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Millennium Post

Cops, corruption and fractured dreams

On the 15th of this month, the state of Jharkhand, which was created after several decades of long struggle for a separate state for Tribals, completed 12 years of its formation. Jharkhand, the 28th state of the Indian union, was brought into existence by the Bihar Reorganisation Act on 15 November 2000. The day is considered to be the birth anniversary of the legendary leader Birsa Munda. The state, famous for its rich mineral resources, occupies an area of 28,833 square miles and has a population of nearly 330 lakh people according to 2011 estimates. Like every year, the formation day was celebrated with great pomp and show by the government and the political elite in the state capital Ranchi and elsewhere. However, this year a greater effort was made to bolster the ever declining public image due to mass displacement, brutality by police and security forces and rampant corruption in the state over the years, by giving advertisements not only in local and Hindi newspapers but in major national dailies.

On 15 November, in the Times of India (Capital Edition, Delhi), a full page advertisement was published with smiling faces of Shibu Sonren, once referred as Dishom Guru or the Great Leader of Tribals, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief and also head of the ruling Alliance, along with the state chief minister Arjun Munda and his team, in Hindi with the heading, Vikas ke path par agrasar Jharkhand: Zameen par utri Haqeeqat (Jharkhand on the path of development: reality on the ground), enumerating ‘landmark works of development’ of the government.

So the obvious questions were: Is it so? Is Jharkhand really on the path of development? If yes, for whom? What is the ‘state of development’ in Jharkhand and how far has it improved the lives of ordinary Jharkhandis, the indigenous Aadivasis, Dalits, women, backward castes and people of other marginalised groups? And what are the realities on the ground. The simple answer is no, a big no. In reality, nothing substantial has been done in all these years for at least for those the state was created. Sample this: according to the Jharkhand Human Rights Report (2000-2011) prepared by the Jharkhand Human Rights Movements (JHRM), ever since the state was created more than 100 people have been reported to have died out of acute hunger, of which 40 belonged to the indigenous Adivasi communities. According to the National Family and Health Survey, 57 per cent children of the state are malnourished. The Jharkhand Social Welfare Department’s own data states that there are 5.5 lakhs children who are malnourished. In the state, 56.5 per cent of children below five years age are under weight and 70. 3 per cent are anemic. 78.2 per cent girls are anemic, of which 64.2 are school going. Similarly, 70 per cent women are anaemic. The situation of indigenous tribes is the worst. 64.3 per cent children below five years of age are under weight. Eighty per cent children and 85 per cent women of these tribes are anemic. This reminds us about the argument often made by noted pediatrician and human rights activist, Binayak Sen, how these people are virtually living in the state of famine, leading to genocide if we go by the international standards, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.

What about the ‘development’ – setting up of industries, mining and other infrastructure building, what it has done to the Jharkhandis? In the state, the development helped only in displacing people, dispossessing indigenous tribes from jal, jangal and zameen, the very source of their survival. According to Dyamani Barala, a journalist turned full time anti-displacement activist, languishing in behind bars since 16 October in Ranchi prison, ironically named after the Birsa Munda, in several forged cases, after the formation of the new state, Jharkhand, it has displaced 80 per cent of Jharkhandi’s from their land only for the sake of ‘development’ and within that only 4.5 per cent have been relocated. The rest of the people are wandering in big cities for their survival. Similarly, various reports by civil society orgnisations and human rights groups suggest, in last decade around 30 lakh people had to migrate from the state, of which five lakh are women, primarily working as housemaids in metro cities.

However, the story of Jharkhand’s real development does not end here. During the last decade as many as 102 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) have been signed with a number of corporate giants, some of which require thousands acres of land causing in yet another large scale displacement of thousands of tribals in each case. Most of these projects are for mining or for setting up other polluting industries in the state. Naturally, these projects met with enormous resistance from the tribal communities who have organised themselves and have so far successfully resisted the accusations of their resources, which has resulted in the total non-execution of these MoUs so far. This has irked the government most and it started an onslaught on all those who tried resisting displacement or raising their voices, individually as well as jointly, by charging and arresting them in forged cases, branding them Maoist, killing them in fake encounters or by opening fire unnecessarily on peaceful protests and continuously harassing on flimsy grounds.

Mahtab Alam is a civil rights activist
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