For the first time in its history, Jharkhand elected a government with a clear majority when voters handed a sweeping victory to the BJP-AJSU combine in the December 2014 Assembly polls in the state and ushered in Raghubar Das into the office of the Chief Minister.
The first non-tribal Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Das has embarked on an ambitious reforms agenda resulting in the state witnessing a new dawn in its history. As he celebrates his first successful year in office, the Chief Minister spoke to The Sunday Guardian in an interview. Excerpts:
Q: There has been all-round praise as your government completes its first year. What have been your priorities in this past one year, and what would be your priorities going forward?
A: The people’s clear mandate and political stability in the state has allowed us to offer improved administration and a better work environment, by providing a transparent, accountable, efficient, accessible, reliable and corruption-free government. Right from the beginning, our priority has been to achieve good and participatory governance and continue to bridge the rich-poor divide.
Going forward, our goal is to continue developing basic infrastructure in the state and provide better amenities to all citizens, including tribals, in several sectors including nutrition, healthcare, education, drinking water and sanitation.
Political instability coupled with other factors had, hitherto, proved to be a major hindrance in the development of the state. Now with a stable and committed government in place, the development and prosperity of the state and its people are assured. My vision for the young state of Jharkhand is to achieve all-round development and inclusive growth. A lot of work has already been done towards achieving that and going forward, our endeavour shall be to take Jharkhand to new heights of development so that it stands on a pedestal alongside well-developed states like Gujarat and Maharashtra. Jharkhand has great potential in the agriculture, industry and IT sectors. To stimulate these sectors, improving roads and power is important. My government aims at maximum and allround growth for the state.
Q: The Prime Minister’s Office has taken note of your government’s efforts to ensure better governance and asked the NITI Aayog to circulate the Jharkhand model as a “best practice” so that it can be replicated in other states. How was such a feat achieved in so short a time?
A: The past 11 months in Jharkhand have been one of continuous reforms in all aspects of governance, ranging from urban development to skill development to major infrastructural projects to renewable energy. With this philosophy of transformation, two key initiatives have been launched by the government in the field of administrative reforms. One is the reorganisation of departments with a reduction in the number of departments (from 43 to 31) and, the second is the scheme of Lateral Entry of technocrats as advisors. A downsizing and restructuring of government departments on this scale is perhaps the first of its kind in a state government. Likewise, the lateral entry to allow the best talent to help in policy development is a unique initiative.
A key reform initiative has been to merge departments with similar interrelated functions and goals like finance, planning and institutional finance meant to create one department to expedite decision-making in the critical area of sanctioning of schemes, allocation and release of funds. Some departments have even been bifurcated as per administrative requirement.
Previously, primary, secondary and higher education all came under the purview of one department i.e. Human Resource Development. It was felt that higher education needs special focus and hence it was separated and merged with “Technical Education” so that more attention could be paid to higher and technical education since Jharkhand has been lagging behind in this area. In addition to the re-organisation of departments, action has also been taken to update the mandate of the departments. For example, social media has been included in the charter of Public Relations Department, Geo Space in Information Technology & e-Governance Department, climate change in Forest Department, and innovation in governance in Personnel & Administrative Reforms Department.
Q: What are your plans to improve infrastructure in the state?
A: The Golden Triangle (Greenfield Ranchi-Dhanbad-Jamshedpur six lane expressway) will open a new path of prosperity for those people who are cut off from mainstream development. The government is committed to developing a network of roads to transport things smoothly. Moreover, the existing roads will be strengthened and widened. New expressways will also be built soon.
The Golden Triangle will boost industrial and economic activities in the nearby localities and help the local youths get jobs. The areas the expressways will go through and the junctions (expressway interchanges) where different roads meet, will be developed without affecting speed of the vehicles and transportation.
Q: Jharkhand has recently achieved a major feat in that the state would be the World Bank’s case study as far as “Ease of Doing Business” and labour reforms are concerned. How did this transformation happen in the past one year?
A: The state government has received a congratulatory letter from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion for its good performanance as far as “Ease of Doing Business” and labour reforms are concerned. Various initiatives, plans and schemes have been formulated, adhered to and adopted by the state government in order to benefit and suit the masses. My government’s sustained reforms initiatives in the past 11 months to create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and growth of jobs has led Jharkhand to achieve the third rank in the “Ease Of Doing Business” category. Jharkhand has come first in terms of reforms initiated in the realm of labour legislation. This was because of the various changes that were introduced ranging from self certification, single annual return for 14 labour laws to single inspection where reports have to be submitted within a mandated 72 hours. This has allowed Jharkhand to reach a compliance rate of 72% compared to the national average of only 19.45%. The recognition from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion along with the World Bank have identified Jharkhand as a “national best practice” in the area of reforms of labour regulations. Many states have shown a keen desire to emulate Jharkhand’s journey in undertaking reforms.
A single-window portal, www.advantage.jharkhand.gov.in, has been launched to facilitate ease of doing business. It will allow seamless integration with portals of various government departments by eliminating the need to sign in multiple times, as well as create separate login credentials for different departments. The feature is now available for using services of the industries department, commercial tax department, labour department, industrial area development and the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board. Other departments will be included soon. Time-bound facilities are needed to attract investors and generate jobs for prosperity of the people of Jharkhand.
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Q: How far has Jharkhand implemented the plans and programmes initiated by the Central government across sectors/departments?
A: As an extension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative, the “Make in Jharkhand” programme would be an important cog in the wheel of the Prime Minister’s efforts. Multiple factors such as promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), availability of a land bank, improved law and order and a single-window clearance policy would help promote Jharkhand as a major manufacturing hub. Opportunities in the state are endless. Jharkhand is known for its rich mineral resources, but no state can develop depending on a single asset. So, we have given equal emphasis to agriculture, industry and information technology. Jharkhand is 13th in national ranking in terms of GDP, ahead of Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
In the period before I took charge, Jharkhand failed to take projects forward due to problems in land acquisition. Now, the state government under me is trying to address this issue. In eight months, we have created a land bank available district-wise and you can see it online. Priority would be given to SMEs. The government wants to prioritise small- and medium-scale industries, as this sector provides big gains with relatively low investment. For starters, automobile major Tata Motors has been instructed to source material from the small and medium manufacturing units of Adityapur, the state’s largest auto ancillary hub.
Also, in a bid to clinch a spot in the first 20 cities to benefit from the Prime Minister’s “Smart Cities” project, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) has started the massive work of building new drainage and sewerage systems. The project will also include repair and renovation of old systems and will be implemented in four phases. One of the most important “Smart City” parameters is improved drainage and sewerage networks.
The Urban Development and Housing Department and the RMC are targeting the “Smart City” shortlist after Ranchi made its place among the 98 cities chosen for the Prime Minister’s “Smart City” project.
Q: What steps are being taken to ensure power sector reforms?
A: My government has set itself the target of not only becoming power self-sufficient, but a national power hub. The plans include increasing power generation while simultaneously improving distribution efficiency and reducing power losses.
The Jharkhand government has conveyed its in-principle approval to the Ministry of Power for joining UDAY (Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana). UDAY has been launched to improve financial and operational efficiencies of power distribution companies (Discoms). It aims at reducing interest burden, cost of power and AT&C losses. Consequently, the Discoms would become sustainable to supply adequate and reliable power enabling 24x7 power supply. The scheme provides that states would take over 75% debt of Discoms, as on 30 September 2015, in two years. The state cabinet on 24 November this year approved a tripartite agreement between the Centre, state government and Jharkhand Discom under UDAY. The arrangement will enable the state discom to waive 60% of its payment surcharge to power distribution companies like Damodar Valley Corporation and Coal India Limited. The state cabinet also made amendments to the mining lease of 2010 given to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited in West Singbhum district.
Q: Is the Jharkhand government also encouraging the development of new and renewable energy resources?
A: Yes. The state government has undertaken several new initiatives to boost new and renewable energy resources. On 2 October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 180 KW capacity rooftop solar power plant for the District Court in Khunti. Modi said that it was quite appropriate that a solar energy project was being inaugurated on Gandhi Jayanti as Mahatma Gandhi had always showed how to live in harmony with nature.
The Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA) is distributing LED solar lamps among students of class X of all government schools, students of the 203 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and students studying in SC/ST hostels under the Welfare Department. The unit cost of a LED-based solar study lamp is Rs 1,000. They are student-friendly as students can take them anywhere to study. The cost of distribution of the solar lamps will be borne completely by the state government.
Q: How is your government turning around the food processing sector in the state?
The food processing sector in the state has a huge potential to grow and several investors have shown keen interest. We have already procured Rs 880 crore in investments since we framed a policy for the sector a few months ago. A few investors have already procured land to set up units and are expected to start construction soon. There is no dearth of land in Jharkhand for development projects.
In April 2015, the state government organised a two-day food processing summit and 10 MoUs were signed on the very first day of the summit. We will ensure time-bound delivery of clearances and provide support to projects. Jharkhand is known for its minerals and potential in mineral-based industries. We aspire to put it on the global map for food processing too.
Q: You have said that it is your dream to make Jharkhand a corruption-free state. What steps are being taken to realise that dream?
A: We have turned red tape into red carpet for industry and have initiated a single-window clearance policy in just eight months. Now, people don’t have to run from pillar to post for approval of projects. A single-window portal, www.advantage.jharkhand.gov.in, has also been launched on 8 September 2015 to facilitate ease of doing business in the state. It will allow seamless integration with portals of various government departments by eliminating the need to sign in multiple times. Greater the use of Information Technology, lesser will be the corruption. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has also formally started its operations. The ultimate objective is to create a corruption-free state.