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Sunday, November 26, 2000
Lead Article

New States; Old Issues

Why was the decision to carve out new states taken? Obviously, because smaller states are easily and more effectively governable. There are greater chances of their speedy economic development. Political compulsions are another explanation. There was also no clash of interests between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress, the principal opposition party. The other political forces, except for the Leftists, preferred to fall in line, adopting the least controversial course available, writes Syed Nooruzzaman

NOVEMBER, 2000, has acquired a unique distinction. It will be remembered for the birth by caesarean section of three states Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. There is a great difference between the factors that led to the creation of these and the old ones. The new states are the result of a prolonged struggle mainly for the economic well-being of the people of the areas concerned. Thus, with the adoption of the necessary legislation the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2000; the Bihar Reorganisation Bill, 2000; and the Madhya Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2000 by the Lok Sabha, the Indian Union now has 28 federated units or states. Yet this is no gain for a poverty-stricken nation. It appears to be a loser, at least today. The creation of the new units has substantially added to the country's financial burden. It will have to arrange crores of rupees for the baby states' sustenance.

Why was such a decision taken then? Obviously, because smaller states are easily and more effectively governable. There are greater chances of their speedy economic development. Political compulsions are another explanation. There was also no clash of interests between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress, the principal opposition party. The other political forces, except for the Leftists, preferred to fall in line, adopting the least controversial course available. The immediate beneficiaries, as it is obvious, are the politicians belonging to the BJP and the Congress. The saffron party, with 23 of the provisional Legislative Assembly's 31 members on its side, has captured power in Uttaranchal. The BJP's role in the grant of the status of a state to the hills of Uttar Pradesh, along with certain adjoining districts, may cost it dearly in UP, though the party leadership does not accept the argument. May be, it has a trump card up its sleeve. If it resorts to dividing the people on communal lines by raising emotional issues, the strategy may no longer bring it any dividends. Most political pundits share this perception.

 


In Uttaranchal, the BJP cannot be very sure of recapturing power after the Assembly elections next year. The party has developed serious cracks in the process of finding an answer to the question of Chief Minister. Its central managers came out with a strategy which favoured Nityanand Swami, whose contribution to the creation of Uttaranchal is nearly zero. But power politics has its own rules. Swami was preferred to keep at bay all those staking their claim on the strength of their work and sacrifices. They have accepted the fait accompli. But they cannot be forced to buy the strange logic that one's contribution to a cause is meaningless if it does not suit the scheme of things of the party's bosses.

The disgruntled BJP leaders of Uttaranchal cannot be expected to work for strengthening and enlarging the party's base with the kind of enthusiasm they exhibited earlier. For them the BJP suffering electoral reverses may be a cause for quiet rejoicing. Politics today is not governed by principles.

This is, however, not the concern of the ordinary people. They are interested in job opportunities nearer home. They want roads, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, power and potable water in their villages. If the state government headed even by "an outsider", as Swami is called, can ensure all this the masses will have no cause for complaint. They had sustained the Uttaranchal struggle mainly to secure these benefits. If the people of the hill areas still have to leave their villages to earn their livelihood in far-off cities and towns in UP and elsewhere, they will be forced to believe that they have lost the battle, even though Uttaranchal has come into being. They cannot forgive the ruling group if it fails to attend to their grievances.

In any case, the people of Garhwal and Kumaon will continue to curse the NDA mainly the BJP for permanently jeopardising their interests by playing a political trick. Uttaranchal, with a population of 70.45 lakh spread over an area of 55,845 sq km, is composed of 13 districts to be governed from Dehra Dun, the capital. These are Dehra Dun, Uttarkashi, Tehri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Hardwar, Pauri Garhwal, Bageswar, Pithoragarh, Almora, Nainital, Champawal and Udham Singh Nagar. The inclusion of districts like Hardwar the non-hill areas has tilted the balance of power in favour of the densely populated plains. So far the BJP had a large following in the hills. The situation will not remain the same tomorrow.

In Jharkhand, carved out of Bihar, it is again the BJP-led NDAwhich has captured power. Babulal Marandi, heading the government with the support of 45 MLAs in a House of 81, faces no serious political problem immediately. The BJP alone has 32 MLAs. He has, however, to grapple with tricky socio-economic and administrative issues.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren and another serious claimant to Chief Ministership, Union Minister Karia Munda, have been incapacitated by circumstances to pose any serious challenge to the Marandi ministry. Soren had been banking on the support of the Congress, a party known for ditching its friends in times of crisis. The Congress leadership has politely declined Soren's request, perhaps with the realisation that the JMM supremo's company may prove harmful to its own interests in Bihar.

Karia Munda may get isolated further because of being in the camp of a discredited central BJPleader, Govindacharya. But he may embarrass Marandi by raising old and emotional issues afresh.

Jharkhand, with an area of 79,714 sq km, has to look after the interests of 2.18 crore people. Most of them are among the poorest of the poor, though their state is the richest in mineral resources and has abundant deposits of coal, bauxite, copper, iron, uranium, etc. Most of its 6,500 villages in 18 districts are without roads. The government will be under tremendous pressure to transform the life of the people at the bottom half of the country's development index. This will mean increased mining activity, resulting in the destruction of the forest wealth. Nearly one crore tribals of the state, concentrated in 67 blocks, will resent any programme that affects the already depleted forest cover. Any confrontation with the tribals will come in the way of economic progress.

The law and order is also going to be a major challenge. The tribals want recognition for their gram sabhas and implementation of the provisions of the Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. This will lead to various complications. They will have to be handled tactfully a real challenge for the Marandi government. Then there is the problem of dealing with the activists of the extremist Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). They are unhappy with the transfer of power to those who did practically nothing for the 50-year-old Jharkhand Movement. The MCChas no dearth of cadres. It draws its support from the people who have been waiting in vain for enough supply of power and water for drinking and irrigation. Marandi will have a tough time meeting the threat from the MCC. Recently its activists in police uniform held up traffic on G.T. Road for hours together.

The story of Chhattisgarh is very strange. The movement for carving out a new state comprising the tribal-dominated areas of Madhya Pradesh had been weakened with the passage of time. The BJPcame into the picture in a big way in 1998 because of the lure of political lucre. That was the time when Assembly elections were round the corner. The BJP, however, failed to get the benefits it had expected. The Congress, under the stewardship of Digvijay Singh, emerged as the major gainer. The Chhattisgarh Movement in the process got the necessary fillip.

It is the Digvijay Singh factor that has led to the installation of a Congress ministry at Raipur. The Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi, an IAS officer-turned-politician, does not have to worry about his government's survival so long as he enjoys the blessings of his powerful counterpart in Bhopal. This is his toughest problem also. But he has a protective shield to use in case of any unhelpful move from Bhopal. A tribal Christian, Jogi is basically the choice of 10 Janpath. That is why the Congress MLAs, with the support of others, had to accept Jogi as their leader. The Shukla brothers (Shyama Charan and Vidya Charan), who unsuccessfully fought for the Chief Minister's post and BJP leaders may not allow Jogi to function smoothly. But that is all they can do.

Chhattisgarh is faced with a severe drought and people expect innovative schemes from the Jogi government to alleviate their suffering. The administrative ability of the ChiefMinister whose "first priority would be irrigation and then the tightening of the administrative set-up" is, therefore, on test immediately.

Jogi is presiding over the destiny of a power-surplus state. It needs for its 1.76 crore people, living in an area of 1,35,100 sq km, only 25 per cent of its total power generation. Chhattisgarh fulfilled nearly 38 per cent power requirement of Madhya Pradesh. To be precise, it has a big surplus of nearly 300 MW which can be used to launch development projects in the shortest possible time. The new state is also rich in forest wealth. Nearly 75 per cent of the forests of undivided Madhya Pradesh are in Chhattisgarh, whereas the latter has got only 22 per cent population of the parent state. However, there are fewer roads. Building of roads demands special attention.

In these new states, there are a number of similarities. All of them lack a network of roads in their villages. They suffer from an acute shortage of water supply for drinking and irrigation purposes. Electricity is available in plenty, but they have not been able to use it for their industrial and agricultural advancement. Compared to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal is in an uncomfortable position so far as natural resources are concerned. But with the completion of the Tehri dam project, it can generate enough funds to take care of its various socio-economic requirements. Besides this, it has sufficient forest wealth, which will have to be saved from the destructive designs of the mafia. There is great potential to develop the tourism industry. More than all this, Uttaranchalis have been known for being a dedicated and hard-working people. It is a valuable quality and should be helpful in speeding up the growth process.

Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are uniquely placed because of their abundant mineral wealth. They have all the ingredients to make them industrial powerhouses of India. This is, however, possible only if they have visionary builders like the late Y. S. Parmar of Himachal, Sardar Partap Singh Kairon of Punjab or Chaudhary Bansi Lal of Haryana. Only time will tell whether the new Chief Ministers are of the required calibre.

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