| Fayed Omar addresses the workshop at a city hotel. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, June 12: Politicians have little patience with home-truths. It came as no surprise, therefore, when deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi today hurriedly read out his prepared speech and left before a World Bank team could make its presentation on the strength and weaknesses of the state.
With the chief minister leaving for a week-long honeymoon, Marandi was the only minister to be present. There were three or four secretaries present but the chairman of the state electricity board also left the venue in the wake of Marandi and his entourage. Other ministers and secretaries were conspicuous by their absence.
It was left to principal secretary, Finance, Mukhtiyar Singh, to defend the government.
He fell back on his home-state Haryana to declare that people too must contribute towards development. In Haryana, he claimed, villagers first laid roads at their own initiative and the government dealt the finishing touch.
Ironically, the World Bank had undertaken the study at the behest of the state government.
A team of 20 World Bank staff, led by economists Binayak Sen and Rajni Khanna, took over a year to prepare the 120-page report on the challenges of inclusive development in Jharkhand.
World Bank senior manager Fayez S. Omar was present when the report was released.
The report does record some positive developments. Poverty in the state, it points out, declined by 2.5 percentage points a year while agriculture grew by 4 per cent. Impressive improvements in primary education and different health related programme were also observed.
But the report cautions that the state faces a stiff challenge to overcome odds before development.
With the highest incidence of poverty in the state and with very poor infrastructure, governance and fiscal control and supervision, the World Bank report warns, there is an urgent need for reforms.
The WB officials and economists held several rounds of talks with different stakeholders, including bureaucrats and businessmen and as many as three surveys were commissioned and conducted before preparing the report.
“We have suggested the state government should toe a middle path for the development of Jharkhand. And the middle path involves a balance between agriculture and mineral based industries,” said Sen.
Political commitment at the highest level and a consensus on reforms would be required for development, he emphasised. An effective monitoring mechanism on spending and utilisation of funds had to be put in place, the report underlines.
Inclusive growth would be impossible without an effective Panchayati Raj institution, the report warns. The institution is even more necessary in view of the perception in civil society that level of corruption in government is high.
The state having sharp social and regional divisions and tribals feeling deprived, the state has the responsibility to tread cautiously, ensure transparency and ensure the inclusion of tribal groups in the development process.
The survey reports included in the report indicate that frequent transfer of deputy commissioners and secretaries have harmed development.
Senior officials have ceased to monitor the functioning of blocks regularly while block level officials have stopped attending office regularly on the pretext of Naxalite insurgence.
People remain unhappy and a vast majority of PDS dealers admitted to paying bribes for lifting material. The number of such dealers in Jharkhand, the report says, is the highest in the country.