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Worrying: Hemant Soren govt is ‘silent’ on jal-jangal-zameen, traditional governance

Counterview Desk

Even as praising the Hemant Soren government for its "commitment" to the welfare of people in Jharkhand, a civil rights organization has complained, “But the journey is a long one”, as many “pro-people announcements” have not been fully implemented on the completion of one year in office.
In a statement, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha said, “The government needs to demonstrate political will to end the widespread corruption nexus of officials and contractors in MGNREGA. Also, while CM did mention malnutrition in his speech, he did not specify how this will be addressed amongst the children.”

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Hemant Soren government completed its first year in office on December 29, 2020 and announced a number of new schemes on this occasion. Jharkhand’s electorate gave a clear mandate in favour of Gathbandhan under the leadership of Hemant Soren in 2019 after suffering the BJP-AJSU misrule of five years under Chief Ministership of Raghuvar Das.
During the election campaign and after formation of Gathbandhan Government, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a network of several activists and people’s organisations, has been continuously raising people’s issues and demands. It’s heartening to note that the present government has given attention to some of these issues during last one year and also in the set of announcements made on December 29.
Widespread hunger and malnutrition is one of the major issues in Jharkhand. The CM accepted this fact in his December 29 speech and launched some schemes to tackle the problem. A large number of eligible citizens are left out of the PDS and the announcement to include 15 lakh beneficiaries is a step in the right direction. The decision of universal extension of old age social security pension is also a welcome step. At present more than half of elderly citizens are deprived of social security pensions.
The decision to increase MGNREGA wages from Rs 194 to Rs 225 by utilizing state funds too is praiseworthy. We hope state government will act on its announcement and soon raise this wage rate to minimum wage level.
However, the government needs to demonstrate political will to end the widespread corruption nexus of officials and contractors in MGNREGA. Also, while CM did mention malnutrition in his speech, he did not specify how this will be addressed amongst the children.
For example, the number of eggs being provided in Anganwadi and Mid-day-meals needs to be increased. CM also complimented on the role of public health system in fight against covid but the government is yet to strengthen health infrastructure in general and primary health care system in particular on ground. We hope the state government will focus on this vital area as well sooner rather than later.
In Jharkhand, people have to struggle against red-tapism and systemic corruption for availing their day-to-day entitlement. The declaration to implement Service Guarantee Act through JHARSEWA and holding officials accountable is important, but the system should be implemented through Panchayat and Block offices and not via Pragya Kendras or private agencies. Also, the governance should be completely decentralised and funds, functionaries and functions should be ensured for the Panchayats and block and district level Panchayati Raj governments.
CM’s declaration of waiver of farmers’ loans shows the commitment towards election-manifesto promises. But Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for farmers to avail this. Also, all recommendations of Swaminathan Committee including MSP for all agricultural produce at 50% above C2 cost should be implemented in the state at the earliest.
Issues not attended include promulgation of law against mob lynching, reopening merged schools, release of undertrial prisoners
By mentioning Adivasi and Jharkhandi identity and pride in his speech, the CM has reiterated the government’s commitment for welfare of Jharkhandis. Endorsement of recommendation for a separate Adivasi Sarana code for next census exercise by the Jharkhand Assembly is a step in the right direction. 
But it is deeply worrying that there has been complete silence on the issues of Jal-Jangal-Zameen and traditional governance last one year and also in the speech of December 29. Announcements and action are still awaited on fully implementing provisions of fifth schedule of constitution and PESA, cancellation of land bank policy, cancelling projects which were initiated by forceful acquisition of land and so on. 
In the backdrop of the history of large-scale displacement and miseries of people from mining and large projects, a comprehensive policy should be drafted to ensure Constitutional rights of Adivasi-Mulvasis on natural resources and governance through their traditional governance system. 
By announcing new rule for JPSC and promising to conduct timely examinations effective January 2021, CM has addressed a basic and important need of the state. At the same time, the government needs to prepare a domicile policy based on Jharkhandi welfare. It also needs to implement provisions to ensure adequate representation of Adivasis and Jharkhandis in all types of jobs and promotions.
Another area of concern is lack of attention of CM and his government and ruling alliance members towards the continuing atrocities on Adivasis and locals in the hands of security forces. Justice is not being delivered to the victims in most of such cases and hardly any compensation has been paid. Local members of the ruling political parties are also not standing with the victims of such violence.
Hemant Soren had announced immediately after his taking oath as CM that cases on hundreds named and thousands un-named persons in connection with Pathalgadi movement will be withdrawn. This announcement was like a light at the end of tunnel for the affected Adivasi families and social activists. But this promise is only on papers even after a year of its announcement. 
As per the information taken through RTI, district administrations have recommended withdrawal of only 16 out of 30 Pathalgadi cases filed in 3 districts. These 16 cases are also pending with state home department for further action. This and many other instances point out a large gap between political announcements and administrative follow up action.
Like earlier years, violence against women took place unabated during last one year as well. Announcement to set up a helpline for women is useful but concrete and timely redressal of complaints, action against perpetrators and gender sensitisation training in government offices and educational institutions needs to be undertaken on a large scale.
There are other issues of larger public interest which have not been attended to so far like promulgation of law against mob lynching, implementation of recommendations of Sachar Committee, reopening merged schools, release of undertrial prisoners, encouragement to local languages and so on.
Mahasabha hopes that Hemant Soren government will act on all its poll promises in letter and spirit and intensify its efforts for the welfare of Jharkhandi cause. We demand that the government should initiate direct and regular dialogue with activists and people’s organizations to bridge the gap between government’s intentions and grassroot realities.

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