Bihar Today

The Time of India, New Delhi has published a 2-page pull out on ‘Bihar Today’ Friday 24 November. As per TOI, it is under ‘A Response Connect Initiative’. To be frank, I don’t know what it means. Is it sponsored and/ or paid by the Bihar government?

‘Bihar Today’ covers in brief the performance report of the first year of the new government. Some of the interesting points are as follows:

In an interview to Faizan Ahmad, Nitish Kumar targets the growth rate for Bihar at 10% plus, as the average growth rate for the country has been targeted at 8.5%. Mr. Kumar claims to have started the public distribution system by introducing coupon scheme as an experiment. He also talked of allotting Indira Awas to the beneficiaries without commission and greasing the palms of the government servants. Proposals, mainly for sugarcane based industry with cogeneration of ethanol and distillery, some for the maize based industry, and for professional educational institutes of management, engineering, and medicines, have already come and some have already been approved. ‘We are also laying stress on opening of national institutions of repute.’ Road Construction Department (RCD) has started work with Rs 729 crore. Kumar ensures a transparent system with all the information of the specific roads under construction and its progress on Internet, and appeals to the people to monitor the work.

Under ‘Bihar surging ahead’, it appears, the state is now in news for the right reasons:

Bihar became the first state in India to introduce 50% reservation for women in the Panchayat elections.

Patna became the location of India’s first Haemophilia Hospital.

Bihar government received investment proposals worth Rs 14,000 crore in the first nine months as against Rs 700 crore in the last 15 years.

Bihar has started recruiting 2.36 lakh teachers for elementary school to improve its learner-teacher ratio to 40:1.

Retired CBI personnel were appointed to strengthen the state vigilance department and it has shown results. Crimes including kidnapping have come down and some 5000 criminals have been convicted.

New thermal projects at Nabinagar, Katihar, and Bhagalpur, an MTPS extension with a total capacity of 5,750 MW at a cost of Rs 23,350 crore are proposed, and so also a nuclear power project with an outlay of Rs 16,000 crore. By the end of December, private parties will maintain all 11 KV distributions for maintenance, minor repairs, billing and revenue collection.

One write up provides ‘major initiatives’ related to rural development, healthcare, and education. Some that I liked as major are:

The repeal of the Agriculture Produce Market Act is one that will certainly help farmers in getting the better price of their produce.

To bring in some sort of recognition of the importance of farming, the government has announced ‘Kisan Sri’ award at block level with a cash prize of Rs one lakh, ‘Kisan Bhushan’ award at district level with cash prize of Rs 2 lakh, and finally ‘Kisan Ratna’ with a cash prizw of Rs 5 lakh at state level. I wish it provided the right impetus.

Gram Vikas Shivir have started taking Block level administration to the Gram Panchayat every Wednesday in rotation to dispose of work fast and effectively. I am sure all the actions taken are put on the website of the Block.

Besides providing 50% reservation for women in Panchayats, the government also intends to have 50% mandatory quota for women in the appointments of schoolteachers too. I only pray that all these hasty appointments are transparent and based on merit. Otherwise the government must arrange training for the new teachers, and it must be mandatory to pass the training courses thus planned.

Investment of over Rs 200 crore has already gone for construction of new facilities and upgradation of health facilities. 36 Additional Primary Health Centres with a doctor, five paramedics and all essential facilities such as general OPD, immunization, gynae services, and routine pathological tests have been outsourced.

While a Common School Commission is in place to implement the National Education Policy and the right to free education, the government is seriously working on improving secondary and higher secondary education by bringing in vocational courses in it. Aryabhatta National University of Technology and management Bill 2006 will pave the way for opening private and technical institutions. The initiation of The University of Nalanda, the establishment of Chanakya National Law University and BIT, Mesra Extension in Patna are other good things.

Private Bank such as HSBC has opened a branch in Patna. Perhaps the first multi-plex of Prakash Jha will come up soon. Expectations are high. And perhaps, the progress report of the next year only can make the people confidant that Bihar will have a sustainable change in line with the other developed states of the country. It is just the beginning, and there are miles to go in limited time of 3.5 years more for this leadership.

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