Parties missing the point

Published: Saturday 15 November 2003


Ajit Jogi  <br> Chief Minister ahead of the assembly elections, the Congress -- which is in power in the state -- is keen to draw the voters' attention to its fiscal feats. Archrival Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) has centred its campaign on the controversies embroiling Chhattisgarh chief minister (cm) Ajit Jogi and corruption within his government. Neither has thought it prudent to give priority to issues related to development and the environment.

pump priming: Chhattisgarh has not had a deficit budget during the past three years. As much as 68 per cent of the state's total budgetary allocation is spent on growth-related activities. While the region received only Rs 95 crore for irrigation projects when it was a part of Madhya Pradesh, it has got Rs 577 crore in the current financial year. The revival of sick units has generated employment. For all these impressive statistics, the state government has adopted a retrogressive policy with regard to the empowerment of tribal people.

dumping devolution: Chhattisgarh's finance minister, Ram Chandra Singhdeo, says that decentralisation has ceased to be an issue in the state. The Jogi regime justifies this stand on the pretext that the small size of the state enables the administration to remain accessible to the people even without handing over authority. According to Arun Srivastav of non-governmental organisation Samarthan: "Chhattisgarh has picked up all that it was entitled to from Madhya Pradesh, minus gram swaraj ." This despite 34 per cent of its population comprising tribal people. Lalit Surjan, editor-in-chief of Raipur-based daily The Deshbandhu , feels that panchayati raj institutions have become "victims of administrative negligence".

water row: The state's dispute with Orissa over the Indravati and Mahanadi rivers is set to intensify. Yet political parties remain hazy about the future course of action. The bjp merely claims that it stands a better chance of resolving the issue since Orissa's ruling party is its ally. Meanwhile, the Jogi government has asserted that it is going to enhance the state's irrigation cover to 75 per cent in the next five years. It is also promoting the construction of dabris (small farm ponds) aggressively.

food insecurity: The Congress does not seem to have chalked out any plans for improving trade in non-timber forest produce, which holds the key to livelihood security of tribals. Significant matters such as the people's right over their resources have been put on the backburner. Consequently, places like Bastar, where some of the people's movements for the state originated, are now going from bad to worse. This will give rise to demands for forming new states out of Chhattisgarh, observes Goutam Bandyopadhyay of the Chhattisgarh Action and Research Team, a network of civil society groups.

The bjp, whose campaign is being spearheaded by Union minister of state for environment and forests Dilip Singh Judeo, as well as the Vidya Charan Shukla-led state unit of the Nationalist Congress Party are gunning for Jogi. An ongoing case in which the cm's tribal antecedents have been questioned, the Election Commission's pulling him up for using his photo on schoolbags and the Central Bureau of Investigation's chargesheet against him for using a forged document to tarnish the image of the Union government have provided ammunition to the opposition.

Nidhi Jamwal in Jaipur, T V Jayan in Delhi, Kushal P S Yadav in Bhopal and Ranjan Panda in Raipur

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