Leader of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) and former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi criticised the UPA’s Rs 250-crore Saranda Development Plan being implemented in West Singhbhum district in south-west Jharkhand as “inadequate and ineffective” and criticized national parties Congress and BJP for distributing mining leases to private companies to the detriment of vulnerable social groups in the state.

“The UPA is distributing solar lanterns and houses under old schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana in the name of Saranda Development Plan. But what has changed for the villagers who live in Saranda when it comes to irrigation facilities, education and health facilities? SAIL as well as private companies are continuing to earn money from Jharkhand’s natural resources while the adivasis get no benefits,” said Mr Marandi in Ranchi on Wednesday.

In the last four weeks, the Ministry of Environment and Forests gave forest clearances for diverting 500 hectares of forest land in Singhbhum Elephant Reserve to Jindal Steel and Power Limited and another 210 hectares to Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) in Saranda forest, triggering criticism by activists.

“Those who live and work off the land have the first right to it, then the state government, then the central government, and finally the companies who are doing the mining. But in Jharkhand it is the opposite,” said Mr Marandi who had founded JVM-P in 2006 after leaving the BJP. He was the first Chief Minister of Jharkhand between 2000 and 2003 and is now the Member of Parliament from Koderma Lok Sabha constituency.

Three months back in November, Mr Marandi along with Congress leader Stephen Marandi had sat on a protest for over two weeks in Pakur district in east Jharkhand blockading coal-mining by Panem Coal Mines Limited - a joint venture of Punjab State Electricity Board and EMTA Group. Mr Marandi had alleged that Panem had misappropriated Rs 9,000 crore by transporting more coal than it had permission for and alleging that it had not completed the rehabilitation MoU it had signed with villagers in Pachuara in Pakur in 2006. “In Pakur, I found Rs 1,48,000 per acre was the highest price paid to land-holders six years back. Now the company is making over Rs 28 crores per acre by mining coal and the state gets a fraction as royalty. But Congress and BJP silent about this theft of state resources because they are part of this corruption,” alleged Mr Marandi.

He criticized the anti-Maoists paramilitary operations in Jharkhand too as “ineffective.” “CRPF should be on the country’s borders, not here. There are more than 60,000 policemen in Jharkhand and they should be enough to carry out anti-Maoists operations. The political will to tackle Naxalism is missing in Jharkhand,” said Mr Marandi.

JVM-P has 11 members in the Jharkhand Assembly and had demanded that the Assembly be dissolved and fresh elections be held after Jharkhand Mukti Morcha withdrew support of its 18 MLA’s to its collation partner BJP’s Arjun Munda this January leading to President’s Rule in the state this January.

The party has scheduled public meetings and adivasi sammelans in Dumka, Chatra, Palamu, and Bokaro this month in what analysts in the state are seeing as JVM-P’s preparations for contesting from all 81 Assembly seats for the first time. In 2009 Assembly elections, it had contested from 25 seats.