Jharkhand: Good governance or a tale of poverty?

Photo: jagran.com

By K.M. Ziyauddin


Etymologically ‘Jharkhand’ refers to an area that could be called a “forest region” or “bushland.” This name fits in well for a state with “Recorded Forest Area (RFA) of 23,605 sq km of which 4,387 sq km is Reserved Forests, 19,185 sq km is Protected Forest and 33 sq km is Unclassed Forests” (Forest Survey of India, 2011). This land is just 2.42 percent of the geographical area of India with a population of 3.3 Crores, an increase from 2.69 Crores recorded in the 2001 census of India reports (Census of India, 2011).

A hugely popular nomenclature Johar is used in many socio-political movements at present and by those having an empathy for the people of Jharkhand. ‘Jai Johar-Jai Jharkhand’ brings out the glorious past of the heroes who fought for the liberation of the region from the clutches of Colonial Empire and later from the money lenders (baniyas). In post-colonial India, this exploitation of the state’s people and resources continued in the hand of money lenders and anti-people policies.

Jharkhand has a huge potential for growth, even as it survives with one of the poorest population in India.

Demographic Reflections: The hopes and aspirations of the people collapsed in post-colonial India as there was no significant change in the lives of Jharkhand inhabitants. During 1960-70, the government of India planned to establish Public Sector Units in a few resource-rich districts. The Steel Authority of India established a unit in Bokaro with the technological support from the USSR and it accelerated the urbanization process. In addition, coal mines were established in many other regions.

As a consequence, the urban population in the state increased. In 2011, 24.05 percent of the state population lived in urban areas and the remaining 75.95 percent lived in rural areas. The all-India average for urban population is 31.6 percent. Jharkhand still remains backward and underdeveloped due to poor policy and weak governance. The neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh, carved out in the same month of November, 2000 along with Jharkhand, has performed better. These two states have rich mineral resources but have failed to capitalize these advantages.

Jharkhand’s higher than national average of child and sex ratio reflects a progressive concern for gender issues. The lower sex ratio in urban regions of Jharkhand is 910 females per 1000 males. For child (0-6) sex ratio, the figure for urban region stands at 908 girls per 1000 boys. Total children (0-6 age) living in urban areas of Jharkhand are 1,021,988. Of total population in urban region, 12.88 % are children (0-6). Average literacy rate in Jharkhand for urban regions is 82.26 percent in which males are 88.44% literate, while female literacy stands at 67.76%. The total number of literates in urban region of Jharkhand are 5,684,991. The following graph shows the rural and urban difference in Jharkhand (2001, Census of India).


The growing population has also added to the number of poor in the state. The Financial Times reports that the consistent poverty level has pushed hundreds of tribal and poor families into severe deprivation and hunger.

The reduced incidence rate in multidimensional poverty from 74.9 per cent to 46.5 per cent in the decade ending in 2016 shows the steepest decline only next to Bihar. But this kind of reduced poverty rate did not bring employment, primary education and basic health care services to the poorest families living in deprivation. The state did not focus on bringing industrial investment and creating infrastructural facilities nor did it make the tribal and minorities feel safe. In fact, the state that celebrated communal harmony for hundreds of years created communal divide and increased tensions. My ethnographic data from the villages and towns from the districts of Bokaro and Giridih shows an increased religious divide between backward castes (including upper castes) and Muslims after the demolition of Babri Masjid. The elders still don’t understand how a deeply entwined society got divided into two. Earlier religious festivities were celebrated as a common heritage as large numbers of people from both communities participated in them for generations.

The political parties found an easy way to divide and pull voters to their side. The apathy can be seen in four major urban areas of Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro which still remain densely populated, despite declining industrial growth and investment. The small mineral areas survive in the hope of further revamp and investment.

Visible deprivation and vulnerabilities of the poor households: The workforce or labour force participation rate in Jharkhand was 35.1 during 2011-12, whereas unemployment rate was 3.1 per cent against the national rate of 2.7 percent. A small per cent of 10.2 comprises regular employees and 64.2 per cent as self-employed. The highest percentage of the population (50.4 %) are still dependent on agriculture and the remaining are engaged in mining, service sector, construction, finance, etc. The people not only live in deprivation of food and nutrition but also in infrastructural facilities, roads, electricity, healthcare, and education. The middlemen in the state have been misusing the gullibility and illiteracy of the people by selling the young daughters from the poorest families in sex work outside the state in the name of providing employment in metro cities.

Minorities need more than empathy: Muslims and Christians are in sizeable numbers with 14.53 and 4.5 per cent respectively but they are a major contributor to unemployment and illiteracy in Jharkhand. Take the case of Muslims. Out of 90 Minority Concentrated Districts (MCDs), 4 are in the state – Ranchi, Gumla, Sahebganj and Pakur. While a large number of presently backward classes among Muslims contributed to the struggle for a separate state, they seem to have lost the battle of social and economic empowerment. They have been left with extreme poverty and illiteracy.

Home to hinterland – Tribals in Poor Land: The highest incidence of poverty is found among tribals in a state having a higher BPL (39.1%) as against national rates (29.8%). Scheduled Tribes (STs) fare the worst in incidence of poverty at 49% higher than Scheduled Castes (40.4%), OBCs (34.6%) and others (23.1%). As per the Tendulkar Methodology of calculating poverty, Jharkhand has acute poverty in rural areas at 41.6% and in urban at 31.1 % (2009-10). The NSDP Capita Growth during 2005-14 has been recorded among the last five worst performing states of India at 11%.

Under-weight rural children under 5 years of age are 61%; 73% of the rural children between the age of 6-59 months are anaemic. The all India data for corresponding figures are 46 per cent and 71 per cent respectively (NFHS-3, MoH & FW, GoI, 2008). The proportion of under-weight and anaemic children are 57% and 70% respectively in the state, whereas ST children comprise of 64% and 80% respectively; for SCs 56% and 77%; and for Muslim 51% and 69%, rural and urban respectively (NFHS-3, MoH & FW, GoI, 2008).

A huge number of the poor from the state migrate from one to another district (72.6 lakh): 42.9 lakhs go for intra-district migration (a 60% of the total migrants), inter-district comprises 11.8 lakhs (16% of the total migrant population) and another 17.8 lakhs (25% of the total migrant population) comprised interstate migration in the census after carving out of Jharkhand from Bihar.

However, the contemporary Indian politics has also influenced the mindset and thoughts of youth in the state. Tribals and minorities have found some rays of hope where the dreams, aspirations and hopes of Jharkhandis might become a reality. The fundamental rights (Article 15 to17, and 25 to 30) and Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 330 to 339 and 350) have provided these people certain rights enshrined in the constitution.


Jharkhand still struggles for its own identity and autonomy, as it tries to break the chain of rulers from outside. After two decades, a strong, sensible, sober, scientifically thinking leader has emerged amongst the tribals, who promises to give them a sense of belonging. Jal (water), Jangal (forest) and Zameen (land) will not serve the purpose of empowerment. What is required is the utilization of these three in order to fulfil the basic needs of the most backward tribes, backward castes communities and Muslims.

Past policies of taking the possession of land from the natives of the state in the name of development must be shunned. The backward and marginalized citizens place high faith in the young tribal chief minister of the state to deliver the goods.

K.M. Ziyauddin, PhD, Department of Sociology, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, India. Email: ziyakmjamia@gmail.com


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