The state of Chhattisgarh was among the poorest regions of the country when it was separated from Madhya Pradesh in 2000. The previous MP governments ignored the region as it primarily comprised the tribal population. The state with enormous natural resources lacked industrial development for long. Chhattisgarh with 91 assembly seats elected the Congress party in the Dec 2000 assembly elections and party veteran Ajit Jogi held the post of Chief Minister. However, the three-year stint of Ajit Jogi ended with very little progress on the development front. The fate of the state turned in next election when a ‘gentleman politician’, Dr. Raman Singh was chosen by the BJP for the position of CM after it won 50 out of 90 seats in the assembly elections.
Since then, Raman Singh has governed the state for 15 years and is the longest-serving BJP CM in the country. Under his leadership, BJP was re-elected in 2008 with an increased vote share and then again the party got the mandate in 2013 by winning 49 out of 90 seats. Raman Singh not only kept getting re-elected in the state but also helped his party, BJP in spreading its voter base in the state. BJP went on to win 10 out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in 2004, 2009, and 2014 general elections.
Despite being an upper caste Rajput, he governed a state with 32 percent tribals, 12 percent Scheduled Caste and 49 percent OBC population for 15 years. His caste constitutes less than 3 percent of the total population in the state. Also, the upper caste holds less than 10 percent of total vote share. The credit of elevating the politics in Chhattisgarh above the caste manipulations goes to Raman Singh. So, it is a commendable achievement on the part of the 66-year old leader to defeat the anti-incumbency twice when Indian voters are known to be the most desperate for a change.
The welfare schemes implemented by Raman Singh made him very popular among poor tribal population of the state. Before he took over, the majority population of Chhattisgarh was so poor that it couldn’t even afford a proper meal. He started public distribution scheme (PDS) under which poor families were provided 1 kg of rice for 1 rupee and distributed cows to Adivasi families.
The industrial growth in the state has put enough money in the government coffers for the expansion of public services. Nagarnar Steel Plant in Bastar will go in production in next few months. “Like the Bhilai Steel Plant changed the region when it was set up, the Nagarnar Steel Plant will change the entire Bastar region by creating direct and indirect employment opportunities,” said Raman Singh. The Bastar region has been the stronghold of the Maoists for long, most of the funding for creating instability used to come through the exploitation of natural resource in this area. The continuous efforts of the security forces have made the area safe for industrial and tourism activities. Therefore, the economy of Chhattisgarh is poised to grow exponentially in the upcoming decades. The combined effort of central and state government has helped in the elimination of Maoist terror from the state to a great extent.
To ensure industrial development, he encouraged corporate houses to set up plants in the state. In the last one and a half decade, the state has become a power hub and key for important industries like steel. The development of industries gave the state a much-required boost, as tax money was spent on the welfare of poor and tribal population of the state. “When we came to power in 2003, the state was facing several problems, including Naxalism, but now the situation has changed. In 2003, the budget of the state was Rs 7,000 crore which has now expanded to a whopping Rs 78,000 crore. Power generation capacity, as well as telecommunication facilities, have increased in the state,” said Raman Singh in an interview in 2016. “Chhattisgarh was once termed as a backward state but now it is attracting maximum industrial investment across the country,” he added.
The newly built capital of the state, Naya Raipur (officially known as Atal Nagar) is the first Greenfield city in the country and one of the world’s first integrated cities. It is among the most advanced and fastest growing cities in the country. The success story of Atal Nagar also symbolizes the growing appetite of Indians to live in urban areas equipped with cutting edge technology and state of the art infrastructure.
The huge part of the state budget goes to welfare schemes like Mukhyamantri Khadyann Sahayta Yojana scheme under which almost 60 lakh families are provided with rice, salt, and gram at cheaper rates. Chhattisgarh became the first state to have a transparent PDS system as the state ensured food security much before the central government brought the act in 2013. He also reformed the health and education sectors in the state. The government has been able to bring education to the Maoist infested areas of the state. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of the state improved significantly under Raman Singh’s leadership. In 2012, the state government launched Mukhyamantri Swasthya Bima Yojana (MSBY) to extend to coverage of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to non-BPL families. For a onetime payment of 30 rupees, the state government provided annual insurance cover of 30,000 rupees for which premium was paid by the state government. From October 2017 the insurance cover limit was extended to 50,000 rupees as per 2013 assembly election manifesto. This scheme covered 55 lakh families, almost 80 percent of the people of the state. The state government launched the second phase of the scheme under Ayushman Bharat scheme which will extend insurance cover up to 5 lakh per annum.
Raman Singh government also implemented Mukhya Mantri Teerth Yatra Yojana to support elderly for pilgrimage, Saraswati Cycle Yojana to distribute free bicycles to school going girls, and Charan Paduka Yojana to give free shoes to needy people. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation ranked Chhattisgarh at the first position in the implementation of 20 point agenda for the development of SC and ST community. The state has also been awarded UN’s highest award for its human development model.
Chhattisgarh featured at the last rank among the states and union territories of the country in National Achievement Survey, 2014, conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). However, in a short span of 3 years, the state reached the 19th place in the same survey conducted in 2017. Expansion of public education in the state has helped the tribal population integrate themselves with the mainstream.
Chhattisgarh is one of the finest examples of how the division of large states into smaller units improves the politico-economic conditions of a region. Before bifurcation, Madhya Pradesh was among the worst performing states of the country on almost all the socio-economic indicators. But in the post-bifurcation period, both states grew up exponentially and the living condition improved significantly in not more than two decades. Chhattisgarh is the best example of how a good leadership can transform the whole state and alleviate the living standards. The upcoming generations of the state will be indebted to the great leader who single-handedly transformed the state. Raman Singh will be in the first line of the chief ministers of post-liberalized India who reaped the benefits of economic liberalization for the welfare of the people.
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