Populist instincts: Jharkhand’s march towards provincialism

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Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s response to surviving a bitterly contested trust vote in the Assembly has been to double down on provincialism, which has become a go-to policy for most parties in power in India today. The Local Resident of Bill, which the state Cabinet passed recently, proposes to keep 1932 as the cut-off year for “proof of land records” to define a “local”, which would, in turn, determine access to state benefits. This intent was clear from a parallel Bill approved by the Cabinet to increase reservations from the Supreme Court mandated 50 per cent to 67 per cent. Once these Bills are passed, the government proposes to petition the Centre to include them in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, which contains a list of central and state laws that cannot be challenged in court (the abolition of the zamindari system being one example). This marks a considerable hardening of the position from just six months ago, when the Mukti Morcha (JMM) government had indicated that the 1932 cut-off would not be the sole criterion for determining domicile status. The intent of Wednesday’s decisions is clearly to enhance benefits for tribals, who account for 26 per cent of the state’s population and whose welfare was at the heart of the state’s formation in 2000.



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