Chhattisgarh is a very young state—one that was born in 2000 with a 32% tribal population. The state’s formation laid the basis of a paradigm shift in development, which was essentially supposed to benefit the tribal population.

When Chhattisgarh was still part of Madhya Pradesh, mineral resources were unexplored. So the state’s formation indicated that a major shift from an agriculture-based economy to an industry-based economy was in the offing.

If we look at the present data, 45% of the population of Chhattisgarh is below the poverty line, with a major portion of that section belonging to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes category. At the national level, 25% of the population is below poverty line.

Furthermore, if you compare with Madhya Pradesh—the state from which Chhattisgarh was carved out—poverty has decreased in Madhya Pradesh, while it has gone up in Chhattisgarh. However, if you compare economies, the growth rate is much higher in Chhattisgarh than in MP, but poverty has steadily been going up because there is no trickle-down effect and the poor are kept out of the benefits of faster economic growth.

There is one major difference between the two states. While Chhattisgarh has given a push to manufacturing, MP has been backing the services sector.

In the last 18 years, there has been no major investment in biotechnology, information technology or the banking sector in Chhattisgarh. Understandably, south Bastar is fraught with security issues, but the question is why has there been no such investment in Raipur or Bilaspur?

There are policy lacunae that we have not been able to identify and plug. These are questions we have been asking for the last decade. For the tribal and the educated youth, these are huge concerns. There is not a single university in the state which falls into category 1 or 2 of the University Grants Commission (UGC). There is no money that has been spent to improve the education sector. The government has distributed free mobiles and laptops, but at the end of the day, the youth of the state are leaving for better opportunities in other states.

In the assembly elections of 2013, the percentage of youth who voted for the Congress party was much higher than those who voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

So whoever comes to power this time round needs to necessarily look very closely at the problems of the tribals, the youth, as well as the farmers, to build an agricultural development model akin to what Janta Congress Chhattisgarh chief and former chief minister Ajit Jogi had done in his time, when he had privatized river water. The new government must address these unanswered questions.

As told to Shaswati Das from New Delhi.

Anupama Saxena is a professor of political science and dean of School of Social Science at the Guru Ghasidas University in Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh).

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