Ranchi (Jharkhand), Oct 31: At a time when the world is grappling with climate change and its devastating effects on mankind, Jharkhand presents a refreshing change with increased greenery and pollution-free atmosphere, thanks to tribals who worship nature. What is reassuring is that even non-tribal residents are doing no less when it comes to planting trees.
Vast open fields interspersed with thinly populated villages surrounded by green trees and maturing paddy crops at this time of the year charm a casual visitor. What is lacking is the Government’s initiative to attract tourists. “There is immense potential of tourism in the state, but the infrastructure is lacking”, admits Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais. It is true no government in the past took genuine interest on developing tourism in the state. “We have much hope from the Governor, an experienced hand, in terms of sound ,advice to the state government”, says Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand Mahesh Poddar.
A sparsely populated state compared to its size, Jharkhand believes in keeping away from rampant industrialisation for right and wrong reasons. Right because it will lose its serenity once the industrialists come in to set up their units. Wrong because the state is facing unemployment like any other province for lack of job opportunities. The people of the state have largely favoured to retain its old charm at the cost of modern development. It became clear when the last BJP government led by Raghubar Das lost to the JMM-Congress combine in the assembly elections.
The predominantly tribal Jharkhand enjoys a statutory provision under which acquisition of tribal land by government is not easy unless the statute is changed. The BJP government tried its best to change the law known as Chhotanagpur-Santhalpargana Tenancy Act which gives special protection to the tribal lands. It, however, failed to do so owing to stiff opposition from the tribals. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma did not work in the assembly polls. Instead, the people voted the BJP out of power in the state. The message was loud and clear: In no case were the people willing to part with their land for industrialisation.
It is not to say that the people of Jharkhand are anti-development. There is a history behind this psyche. In the Nehru era, vast tracts of tribal lands were acquired by the government to set up PSUs like the Heavy Engineering Corporation in Ranchi and a modern steel plant in Bokaro near Dhanbad, among other projects. Thousands of displaced Adivasi families could not be resettled properly and they came to penury and grief. Since then, the tribals are weary of the government or even private parties acquiring land to set up industries. A few years ago, international steel magnate Luxmi Mittal surveyed the state and chose an area in the Khunti district to set up an ultra modern steel unit. The people refused to give him land.
It is unfortunate that no political leadership across the divide, including Modi now, could inspire confidence among the tribals. The best course would have been to strike a balance between industrialisation, development and peaceful living habits of the tribals amid green surroundings. This is no big task given a large number of educated tribal young boys and girls with a dream of their own. They want employment and development and join the mainstream.