Changing Perception of Bihar

Nitish is getting into the task of changing the perception about Bihar in the people’s mind that matters to go for a big development. More of the remarks made by the people of all classes from Bihar are now positive.

At least some in print media are coming out with the success stories of Bihar that makes difference.

India Today, Feb 5 issue, has rated Nitish Kumar highly again. In the 13th Mood of the Nation poll to assess the performance of the chief ministers of their own states as well as to rate them nationwide, Nitish Kumar is a clear winner. “After 15 months in office, there are no signs of voters’ fatigue with his Government. While he shares the top slot nationally with Modi, within the state, his ratings have zoomed, from 29 per cent in our last poll five months ago, to 81 per cent. The sharp rise in his endorsement comes as no surprise. A detailed analysis shows that Nitish’s acceptability levels owe largely to his belief that good governance is the perfect antidote to the decade and half of stagnation and lawlessness under the Lalu-Rabri regimes. The results are already evident. Be it electricity, roads, healthcare, primary education, transport, communications and even policing, more people think that things are much better now than they were six months ago.” Business Today recently (January, 28) too covered a positive story, ‘Nitis Kumar’s Mission Impossible’. ‘Chief Minister is working hard (15-16 hours every day). And going by ground realities, the situation is actually getting better. In last one year, more than 1,000 hardened criminals have been awarded life sentences. Hundreds of brick kilns have mushroomed along the banks of Ganga. The occupancy at the cinema halls during night shows is more than 80%.’ However, few reporters in some newspapers appear to have decided to publish only the image spoilers.

I keep my tap on Bihar through my dialogues with my relatives in Bihar and various websites including the one of Bihar government. I have some concerns based on past experiences.
I was going through the list of 66 new investment proposals worth more than Rs 26,000 crores that Bihar government has received and approved. Unfortunately, the information in the list is very sketchy, poorly arranged and is not being updated regularly giving the real time status. I personally feel the government must look into the proposals a little more seriously. The fast increase in number of proposals may be allusive. The government must evaluate the sincerity of the entrepreneurs too. As it appears many traders from Kolkata are trying to be in the investment game for some vested interest. I wish I were wrong. The government must provide all the assistance in shortest possible time, but must also take commitments on the time frame of all the stages of the projects and keep a regular track on the progress. I assume that at least the proposals approved in February-March 2006 would have moved forward. Though the maximum numbers of proposals are about sugar industry and medical colleges, but it must move fast to implementation stage. The engineer CM must also see that the entrepreneurs complete the projects in no more than 3-4 years.

Some Priority Projects For Bihar

I am of a strong view that Bihar government must identify some prestigious 20 projects of strategic importance with high impact on growth and monitor its progress on regular basis. According to me, some of the projects are:
Government Projects- central and State
1. Expressways under Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) project
2. The East-West corridor project
3. The NHDP, Phase III A, with all important roads connecting the state’s capital to different towns of the state.
4. Indian Institute of Technology, Bihar
5. All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)
6. Bharat Nirman- roads
7. Bharat Nirman- rural electrification
8. International University, Nalanda
9. Chanakya Law University, Patna
10. Railway’s Axle manufacturing plant
11. Thermal power plant, Nabinagar
Private Projects
1. Indian Gasohol Ltd-10 mega ethanol plants with cogeneration
2. Mahindra & Mahindra group’s food processing plant
3. Sonalika Tractors’ a tractor plant.
4. Max Healthcare’s multispecialty hospital

The good news is that the priority sector is identified. The government is concentrating on sugar and maize based industries. Private investors had shown interest in setting up sugar mills with ethanol and cogeneration and the state government has also decided to hand over the sugar mills under state control to the private sector for their revival. As priority, the government must work on the abandoned factories, and take quick decisions, even if necessary with help of some ordinances.

Bihar must work on power plants on priority. Perhaps the route will be through private investment, and alternate energy resources. It can provide special subsidy to solar energy and biomass units, perhaps more to the deprived class in rural Bihar. If Karunanidhi can offer TVs, at least Bihar can do this.

The government must get proactive in approaching the reputed industrialists at the highest levels to make them come to Bihar’s assistance. But at least a dairy unit at every district headquarter is minimum that it can do itself.

My appeal to the government is more to have its websites more user-friendly and responsive. It must provide the e-mail addresses of ministers. It must also provide the status of the projects undertaken.

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