Both were carved out of BIMARU states, but one raced ahead.
Raman Singh may have lost the elections in Chhattisgarh, but what he leaves behind is a legacy that will benefit those that defeated him. A prolonged period of political stability in Chhattisgarh has meant there was room for development to flourish—something the adjoining state of Jharkhand still can’t dream of.
What’s more, there is also the sprightly Chhattisgarh capital ‘Naya’ Raipur that houses the government whereas Jharkhand is still struggling to construct a new capital. It has to make do with the ‘Project Bhavan’ carved out of a public sector undertaking building that now houses the state government machinery.
Both Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh came into being around the same time at the turn of the 20th century. Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar and Chhattisgarh out of MP. The average growth rate of both these new states increased soon after.
But that is where the similarity ends. The growth rate of both states was different.
Chhattisgarh left its parent state behind in terms of the GDP growth, but Jharkhand trailed.
This is evident from the following numbers. Around the time of their creation, when Jharkhand was still a part of Bihar, it witnessed an average growth rate of 3.6 percent between 1994-95 and 2001-02. After the separation, it grew at an average rate of 6.3 per cent between 2001-02 and 2011-12.
However, during this period, Bihar itself grew at an average rate of 11.4 percent.
The Chhattisgarh segment of MP, meanwhile, had witnessed an average growth rate of 3.1 per cent during the period between 1994-95 and 2001-02, and post-separation, it grew at 8.6 percent during 2001-02 and 2011-12.
It left behind its parent state of MP that grew at an average rate of 7.6 percent during this period. In case of per capita income, Jharkhand (2.1 percent) performed only marginally better than the parent state of Bihar (2.0 percent) post separation, whereas Chhattisgarh (2.5 percent) outstripped MP (2.0 percent).
There are some other startling facts as well. Jharkhand has almost thrice the population of Chhattisgarh but its excise revenue is almost one third of Chhattisgarh’s. Revenue generation is stymied in Jharkhand despite the state being as mineral-rich as Chhattisgarh.
What then went wrong with Jharkhand?
Political instability was a key factor. Chhattisgarh has enjoyed a long period of political stability, but Jharkhand has been dogged by a series of short tenure governments that were incapable of taking a long-term view. In fact, governance at the political level was beset with allegations of corruption.
Some Jharkhand-based politicians came under the scanner at the national level as well. The coal allocation scam saw senior politicians being arraigned.
There was a singular lack of visionary leadership in Jharkhand. Politicians were busy milking the state in their short tenures. No Raman Singh-like leader emerged in Jharkhand.
Bureaucracy ruined a state, made another
The bureaucratic structure and civil servants partly contributed to the mess in Jharkhand. When the state was created, Bihar’s bureaucracy was already reeling under the aftermath of the fodder scam. The best of the civil servants like RS Sharma and Rajiv Gauba chose to move to the Centre after their brief stints as chief secretary in the new state.
As against this, one of the brightest civil servants, Vivek Dhand preferred to stay back in the state of Chhattisgarh, and served as chief secretary for almost four years. He shepherded the civil servants in the new state and guided them to perform well in their respective roles. He had the advantage of having served as secretary to Raman Singh for a long time. Hence, he could bring about a continuity in administration when he took over as chief secretary of the state.
Jharkhand, in contrast, suffered on account of senior servants who also nursed political ambitions—a couple of them had dubious reputations. The present chief minister, Raghubar Das is putting his best foot forward. He depends a lot on the advice given by the senior civil servants around him.
A large number of officers in the state, both at the headquarters as well in the districts, are committed and extremely competent. However, Jharkhand is known as laggard because of a few officers who are inefficient or indecisive or indifferent or arrogant or dishonest or a combination of all these.
These are exceptions but a couple of these hold critical positions and, hence, are visible. It is difficult to explain, for instance, why a couple of blocks in Simdega district do not have a single commercial bank branch. This is what I observed during a recent visit. The reaction of the senior bureaucracy when this fact was brought to their notice was even more appalling. There are a number of decisions taken at various levels but await implementation for years. No one seems to be following up on them.
The state’s finances are in a terrible shape; no one seems to be bothered about this aspect as well. The state owes Damodar Valley Corporation more than Rs 3,000 crore as electricity dues and no one has a clue about when and how these will be paid.
Jharkhand can learn much from other states, especially Chhattisgarh, but first, there has to be an admission that a crisis exists.
The state leadership will have to scout for a new band of RS Sharmas, Rajiv Gaubas and Vivek Dhands to bring about a decisive turnaround—and revive its fortunes.
The author is a retired civil servant and former secretary in the government of India.
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