People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 03

January 19, 2014





Steps Needed to End Backwardness amid Abundant Resources


ON January 10, 2014, Gopi Kant Baksi, secretary of the Jharkhand state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), sent a memorandum to the chairman of the 14th Finance Commission when he was camping in Ranchi, the state capital.


Through this memorandum, the Jharkhand state committee of the CPI(M) pointed out that the life and livelihood of about seven lakh inhabitants of the Jharia coalfields, including the historic Jharia township and a major area under Dhanbad municipal corporation in Jharkhand, are being adversely affected due to underground fire, subsidence and emission of poisonous gases, apart from the unscientific mining by the erstwhile private coal companies after nationalisation of the coal industry and by the Bharat Coking Coal Limited, a subsidiary of the Coal India Limited, a navratna PSU.


The CPI(M) pointed out that the graveness of the situation demands that it must be considered as a national disaster. Hence special arrangements and fund should be provided to ensure adequate rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people and save the Jharia township. In this regard, the memorandum also drew attention to the fact that abrupt attempts are being made to evacuate the area, while proper schemes have not been formulated for the landowners and house-owners.


The CPI(M) demanded that if at all the area is to be evacuated in order to access the coking coal lying under it, a proper proposal regarding the amount of compensation must be prepared. The scheme for rehabilitation and resettlement should include provisions for livelihood of the people who have been inhabiting the area since decades together, though they are not the owners of the land. 


To the CPI(M) memorandum was attached a copy of the report of a survey, conducted by the research cell of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), on “Fire in Jharia.” The report explains the precarious condition of the people living in the Jharia coalfield area.


The report pointed out that mining and industrial activities in Jharkhand are expanding by leaps and bounds; however, the absence of effective implementation of the mining and reclamation policies and of the urban planning and industrial siting policies by the concerned regulatory authorities has caused a widespread growth of polluting industries. These activities have resulted in air pollution, water pollution, land degradation and noise pollution. The situation is getting further aggravated due to poor mining practices, improper agricultural practices, and poor infrastructural facilities like roads, power, education and housing.


In this situation, the CPI(M) memorandum demanded that a special grant in aid must be provided to the state of Jharkhand, out of the Consolidated Fund of India, under article 275 of the constitution, for (a) development of the infrastructural facilities and (b) protection and advancement of the scheduled tribes as mandated by the constitution.


The memorandum also said that 50 percent of the proceeds and taxes collected by the central government must be handed over to Jharkhand in view of the major development expenses being incurred by the state.


Also, loans owed by the state government, carrying a high interest rate, must be waived so as to stabilise the financial position of the state government.


Regarding a balance management of ecology, environment and climate change, it is required that an adequately targeted special fund be made available by the central government to save the Damodar, Swarnarekha and Barakar rivers, which are the lifelines of lakhs of people living in their valleys, from the pollution of massive industrial wastes and for desilting of the reservoirs.


The CPI(M) further demanded that special status must be granted to Jharkhand in view of its huge reserves of minerals and other natural resources as well as its backwardness. The paradox of the state is the precarious condition of the people, including the landowners under whose land huge natural resources are lying --- resources that are being exploited by the corporate and big business houses.


Other requirements, as pointed out by the CPI(M) memorandum are as below.

1) Proper share of royalty on mineral wealth must be granted to Jharkhand. The central government must also finalise a proper minerals policy.

2) As Jharkhand is a new state, its planned and non-planned expenditures must be borne by the central government for infrastructure development like the SCERT, educational institutions, training institutions, tribal research institutions etc, at least for five years. A Koylanchal University, model colleges and community colleges must be established.

3) More financial grants for the tribal sub-plan and for the special component plan for the scheduled castes must be provided.

4) Financial grants to Jharkhand should be on the basis of the indices recommended by the Raghuram Rajan committee and not on the basis of per capita income.

5) Adequate grant of fund for rural and urban local bodies should be specially targeted to avoid diversion.

6) Specially targeted adequate funds for rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons should be granted.

7) Fund targeted for reclamation of the mined areas must be granted and the mined lands should be returned to the villagers.

8) Not loan but grant in aid must be allocated for development of the bastis and slums, and ownership of the land transferred to the inhabitants.     

9) Curtailment in social welfare schemes must be stopped and their funds must be enhanced.

10) Proper steps must be taken to curb the fluctuation of prices and subsidies granted for water, electricity, public transport etc.    

11) Drinking water and electricity should be supplied free of cost up to a certain quantity or number of units.

12) For the registered migrant workers, fares at subsidised rates must be provided for travelling to their workplaces.

13) For the farmers of the area, electricity, fertilisers and irrigation water must be supplied at subsidised rates.

The CPI(M) memorandum also stressed that implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act requires urgent attention in Jharkhand. Work for only 12 to 14 days is available in Jharkhand, while it should be 100 days on an average. It is a bit higher in Latehar district, where work for 24 days has been provided in the year 2012-13.

In Tripura, in contrast, every worker gets 93 days work on an average against the stipulated 100 days. The state of Tripura has also set an example in creation of assets, which is absent in Jharkhand. Creation of assets must be ensured in this state.

The CPI(M) pointed out that the people are eager to work under the MGNREGA during the months of May and June when they do not have any agricultural work. Hence proper monitoring should be ensured during this period in particular. Delay in payment is also a vital factor which causes lack of interest among the workers. Also, wages should be linked with the minimum wage in the state and revised every year against inflation in order to eliminate the discrepancies.

Regarding the public sector units (PSUs), the CPI(M) memorandum demanded the following:

1) Disintegration and disinvestment of the PSUs must be stopped.

2) Import of coking coal, despite the existence of sufficient reserves in our country, must stop as it is causing a huge loss of foreign exchange reserves. Import duty must be enhanced.

3) To revive the Sindri based unit of Fertilizer Corporation of India, appropriate funds be provided.

4) Corporate and big business houses are not bearing the expense of infrastructure development but are taking benefits of infrastructure developed by the government and the PSUs. Infrastructural taxes must be levied on them.

5) The embargo imposed on fresh recruitments in public sector must be removed; outsourcing and contractisation must be stopped.

6) As referred in Point 3(ix) of the terms of reference, the CPI(M) is of strong opinion that disinvestment in public sector enterprises in the name of competition and market  orientation is unwarranted and is not within the purview of the Finance Commission. Therefore, this aspect should not be an agenda for its discussion. The CPI(M) believes that none of the public sector enterprises existing in the state is a non-priority and hence the question of relinquishing does not arise.