Ministers love foreign tours, but little changes in JharkhandJune 7th, 2008 - 10:11 am ICT by IANS
By Nityanand Shukla
Ranchi, June 7 (IANS) Foreign lands seem to lure Jharkhand ministers, with the United States, Switzerland and France being their favourite destinations - even though little benefit seems to have accrued to the state from these official tours. In the last six years, around Rs.100 million has been spent on foreign visits by the state’s ministers, official sources say. Some ministers claim these trips help them learn about development issues, but their departments back home rarely implement these lessons.
Others say they go abroad to help bring foreign investment to their state. But what’s the use when existing memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed by the state government are hanging fire?
Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto in a short span of 14 months visited France, Switzerland, Germany, China, Singapore and Mauritius during three tours - the last one in April. The expenses came to around Rs.12 million.
In 2007, Jharkhand Tourism Minister Harinarayan Rai along with officials visited London to promote tourism in his state. The expenditure was around Rs.5 million.
Former chief minister Arjun Munda used to frequently go on foreign tours during his tenure and the cost ran into tens of millions of rupees.
In 2005 and 2006, Munda along with his family members and ministers visited the US, Britain, France and Switzerland at a cost of around Rs.50 million. During one of the visits he met steel czar Laxmi Mittal in London.
Stephen Marandi, Jharkhand’s other deputy chief minister, said: “The ministers going on foreign tours should prepare a report of the visit and that should be made public. We do not oppose foreign visits but they should focus on the development of the state.”
But Sharad Poddar, general secretary of Jharkhand Small Scale Industries, told IANS: “Development for whom? What is the result of these foreign visits? The Jharkhand government should address the concerns of local entrepreneurs, develop infrastructure and ensure implementation of the subsidies promised to industry.
“The MoUs already signed by the state government are hanging fire and the government is after foreign investors. Ministers are converting personal visits into official visits.”
The practice of frequent foreign visits perhaps began with the first chief minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi. In December 2005, Marandi along with five ministers visited Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Marandi was so impressed with what he saw that he announced state capital Ranchi would be developed on the lines of Singapore.
Except Laxmi Mittal’s firm, no official from any of the foreign countries visited by the ministers has turned up to even sign an MoU with the state in any sector.
The foreign visits hardly seem to be helping people in the state.
Developing state capital Ranchi on the lines of Shanghai or Singapore is a distant dream. The narrow roads and horrible traffic of Ranchi give a harrowing time to residents.
No remarkable change has been seen in the state after it was carved out of Bihar in November 2000. In Jharkhand, 52 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (BPL) against the national average of 29 percent.
The Jharkhand government has signed MoUs with more than 60 Indian companies in the steel, mining, power and other sectors. In the last seven and a half years, the state has yet to formulate a Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) policy for those displaced by development projects.
(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at email@example.com)
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