A Feel of Resurging Bihar

I was in Bihar for almost five days. We entered Bihar on April 20 and left on April 24, 2007. The reports in local newspapers were full with news and happenings that confirms the arrival of a resurging Bihar. I could feel the change.

On April 20, the newspapers carried the news of the government embarking on a mammoth project to interlink the major rivers within Bihar to address the dual problems of flood and draught. If executed, the project will increase Bihar’s assured irrigation coverage potential by over 2 million hectares, an increase of huge 80%. The projects are already identified. Consulting firms are short-listed. Ganga water will get transferred to South Bihar; Kosi water to Mahananda basin; Burhi Gandak, Baya and Gandak waters to the existing Gandak Canal System; and Sone basin water to Punpun-Harobar-Kiul basin through barrages, pumps, and canals.

I couldn’t understand if this river interlinking project will get the financial support from the center or it is only the state initiated one. The UPA government has not shown any enthusiasm in river interlinking projects just because it was initiated by the former NDA government, even though the judiciary asked for a timeframe. Only President Kalam have been talking about it regularly. Bihar government must also go in big way in renovation of existing ones and construction of water bodies in thousands in north Bihar to store flood water using NREG programme. Finance Minister Chidambaram has been talking about water bodies since UPA’s first budget.

News from many fronts are equally exciting. Patna- Gaya railway track is getting doubled, and Patna-Gaya section of NH-83 is getting six-laned under NHDP-III. While Gaya airport is getting upgraded, a Buddha Memorial Park is going to come up on 26 acres of old jail campus close to Patna Junction.

More than 2000 villages in 7 districts of Bihar have achieved universal enrolment of children with appointment of over 1,20,000 teachers, construction of about 1,00,000 new class rooms, and opening of 15,000 new schools. Projects such as Sankalp supported by UNICEF and Pratham are making thee focused education happen. Through extensive community mobilization,3,70,000 children out of 5,50,000 identified ones were enrolled.

I wish Bihar abolishes Bihar boards for secondary, higher secondary, and technical education and switch over to CBSE and hands over inspection to NGOs such as Pratham and Premji Foundation.

The Religious Trust Board under the leadership of Acharya Kishore Kunal are going to construct five major hospitals and one medical college in Bihar. With an innovative funding, the 80-crore medical college cum hospital will come up at Begusarai. The project additionally includes a terminal care center in Hazipur, a Vatsalya (child and maternity) hospital in Sitamarhi, a heart hospital in Muzaffarpur and a general hospital in Gaya.

Nearly 40 villages in Bihar will have a cultural center, roads and healthcare facilities to commemorate the long ties of Bihar with Mauritius.

On April 23, 2007 Patna saw ‘Who’s who’ of India Inc came to Patna promising to assist Bihar in getting back its past glory. Twelve groups have been formed to come out (name of the head of the group in bracket) with their ideas on harnessing agriculture (Anand Mahindra, M&M), easing credit flows (KV Kamath, ICICI), urban design for emerging Bihar (Hafeez Contractor, reputed architect of Mumbai), harnessing private sector (Kumar Mangalam Birla, Aditya Birla group), empowering through IT (S. Ramadorai, TCS), meeting energy concerns (Sanjiv Goenka, CESC), new heath paradigm(Analjit Singh, Max Hospitals), skill multiplier (Tarun Das, CII), alleviating poverty and keeping growth engines going (B. Muthuraman, Tata Steel), building Bihar brand (Shobhana Bharatia, Hindustan Times), mainstreaming the rural economy (Sunil Bharati, Airtel), and importance of tourism, travel and employment (Priya Paul, Park Hotel group).

Nitish Kumar sought their assistance in three ways: at individual level, by persuading their friends to whom they have better reach, and fine tuning of policies.

Are these not the indicators of resurging Bihar? If not what else can be the indicators?

Unfortunately, the national newspapers that I get in Noida or available on web hardly cover the news from Bihar or for that matter any other state. All these are interesting readings.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of Nitish Kumar or NK Singh, but I doubt if the Bihar ministry has sufficient number of enthusiastic and missionary ministers and bureaucrats to support the projects that can take Bihar ahead with speed of implementation fast enough to make up the lost years of stagnations.

I do also wish that opposition must play a mature role. Let Laluji and his brothers-in-law restrain themselves in creating bad news every other day. Let Raghubans Prasadji use his doctoral arguments to get Bharat Nirman implemented in at least the constituencies of RJD MPs and legislators.

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