes that Mr Marandi promised to start, such as a new assembly building or the Greater Ranchi urban complex, were promptly shelved by Mr Munda. What the state got instead were new problems over the domicile issue and job reservations for the other backward classes.
The anniversary celebrations, however, prompted Mr Munda and his two party colleagues from the Union government — the civil aviation minister, Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the labour minister, Mr Sahib Singh Verma — to promise a new beginning. A Rs 50-crore facelift for the Ranchi airport and a new train between Ranchi and Mumbai were announced. Mr Verma announced Central assistance for setting up a special economic zone in the state. But the biggest birthday bounty came in the form of 32,000 new jobs, mostly for police constables and primary school teachers. It would be tempting to congratulate the chief minister on his other announcement that the panchayat polls in the state would be held by next March. But even Mr Marandi had promised two years ago to hold the elections. Decentralization is a crucial need in a state which has long been plagued by Maoist violence. Endemic poverty and illiteracy have made large parts of the state a happy hunting ground for the Maoists. Panchayats could play an important role in the hilly and forested regions where the administration rarely functions. There is no sign as yet that the government has a plan for industrializing a state that has abundant mineral resources. But then, there are no signs either that Jharkhand’s new political class is up to its task.