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Monday, July 15, 2013

Tribal Affairs Minister says govt's inclusive growth is making 10 billionaires at the expense of 10 million starving tribals

Bhuvan Bagga   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, July 14, 2013 | UPDATED 11:26 IST

The Prime Minister's model of economic growth has come under burning criticism from one of his own ministers who says it is one of the factors responsible for the spread of Maoist insurgency.

Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo has hit out at what he alleges is the increasing propensity within a section of the government to justify pervasive industrialisation as a step necessary to achieve a high growth rate.

"The Prime Minister has said many times that the UPA is for inclusive growth. (But) What does inclusive mean? Pushing up your growth rate targets by making 10 billionaires at the expense of 10 million starving, impoverished tribals...by exposing them to diseases and depriving them further?" stormed the minister who is known to be a close aide of Sonia Gandhi.

"I am against the growth of a crony capitalistic society at the expense of the most exploited and deprived," Deo, a tribal himself, added, warning the authorities against treating the issue of Maoism as a "mere law and order problem".

Deo has been a staunch advocate of banning mining activities in tribal areas, even if it means a lower growth-rate figure.

But this argument has been countered by several senior UPA ministers, who criticise the restrictions on development in key mineral-rich tribal and forest areas saying such an approach would prove detrimental to the country's growth rate.

Without naming anyone, Deo came down heavily on the proponents of this argument, insisting that his stand was a "constitutional one".

"I don't know about them but I have taken oath on the Indian Constitution - first as a MP and then a minister - and I stand by its principles," Deo said.
Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo
"If they (leaders within and outside the government) have taken some other oath, I don't know. Otherwise, they too should take the same constitutional stand," he added, in a veiled attack on Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia has often been criticised for his "fetish" for economic liberalisation. Deo's outburst is symbolic of a growing sentiment among some Congress leaders that the government's capitalist policies were alienating their aam admi flank and would neutralise the gains of their pro-poor poll sops.

Talking about efforts to weed out Maoism, Deo said the government will soon get a first-of-its-kind accountability Bill that will track every penny of the thousands of crores of rupees allocated each year under various welfare and social sector schemes for Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.

The legislation is being jointly worked out by the Union ministry for tribal affairs and the ministry for social justice and empowerment. "At present, our ministries don't have any idea about how the funds are utilised. This legislation will ensure accountability," Deo said.