20 February 2017 10:46:31 IST

Is Raghubar Das excluding tribals from Jharkhand’s development?

In MicroScope, Prince Thomas explains how the CM is alienating 26% of the State’s population

An investment meet in Jharkhand is a no-brainer. India’s 28th State is immensely rich — it has deposits of all kinds of minerals, including 32 per cent of India’s coal, and a quarter of the country’s copper reserves.

And now, for the first time in its 17-year history (it was carved out of Bihar in 2000), Jharkhand has political stability. The BJP-led State government is the first in the State’s history to have a majority in the legislature.

Need for money

Chief Minister Raghubar Das comes across as a man with the right intent. Even before the ongoing investment summit was inaugurated, Das held road shows across India, as well as internationally, in countries such as the US, China and Singapore. Over the last year, the State claims to have received investment commitment of over ₹3 lakh crore.

Jharkhand needs the money because for a long time, it has been ridiculed as the poorest, richest state. Half of its districts have poverty levels in excess of 40 per cent.

But there is a problem.

Ignoring tribals

The Chief Minister seems to be blocking out around 26 per cent of the State’s population from his development vision — the tribals. Jharkhand has over seven million tribals, which are among the highest numbers in the country.

Last year, protests broke out across the State after the Chotanagpur Tenancy and the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Acts — which safeguard the tribals’ rights to land — were amended. The changes, it was alleged, would allow the government to easily buy land from the tribals, whose rights might get diluted.

Though Das and his ministers have tried to calm nerves by assuring that land rights will be respected, not many are convinced. And it doesn’t help that Das is a non-tribal and could be seen as less sympathetic to the natives’ interests. At least seven people died in protests last year.

Expecting more trouble during the Summit, the government has been forced to issue prohibitory orders to prevent opposition parties and activists from holding protests in Ranchi.

Disconcerted investors

For an investor — and many have already announced MoUs worth thousands of crores of rupees on the first day of the summit — this will be disturbing. Most mega projects will look to use the massive coal, copper and iron ore reserves in the State, and need thousands of acres of land.

But any project that displaces the tribals runs the risk of getting delayed. The Naxals, who are present in 18 of Jharkhand’s 24 districts, might get new fodder to push their campaign. Their ways are often violent.

Das, irrespective of his grand vision for the State, would have been in a better position if he had made tribals a part of Jharkhand’s development. Investors would have been more confident if the Summit’s ambassador — other than Mahendra Singh Dhoni — also included a tribal.