Bihar Leads- From Hopeless to Hopeful

Bihar might be at the bottom in the State of States survey of India Today. But many things are happening in Bihar with very little publicity in media that are unique and exemplary.

A New Holy Order

Acharya Kishore Kunal has been busy doing some excellent social engineering projects in Bihar. The Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (BSBRT) that Kunal heads, are trying to make Dalits participate in social infrastructure in big way. As reported in media, Acharya Kishore Kunal recently made a Dalit, Janardan Manjhi, the chief priest of Ram Janaki temple at Paliganj, near Patna. Manjhi is, in fact, fourth such Dalit to head a temple.

The famous 300-year-old Khaki Baba Ram Janaki Thakurbari at Hilsa in Nalanda district came under the direct control of the Dalits. On August 10, the upper caste Hindus of the locality, with the support of Valmiki Das, a mahant, set up an all-Dalit Trust to break the Brahminical hold over society and religion. A Paswan was elected as the head of the trust while its members belonged to Ravidas, Chamar, Rajak and other Dalit sub-castes.

Is the castiest Bihar changing or revolutionizing? There hasn’t been any resistance from the local people, who not only enthusiastically participated in selecting and accepting Dalit priests, but also overwhelmingly attended the sangat-pangat, marking an end to untouchablility (at least at the local level).

Dalitisation is also being seen as a unique way of democratising trusts and temples as well as a cleansing drive to rid these religious bodies of goondas and land-grabbers. Last year, Kunal on getting appointed as the administrator of BSBRT last year discovered that about 90 per cent of the temples were directly or indirectly under the control of criminals. He succeeded to bring them out of the clutches of musclemen. He has taken up now the task of the Dalitization of the temple management.

Kunal’s success story started with the Mahavir temple near Patna railway station that is today one of the most important attraction for all those who visit Patna. Kunal got the temple renovated. And then on June 30, 1993, as its secretary, he took a revolutionary step by installing a Dalit priest, Phalhari Suryavanshi Das from Ayodhya, as its head. And he also made it accepted by all with the three highly respected priests-Ramchandra Paramahans, Mahant Avidhyanath of Baba Gorakhnath Dham and Mahant Avadh Kishore Das supervising the ceremony. And from the annual earning of about Rs 80 lakh from the Mahavir temple, Kunal is establishing super specialty hospitals and medical college in Begusarai, Hazipur, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Gaya.

I wish Kunak could make a point to attach a school and a healthcare unit with all the temples he looks after. Source: Based on a Story in India Today and personal communications from Patna.

Bihar comes out with an exemplary RTI model
In January this year, the Bihar government started a unique model wherein a person can file an RTI application by simply making a call to the help line. “As soon as the call is made to the RTI line, Rs 10 gets added to the person’s telephone bill. His voice is recorded and treated as an RTI application. Even if the person has to file an appeal under the RTI Act, a call is more than enough.” It has simplified the procedure of filing the applications. Instead of writing an application for seeking information, all one has to do is to dial a help line number. Arvind Kejriwal’s Parivartan has helped the state government set up the call centre. Magassay award winner Arvind Kajriwal recently urged the Delhi government to replicate the Bihar RTI model.

Law catches up with Bihar musclemen
People were skeptical of the “the speedy trial campaign” when the new state government of Nitish Kumar launched it. But the results are showing up now. Anand Mohan‘s sentence to death, Mohammad Shahabuddin’s life sentence and Pappu Yadav’s wait for his turn in Tihar Jail are certainly sending some strong messages already to the feared musclemen-politicians of Bihar and their followers. The fast-track courts must get its due credit. The deceased IAS Krishnaiah’s wife comments from Hyderabad on Anand Mohan’s sentence is good enough a reason for the people to be happy today: “I cannot get my husband, the son of a labourer and a dalit, back, but this judgment should deter powerful politicians or ruffians from killing simple people.”

I wish Nitish government could put some fast track administrative machinery for the development projects related to infrastructures such as power, road, and irrigation as well as education and healthcare too all around in Bihar. It must get visible to even the blinds in media. Without those, Bihar can’t build its image and can’t bring prosperity for its people.

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