Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren reiterated the state’s demand for a separate category for tribals in the national census data during the sixth meeting of the governing council of NITI Aayog on Saturday via video conferencing.
The JMM national executive president, who is heading the JMM-led coalition government of Congress and RJD in Jharkhand, had played a pivotal role in November last year when the state Assembly passed a unanimous resolution for a “Sarna Adivasi” religion code in the 2021 Census at a special one-day session.
The resolution was then sent to the Union government for consideration for inclusion in the 2021 Census. The tribals’ demand for a separate column in the Census was also raised on Saturday during the interaction with Prime Minister Modi and chief ministers of states and Union Territories (UTs).
“Adivasi society is a society whose civilization, culture and systems are completely different. The demand has been in existence for years to establish a place for tribals in the census. We have sent a proposal related to the demand for a Sarna Adivasi Dharma code duly passed by our Assembly. We believe that the Government of India will consider it sympathetically. Separate columns should be arranged for them in the census as well,” said Hemant.
The Sarna code has been a demand for the tribal populace of Jharkhand ever since it was created in 2000.
The meeting was chaired by PM Narendra Modi and was attended by chief ministers of states and union territories. Telegraph picture
Saturday’s meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and attended by chief ministers of states and Union Territories (UTs), also saw the participation of Sikkim and Kashmir for the first time as UTs.
Hemant also pressed for a universal pension scheme which the state had announced while commemorating one year of his government in December last year.
“During my field visits, senior citizens complain about not getting pensions. When we enquire with the concerned department officials we are told that the target has been completed. Can we not benefit this population by giving them a universal pension?” asked Hemant.
The chief minister said the pension had not been increased by the Union government since 2007, although the state government had increased its share of the scheme.
Hemant also stressed on increasing the daily wage rate of MGNREGA workers. “The central government has marked the wage rate of Rs 202 in Jharkhand which is lower than other states of the country. At present, Jharkhand workers are not able to reap optimum benefits from the MGNREGA. The central government should increase the minimum wage rate and also rethink the law made for workers. In the absence of strong legislation, middlemen and central government undertakings also ignore interests of workers, the latest instance being workers facing harassment at NTPC site in Uttarakhand and Border Roads Organisation along Indo-Chinese borders,” Hemant said.
Hemant also raised the issue of fund cuts by the Union government during the time of the pandemic.
“The share given by the central government to Jharkhand is Rs 1750 crore but it has been reduced to Rs 1200 crore and during the Covid-19 pandemic, DVC deducted Rs 2131 crore from the state government. This was the first time this has happened with any state in the country. This fund was necessary for the state to control the spread of the pandemic,” he said.
The chief minister also suggested flexible forest clearance. “It is difficult to get forest clearance for state government industries and entrepreneurs whereas central government undertakings easily get forest clearance. The Central government should work towards making forest clearance flexible which would help Jharkhand in establishing industries,” he said.