Raipur, Sep 12 (ANI): Over time, the enduring image of Chhattisgarh, in particular Bastar has been of a region wracked by violence, skirmishes between the state security forces and the Naxals entrenched in the area.
The rural people, largely tribal in this southern region are literally sandwiched between these forces, forced to live compromised lives, their aspirations for a life of peace and progress relegated to the background.
If we however take a step back more than a decade ago to the formation of the state, we see that at the time, there was another picture taking this move forward. Here was a region within the large state of Madhya Pradesh, home to a number of tribal communities, living in some of the most heavily forested regions, rich in mineral and natural resources. A region that could benefit from a paradigm of development, suited to its particular needs.
Over time, these have been addressed and in recent times, in the face of a stiff challenges in the security situation. The operative word in the state today is governance, emphasised at all levels. Transparency, accountability and having an ear to the ground seem to be the hallmark of the government, now into its second term.
Are we seeing the antidote to extremist forces then? Consider this: All the major schemes are being monitored though an online process. For instance, details of millions of ration card holders, the quality of foodgrains purchased through ration cards from the fair price shops are all available online. Which means that secretaries of the concerned departments could cross check the data at any point of time.
The 'transparency' component is not restricted to any particular aspect of governance but a crosscutting one across departments. Development programmes involving the end-user, the community and the authorities; bringing them as it were on one platform.
In Chhattisgarh, agriculture is a predominant activity, giving livelihood to millions and producing the massive quantities of paddy, which gives Chhattisgarh the epithet of being a 'Rice Bowl'. It is being increasingly recognised that for agricultural yield to keep pace with the demands, it is vital to provide an enabling environment for the farmer, keep him rooted to the land.
Seen from another view, for agriculture to continue to be remunerative, the farmer needs to get adequate returns from agricultural work. Some answers have been found to this challenge.
Chhattisgarh is the first state in the entire country, where the farmers are being given loans at a mere three percent interest. Cash is disbursed through "Kisan Credit Card" while some loans cover inputs and equipment. There are also being given an insurance cover worth Rs. 124 crore under National Agriculture Insurance Scheme.
The support prices of paddy, which are tuned to this need are available online. One can access data related to the over 1300 primary cooperative societies and more than 1500 paddy procurement centers. The names of farmers, the quantity of paddy sold and the payment made are all available information.
Then there are systemic issues. The irrigation system, really the backbone of agriculture has been greatly improved over the years. As part of M.P, the region, now in Chhattisgarh had only 13 percent of the crop area under irrigation. Within the first five years of the formation of the state, agricultural land under irrigation rose to nearly 23 percent. It has since risen to 32 percent in the last year, the tenth year of the new state. uring the last six years, irrigation facilities have covered 3.23 lakh hectares of crop area. Besides, 2,783 medium and small projects have been initiated during this period to improve coverage and cater to the needs of a vast area. There are ambitious plans to extend irrigation coverage to around four lakh hectares of crop area using fund allocated under the Five Year Plan.
While the state grapples with internal conflict, one needs to recognise the concrete steps being taken to create responsive governance, to create a socio-economic base for society to flourish, for benefits of development to reach the end- person.
The results are encouraging. In the year 2009-10 the government purchased 44 lakh metric tones of paddy, the highest in the country in any state. Farmers were paid a whopping Rs.4, 700 crore which was also the highest payment by any state.
There have been other milestones. The production of standardized seeds has risen by 8.14 percent more than in 2004. The distribution of good quality seeds is also up by a substantial 5. 14 percent. One of the most far-reaching and pro-people programmes is the distribution of foodgrains through a Public Distribution System that is wide in its coverage, catering to the needs of the most marginalized.
Chhattisgarh with a large population of tribal communities, policies geared towards protecting their way of life and livelihoods is a vital aspect of policy. The Forest department has authorized the Primary Forest Produce Procurement Societies in the collection the Tendu leaves done by forest-dwelling communities.
It is laudable that last year the government distributed Rs 108 crore amongst more than 14 lakh people involved in Tendu leaf plucking along with an additional bonus worth Rs 94 crore. At an individual level, the bonus per bag has been increased o Rs.700/- from Rs.300/- in 2004.
There is a human touch as well. Footwear was distributed free of cost to the bare-footed men and women, protecting them from the thorns, twigs and stones while plucking. Last year the state government introduced another unique scheme of distributing raincoats and agricultural tools amongst the labourers.
There is no doubt that the conflict in Chhattisgarh has its roots in deprivation, a fact that is being increasingly recognised and addressed at policy levels both at the Centre and the state. What however needs to be recognised is the understanding of the ground situation, the need for development to penetrate through the barriers created by the compromised security situation.
A pro-active and sensitive approach, good governance and of course sound policy can make a huge difference and cause a paradigm shift in the region with its proclivity to conflict. Such an approach does seem to inform the actions and policies of the state government.
The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that the actions need to be tweaked in response to the ground situation, to ensure wider and more calibrated coverage. On the whole they uphold a path of development, of peace to emerge out of the shadows of conflict. By Vibhash Kumar Jha(ANI)