The Telegraph
Thursday , September 14 , 2017

'Religion & land laws for progress'

- Catholic bishop's council writes to PM on day Das questions missionaries' motives

Chief minister Raghubar Das with a member of Iskcon from Bokaro at his office in Ranchi on Wednesday. Telegraph picture

Ranchi, Sept. 13: Chief minister Raghubar Das today defended new legislations to facilitate land acquisition and ban forced religious conversions as legitimate moves of his government to keep anti-development forces at bay, saying all those who cited "water, forest and land" to incite tribals would now be reined in.

"Missionaries have always adopted the modus operandi of 'jal, jangal, jameen' by putting tribals at the forefront to block development. They know the moment development happens their shops will shut down. But, I am here for development, and I am only focusing on development," Das told a group of select journalists during an interaction at his Project Bhavan office while also touching upon a wide range of issues from poor healthcare in Jharkhand and the state of investments to the local residents' policy and Ranchi's traffic and cleanliness.

Das said he had acted as per the Constitution while enacting the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act-2017 and Jharkhand Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Act-2017.

Asked if the anti-conversion act was essentially targeted at Christian missionaries, the chief minister said the law pertained to all religions.

" Maine toh kahin kisi ek dharm ka zikr nahin kiya. Fir missionary hi sirf kyun halla macha rahe hai? Isse sabit hota hai ki kuch gadbad hai. (I have not mentioned any particular religion in the anti-conversion law. Why are only missionaries reacting? This proves there is something wrong)," he said.

"Whoever tries to destabilise law and order will be dealt with an iron hand. You do your own independent studies to produce investigative reports from districts like Khunti, Gumla and Simdega to find out how over decades tribals were forcefully converted by missionaries," he said.

But, asked if he was open to a separate Sarna code for non-Christian tribals in the Census, which many tribal bodies are demanding in the wake of the anti-conversion bill, Das was non-committal. "I have been saying Sarna and Sanatan are the same," he said, iterating the BJP's assertion that all non-Christian tribals are Hindus.

The chief minister said the introduction of the new residents' policy was, to his mind, the most significant achievement of his 1,000-day government, even though the government made strides on several other fronts like investments and power.

"Though several people-friendly measures and pro-development works have been rolled out across the board, for me, sthaniya niti (local residents' policy) is the biggest achievement. Iske pehle, na kisi ne pahal ki, na hi ise sahi se paribhashit kiya. Humne karke dikhaya (Before this, no government initiated nor defined it properly. We did it). Since then, over a lakh people were recruited in 1,000 days. In another six months, another 50,000 people will be hired across various departments," Das said.

On the CNT/SPT Act amendments that had to be scrapped when governor Droupadi Murmu returned them unsigned in a climate of protests, the chief minister said, "There isn't any issue on the ground, but it (problem) is being orchestrated by forces to block development."

On sorry health services at the grassroots, which brought infamy to the state recently, Das was candid enough to accept the problems but said the government was working with a roadmap to improve the situation.

"It will take at least another three to four years for the health sector in Jharkhand to improve. You can't expect change in three years, but processes have been initiated. The biggest crisis has been lack of doctors and health practitioners. There are around 9,000 vacancies, leave alone basic infrastructure lacunae. We have set a target to hire 3,000 people in the health sector annually. Three new medical colleges will function from next year. Many other initiatives are on to upgrade basic systems," he said.

Reaching electricity to every village too would be fully achieved by next year, he claimed.

"When I took over, more than 50 per cent out of 32,000 villages with around 68 lakh families in the state didn't have power lines. We have taken giant strides towards ending this by 2018. Places where transmission lines were difficult to set up, we are going solar," he said.

On investments, Das said after Global Investors' Summit (GIS), promises were getting translated into action on the ground, two ground-breaking ceremonies in less than six months a testimony to this fact.

"The third ground-breaking ceremony worth Rs 40,000 crore-50,000 crore will be held between November and December. We will lay the foundation stone for the Vedanta group's 2.5MT steel plant in Manoharpur (Chaibasa) and other projects across the state. Vedanta will invest around Rs 6,000 crore in two years. The Adani power project is also expected to see its foundation laying ceremony in the same period," he said.

Das didn't rule out the possibility that Jharkhand would go for prohibition. "Let the demand come from people and localities and we will impose prohibition. Some are saying government is selling liquor. We own the shops which means we can close them down whenever we want but rather than copying others, let it (prohibition) happen by people's demand," he said.

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