Aided by cleverly-drafted petitions and strategic loopholes in legal formalities, Jamshedpur now has the dubious distinction of being the only city in India whose residents do not have the right to self-government.
Although attempts at giving the factory town such a municipal body have been going on since 1967 – nearly 60 years – the Tata Group has managed to successfully stall this, by means of protracted, ‘deliberately-misleading’ litigation.
The fundamental lacuna in the administration of Jamshedpur comes from a lease agreement that appears to have been so drafted as to be deliberately ambiguous. Under the lease agreement, the land occupied by Tata Steel constitutes less than half of Jamshedpur’s estimated area of 37,000 acres. However, Tata is required to provide civic amenities to “the inhabitants of Jamshedpur”.
On 21 August 1989, hearing Writ Petition (Civil) No. 154 of 1988, filed by Jawaharlal Sharma, a Jamshedpur resident, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Sabyasachi Mukherji, S Ranganathan and Kuldip Singh, ruled, “It has been brought to our notice that the Government of Bihar under Section 390A of the Bihar and Orissa Municipal Act, 1922, in 1967, had declared its intention to convert the notified area of Jamshedpur into a municipality… we are of the opinion that the government should consider the matter (a)fresh in the light of the facts and submissions and the points raised in the petition. We accordingly direct the Government to issue (a)notification declaring its intent to convert Jamshedpur into a Municipality under Section 390A of the said Act within a period of eight weeks from this date.”
Tirelessly working for the cause of setting up a municipality in Jamshedpur, petitioner Jawaharlal Sharma is still awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Jamshedpur waits, like it always has. “This is one of the longest-running instances of litigation in the state of Jharkhand. We started this battle for the civic rights of Jamshedpur in 1988, by filing a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court seeking conversion of JNAC into a municipality. This year, it will be 27 years since we began the never-ending litigation,” says Jawaharlal Sharma. “The actions of Tata Steel are tantamount to criminality and include violation of Constitutional provisions with regard to the functioning of municipal bodies,” he adds.
Meanwhile, TATA STEEL has regularly awarded those abetting its policy of 'not constituting' a municipality in Jamshedpur. The clippings titled "Russi Mody's challenge to Laloo Govt" and "TISCO given top PR Award" are proof of this.
Those claiming that Jamshedpur is one of the cleanest cities in India, with the best civic amenities, provided by JUSCO, clearly live in a paradise of their own making. Mostly, residents of Jamshedpur live amid pollution and squalor and have seen the Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers turn into sewers, due to dumping of industrial effluents there by Tata Steel.
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