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Jharkhand: Cursed by its riches


In a couple of months, it will be two decades since Jharkhand became a separate state. It took almost eight decades of struggle and several sacrifices before we reached to the day of 15th November, 2000.

It was 1912, when the students of St. Columba’s College in Hazaribagh had proposed for a separate state from Bihar. Later on, Jaipal Singh Munda and babu Ram Naryan Singh took up the idea and turned it into a movement.

I was in my final year of graduation when finally, Jharkhand happened. With glitters in my eyes and hopes in my heart, I watched prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee make the announcement.

Later on, I marched to Gopal maidan in Jamshedpur, where Shibu Soren delivered his victory speech promising to make Jharkhand the richest state of India within 5 years, when he comes to power. Knowing the immense mineral wealth of Jharkhand, we all trusted his wisdom.

Alas, two decades later, Jharkhand continues to rank among the ‘bimaru states’ of India with almost 40% of its population still living below the poverty line. Almost 20% of its children below 5 years of age are malnourished. Jharkhand’s per capita income is significantly lower than the rest of the country. It lags miles behind in healthcare, education, employment and every other human development indices when compared to other states of India.

In contrast, Jharkhand is the country’s third-largest mineral producer, blessed with 40% of India’s total capacity. The mining sector’s output is valued at 15,829 crores, with a growth rate pegged at 8.4 percent.

Jharkhand ranks fifth in India for foreign direct investment. It is also one of the biggest exporter of minerals in the country averaging 1200 million US dollars every year.

So, where is this abundant wealth going? Why Jharkhand remains poor economically and culturally?

The obvious answer is corruption. Nothing in Jharkhand moves without some ‘under-the-table’ transaction. This is definitely a big reason that keeps Jharkhand backward. However, I suspect some deeper malaises too.

Jharkhand presents the apparent paradox. More than 75% of its population is non-tribal. Yet, ironically, it is considered a tribal state. Except one, all its chief ministers have been a tribal. Adivasis which continue to be among the most downtrodden sections in the state are generally wary of the non-tribals. Every non-tribal is traditionally referred to as ‘dikus’ (outsiders).

Jharkhand has mostly been under a tribal rule in the last two decades. There is a view that every effort has been made in this period to marginalise the majority population. Most of the constituencies in the state are reserved either for schedule tribes or schedule castes. Many think that this has ended up producing a completely ‘monochrome leadership’ which has failed in preventing, or at least reducing, the level of ‘daylight loot’ and open plunder of Jharkhand.

It’s time that everyone in Jharkhand got the basic fundamental right provided by the Indian constitution to elect and be elected. This is the only way to get Jharkhand rid of myopic and ‘tunnel-visioned’ leadership incapable of having a farsighted vision. With the entry of diverse and visionary talents in politics, prosperity will automatically follow.

To see the cultural prosperity, we need to bring harmony between various languages, festivals, cuisine and art of Jharkhand. Let’s start teaching major native languages to our kids along with Hindi and English.

Smiling Adivasi Woman (Photo courtesy: Heritage Jharkhand Facebook Page)

Let’s make Jitia and Teej our state festivals along with Karam and Sarhul.

Let’s protect and promote our native dance forms like Chau and Jhumar along with Fagua and Jhumta.

Let’s celebrate our Sohrai, Munda and Birhor paintings along with Kohvar, Rana, Teli and Prajapati paintings.

Let’s protect our jal, jangal and Jameen along with our ancient art in Jagannath temple(Ranchi), Vaidyanath, Parasnath Shikharji, Bhaduli (Itkhori, Chatra), Navratnagarh, Palamu, Padma and Khargdiha forts.

Let’s try and make our Jharkhandi thali with our native cuisines like Chirka roti, Pithha and Dhuska along with Litti chokha, malpuwa and saag of koinaar.

Let’s celebrate the bravery and sacrifices of Birsa Munda, Tilka Manjhi and Sidhu-Kanhu along with Thakur Vishwanath Sahdeo, Pandey Ganpat Rai, Tikait Omrao Singh, Sheikh Bhikhari, Nadir Ali and Jai Mangal Singh.

Let’s learn to take pride in whole of our ancestry and custom – not just a part of it. Let’s embrace and not marginalise.

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