Baghel blows bugle of ‘Congress victory’ at tourism conclave, talks of winning tribal confidence

New Delhi: Rejecting Attorney General Tushar Mehta’s claims that a close associate of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, two days before the release of some of the defendants in the Nagrik Apurti Nigam (NAN) money laundering case, Baghel, a judge of the state’s Supreme Court said Friday it was inappropriate for someone of the SG’s caliber to say so in the Supreme Court. Baghel was speaking at a press conference at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi as part of a day-long tourism conclave organized by the Chhattisgarh government to promote the state’s tribal arts and culture and help it grow as a tourist destination.

Last month, Mehta – who appeared for ED – appeared during a hearing of an Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) plea to the Supreme Court over the transfer of a case involving Public Distribution System (PDS) fraud outside Chhattisgarh , referred to the alleged aide’s WhatsApp chat to make the claim against Baghel. The alleged fraud had come to light when the State Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) raided the offices of NAN, the nodal agency responsible for ensuring the effective operation of the PDS system in the state, in February 2015 and unaccounted for Rs 3 cash, 64 million.

Baghel also said he met newly-elected Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge at his residence in the state capital on Friday to congratulate him on his victory in Wednesday’s elections for the party’s top spot. The Chhattisgarh CM added that he will attend Kharge’s oath ceremony on November 26th.

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“He’s an experienced leader. I recently met him in Bellary (Karnataka). I met him today to congratulate (him) and we talked about many things. I will also come to his oath ceremony on the 26th (October),” Baghel said.

The Chhattisgarh CM announced the National Tribal Dance Festival to be held in Raipur from November 1st to 3rd.

When asked about the level of cooperation received by the center in addressing the ongoing problem of Naxalism in the state, Baghel replied that the center provides paramilitary forces, but that tribal attitudes have changed after the Congressional government came to power in the state 2018

“The three of us worked sootras (Principles) — Vikas, Vishwas and Suraksha (development, trust and security). Previously, even when roads were built for the tribal people, they (the tribal people) thought they were built for the convenience of the paramilitary forces. The BJP government would also think that all tribesmen are Naxals or Naxal supporters, but we believe that not all tribesmen are Naxals. Now their attitude has changed,” Baghel said.

When the Chhattisgarh government increased reservations for tribals in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions to 58 percent in 2012 – the Chhattisgarh HC overturned the decision last month – Baghel said the government would ask the Supreme Court for more reservations for the state .

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The CM accused the BJP (which had been in government in Chhattisgarh prior to his tenure) of not making enough reservations for the community, the CM claimed:The BJP is not for reservations anyway… airport, railway, Air India, everything is sold to private players. So how are the benefits of the reservation being used?”


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Chhattisgarh is calling

Baghel blew a traditional bugle and said it was a victory cry for Congress in Himachal Pradesh’s general elections to be held later this year.

Organized by the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board, the Tourism Conclave aimed to bring together culture and tourism experts, administrators and investors to promote employment and income-earning opportunities in the state and to promote its unique products such as Bastar coffee, tribal arts and Dhokra (metal) jewellery and iron and bamboo crafts, some of which were also on display at the Kiran Nadar Museum on Friday.

According to information from the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board, more than 1,500 tribal artists, including 100 artists from abroad, will take part in the tribal dance festival in Raipur next month. Invitations to participate were sent to nine countries – Mozambique, Mongolia, Tonga, Russia, Indonesia, Maldives, Serbia, New Zealand and Egypt. The ministers and officials of the Chhattisgarh Government are personally dispatched to invite various Prime Ministers and Governors.

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One of the booths at Friday's event |  Photo: Unnati Sharma |  The pressure
One of the booths at Friday’s event | Photo: Unnati Sharma | The pressure

While Baghel spoke about how Chhattisgarh had used arts, culture and tourism as a resource for the social and economic empowerment of forest dwellers, tribesmen, farmers, villagers and disadvantaged populations, the state government also acted as a liaison between start-ups, self-help groups and the market, to support the sale of state handicrafts and products.

Rohita Kora, a 22-year-old woman who met ThePrint at the conclave leading a booth featuring tribal artwork, jewelry and handcrafted products, spoke about how the government initiative has empowered her and given her much-needed financial independence.

Also attending Friday’s event were Chhattisgarh Labor Minister Sivkumar Dahariya and Anil Kumar Sahu, Executive Director of the State Tourism Authority.

“The focus of the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board has been to create platforms to promote tribal crafts, culture and heritage. The state has made efforts to help tribal communities become part of the mainstream while maintaining their own way of life,” Sahu said.

Bagel also pointed to government initiatives being taken to increase residents’ pride in their state and create more job opportunities, including the flagship Chhattisgarh.gobar (Cow Manure) economic model started in 2020 as a program to source cow manure and produce organic fertilizer.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


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