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Indian states "neglecting" tribal interests are also highly rated for Ease of Doing Business by Modi, World Bank

Jhabua tribals
By Birendra Nayak*
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on December 4, 2015: “Reaffirmed my belief in equal progress of all states. Strides of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh & Odisha in ‘Ease of doing business’ are great.” This reaction may have come a bit late.
In fact, this information has been available since mid-September, when the World Bank Group and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) released the report titled “Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms” wherein Indian states have been ranked according to the Ease Of Doing Business.
The states mentioned in the Prime Minister’s tweet are in the list of top ten states headed by Prime Minister’s native state Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Odisha are ranked first, fourth and seventh, respectively. The other states in this list are Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharastra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh ranked second, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively.
This list of top ten states has promptly attracted attention of media as it contains seven NDA ruled states (click HERE), viz., Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan and Maharastra. But what appears to have escaped the media attention is that this list too contains seven states with significant tribal population; the percentage of tribal population here is higher than the national average of 8.61%.
These states are Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan, Odisha and Maharastra, where the ratios of the tribal population to the state population respectively are 14.75%, 26.20%, 30.62%, 21.08%, 13.47%, 22.84% and 09.35%. The total tribal population of these seven states alone constitutes 67.17% of the total tribal population of the country.
Interestingly, of the above seven states, five states, namely Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan, Odisha had appeared in the list of top nine states, ranked according to the Ease of Doing Business, in an earlier report titled “Survey on Business Regulatory Environment For Manufacturing: State Level Assessment” prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Private Limited (DTTIPL) and released in March 2014, by the Planning Commission of India. It is not known whether the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had ever tweeted anything similar to Narendra Modi.
Further, of these five states, except Gujarat, the rest four states, namely, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan and Odisha, belong to the category of ‘least developed states’ according to Raghuram Rajan Panel Report on State backwardness, whereas Gujarat, is in the category of ‘less developed states’ (click HERE).
It may be mentioned that Jharkhand, which appears in the top ten states of Ease of Doing Business, according to the World Bank-CII report, is in the group of least developed states, according to Rajan’s classification. Thus, the states which are least/less developed and significantly tribal dominate the list of top ten states in ease of doing business.
Were the tribal dominated states not favourable to business and industry, in the post independent India, prior to the discovery of the phrase ‘Ease of Doing Business’? Had it not been so, how could most of the mineral based industries and hydel power projects, largely in public sector, be set up in the tribal areas? But what were the consequences?
The most visible consequence was large-scale displacement. Between 1951 and 1990, as per the Planning Commission Report, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa, 21.3 million people were displaced out of which 8.54 million (40 per cent) were tribals and of those only 2.12 million (24.8 per cent) tribals could be resettled (click HERE).
 It may appear a strange coincidence that these very states, albeit in place of Bihar, Jharkhand and with Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, currently figure in the list of top states for the Ease of Doing Business. In each of these very Ease of Doing Business states, as the Statistical Profile of Tribes in India 2013 and the Socio-Economic and Caste Census-2011 reveal, the proportion of rural tribal population below poverty line is higher than all India average (47.4%) and the percentage of tribal population suffering deprivation in some form or other is higher than 70%.
Thus emerges a contrasting scenario: The states where neglect of tribal population is so highly pronounced could present themselves as quite enticing for business!
May be these states in their eagerness to be liberated from the epithet of ‘less developed’ or ‘least developed’, have thought that providing an environment of ease of doing business would push their states ahead, and as a consequence bring about improvement in the condition of the tribal people.
But will it really happen? An apprehension does lurk in view of the following: The World Bank-CII report, in its Executive Summary, states, “It is important to ensure that reforms are actually being felt by the beneficiaries, the private sector”, and provides in the last chapter of the Report “some suggestions on methods to engage the private sector.” That is, the real beneficiary of the Ease of Doing Business has to be the private sector.
On the other hand, another World Bank report (“Poverty and Social Exclusion in India”, 2011, p 67), on the basis of Planning Commission’s observation, states that the “non-tribal outsiders who converge into these areas corner both land and the new economic opportunities in commerce and petty industry.”
Further, the High Level Committee on Socio-economic, Health, and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India (“Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-economic, Health, and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, May, 2014 p 31), while drawing attention towards the surge in entry of the private corporations into the tribal areas in the last twenty years, during the Liberalization-Privatization-Globalization (LPG) regime points out as to how the “laws and rules that provide protection to tribes are being routinely manipulated and subverted to accommodate corporate interests”.
In such environment when the interest of tribal communities is put on back burner to serve the interest of corporate outsiders, and Ease of Doing Business is to provide further opportunities for the entry of private sector, one is afraid if the tribal communities already living hard life will not slip into living harder life.
---
*Professor of Mathematics (Retd), Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

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