The Telegraph
Monday , July 14 , 2014
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A year in office, Hemant earns a mixed bag

Ranchi, July 13: Hemant Soren completed a year in office as chief minister today, leading a rocky JMM-Congress-RJD coalition whose honeymoon was over even as cabinet negotiations were on, and which lost its hype and hyperbole when the BJP pounded its victorious verdict on the state in Lok Sabha elections.

Jharkhand’s third Vidhan Sabha, which started in December 2009 with Hemant’s father Shibu Soren as chief minister, has been eventful with three chief ministers and two stints of President’s Rule. Yet, dispirited ally Congress may just give Hemant the honour of keeping him on the chair till the Assembly elections, but Shibu’s son, in his first year as chief minister, has given Jharkhand slim pickings.

From the cake to the icing and cherry, Hemant’s performance has at best been a mixed bag.

Ousting the BJP-led government under Arjun Munda, over issues that had more to do with bloated egos than serious ideological issues in January 2013, Hemant took charge after six months of President’s Rule on July 13 last year.

Politically, negotiations before cabinet formation last year and Lok Sabha elections brought out the fangs of coalition allies. Hemant’s housekeeping skills were not extraordinary. Lok Sabha ambitions in conflict with so-called state interests caused the unceremonious exit of many. JMM also lost two trusted lieutenants Hemlal Murmu and Bidyut Baran Mahto, both with the BJP now. Disgruntled names of the ruling coalition include Simon Marandi (JMM) and Chandra Shekhar Dubey (Congress), whose public pronouncements against the government earned Hemant much embarrassment.

Hemant also asserted before the Centre Jharkhand’s rights to greater mining royalty, which the recent Union budget has taken seriously.

There was trouble at home, with Hemant’s widowed sister-in-law Sita Soren hogging headlines for the major part of the year for her alleged role in horse-trading and intimidating an aide-turned-CBI witness related to the cash-for-vote scam in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections.

However, Shibu Soren and Hemant’s handpicked Vijay Hansdah won Lok Sabha seats from Santhal Pargana bastion despite the NaMo wave in the rest of the state. Also, officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty, Hemant’s chosen man, has been seen in action, and some of it — for instance his surprise raids in state-run hospitals and action against the PLFI in Khunti — tangibly worked.

Infrastructure-wise, it has failed to make any headway.

The government’s decision to take back power distribution franchisee from private companies Tata Power and Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) is also seen as a move that is one step forward and two steps backward. Companies were chosen in 2012 itself, but after over 18 months of dilly-dallying, energy minister Rajendra Prasad Singh of the Congress is learnt to have stepped in and nixed the deal secretively.

The matter is sub-judice now.

Also, the government also failed to appoint IAS officers with a good track record to head the companies formed after unbundling Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB).

In the road sector, work on four-laning of Ranchi-Jamshedpur leg of NH-33, the state’s lifeline, is slow. The June 2015 deadline to complete over Rs 1,500 crore project does not seems tenable while appointed agencies backed out (or are in process of) from four-laning of Barhi-Hazaribagh leg of NH-33 and, Mohulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur stretch of NH-33 and NH-6. In railways, five major pending track-laying projects are legacies carried forward from 2000.

Industrial and mining projects, as expected, did not receive any boost. The five-day working week in the power corridors of Project Building and other state secretariat buildings did little good.

The hyped Rs 200-crore dhoti-sari-lungi scheme for BPL beneficiaries at the rate of Rs 10 per piece has not yet taken off. After an aborted bid, state food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department invited a fresh tender recently. “The first tender appeared to facilitate things in favour of a particular company,” said a senior IAS officer.

But Hemant did end up giving jobs to local sportspersons, members of primitive tribe groups and candidates who qualified Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) in primary schools.

With six months left for the government to end, quibbles of Assembly election pairings apart, Hemant needs to push forward road and rail projects of the state so as to reap some tangible benefits. Rural irrigation would also figure high before polls.

However, Hemant has maintained his government is one of the “fastest decision-makers”. “Against all odds and in a double-election year with the model code of conduct looming large, we have tried to perform our best,” he asserted.

However, Ramesh Sharan, developmental economist and head of postgraduate department of economics of Ranchi University, told The Telegraph “nothing changed”.

“Nothing has changed in the past one year and administration work has not improved. It’s not about who is at the helm of affairs this time,” he said. “They keep announcing new schemes, but implementation is very poor. Nothing functions for people at the middle and lower tiers,” he said.