Jharkhand’s draft industrial policy

THEY CLAIMED credit for ushering in Vananchal by fighting against “jungle raj”. By hook or crook, they managed a legislative majority and formed a government in the newly formed state of Jharkhand, only to convert it into a police raj. They floated and patronised armed vigilante gangs to kill with impunity, as the recent massacre of MCC supporters showed. The BJP knew they could not remain stay put in power in the “normal” way. They resorted to their time-tested tactic of creating social divisions along chauvinist lines, pitting adivasis against non-adivasis and “locals” against “outsiders”. The BJP got one of their MPs from Orissa to fan up passions on reservation for adivasis. But the genie unleashed caught up with them when police recruitment posed the problem in a concrete way. Babulal Marandi only heightened tensions with the announcement that a residential certificate would pass for a domicile certificate. The JMM hijacked the issue demanding 1935 as the cut-off year. Even as the leaping flames of sectarian tension threatens to engulf the new state, criticism mounts that the government has nothing to show in terms of positive governance. To deflect the criticism, the Marandi government has come up with a glossy, 44-page comic strip called the draft industrial policy for Jharkhand.

“The Government is determined,” says the draft policy, “to bring the industrial development of Jharkhand at par with leading industrially developed states of the country by 2004,” and, hold your breath, “with that of the industrially developed economies of the Asian Tigers by 2010.” This pompous declaration sets the tone of this funny booklet, full of similar gems. It seems the IAS circus has umpteen number of clowns to churn out such rib-tickling policy prose where the road to the future Eldorado is paved with noble intensions. Pompous declarations, pious wishes and bombastic promises are matched only by vague commitments. But if one carefully reads the fine print one can understand that the socalled policy is a declaration of total sellout to the big business. Contrary to the general impression that the industrial Jharkhand, unsaddled by the backward Bihar, was poised for a great economic leap, the fears that the new state will be “adopted” by the big industrial houses of the region like Tatas the same way Andhra Pradesh has gone into the clutches of CII, and the revenue resources of the fledgling state will be plundered by them through one hefty concession after another, are confirmed by the “policy” draft.

Firstly, land would be made available at throwaway prices for industrialists. Land outside the designated industrial areas – which might include forest lands of adivasis and agricultural lands – would be acquired by the government and handed over to the barons on a platter. The draft policy assures them that, “Enabling amendment in Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 has already been made to facilitate setting up of any unit for industrial purpose or for the purpose of mining (Bihar Act 2 of 1996). Similarly, enabling amendments have already been made in the Bihar Tenancy Act, authorising conversion of agricultural land.”

Jharkhand too joins the race among states in the liberalisation era to attract investment by offering lucrative sales tax concessions. The only difference is that the draft policy vests unlimited discretionary powers in the hands of the chief minister to offer such concessions: “A high-powered cabinet committee headed by the chief minister with the chief secretary as member convener would be constituted to make suitable arrangements for the development/revival of any industry of the state. This committee shall take up specific issues on case to case basis and offer all required help/concessions concerning sales tax department or any other department, if it so requires.” If they are to give a carte blanche to a cabinet committee, why come out with a policy then?

Jharkhand would industrialise further under lawlessness of the robber baron variety. The bureaucrats who drafted the policy were stupid enough to promise in the draft that, “The state government would set up a high-level review committee to assess and evaluate the applicability and relevance of certain acts such as Weights and Measures Act, Drug Control Act, Factories Act, Water and Air Pollution Act, Employment Exchange Act, Payment of Wages Act, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, Shops and Establishment Act, Boilers Act, Minimum Wages Act, Workmen Compensation Act, Cooperative Act, Forest Act, Mining Act, Tenency Act etc.”

The draft policy, in the main body of the document, pays lip service to agro-based and labour-intensive industries including khadi and household industries by identifying them as thrust areas. But an annexure to the document carries a list of 44 industries not eligible for incentive that includes rice, flour and oil mills, papad, sweets and namkeens making, charcoal making, brick kilns, saw mills, carpentry, packaging, drilling borewells, textiles other than readymade garments, and even note book making and printing presses. But its priority in industrialisation becomes clear when the policy prattles long on IT sector promotion through “Intranets” and “Extranets”. What a bunch of nuts!