Bihar-Some light in darkness

For almost a month, I have not written about Bihar. ‘Chetawani’ or ‘Sankalp’ rallies only made me morose. Why can’t Paswan and Lalu change their political strategies for the sake of the people of Bihar at least for some time? After all they had and will get ample opportunities to prove themselves. And they are still in position from where they can bring about a visible change in Bihar, if not in whole of it, at least in their constituencies. Laluji can see that all the factories that he has proposed to set up in Bihar start construction before he goes out of the present portfolio. Paswanji too can help Bihar having a hub of drug manufacturing. Bihar has all the inputs for pharma industry. Let their party legislatures concentrate in their constituencies at least utilizing the legislature funds that are in millions per year. They may also help in getting the central projects expedited wherever they are effective.

Whatever appears in media, particularly what we see on various news channels about Bihar is only disgusting. However, Aditi Phadnis has written ‘Well-begun but half done’ in Business Standard on December 1, 2007 about the changes in Bihar in last two years of Nitish rule. It was refreshingly nice to read except for the reference about caste dominance.

Here are some portions from the article:

The roads that the state has built are not spanking new four-lane state highways. They are small stretches between villages or between a state/national highway and a village. You have to live in a village to know what this access to the outside world means. Small rivulets that turn into vast swathes of still water un-navigable after the monsoons have been tamed because building or repairing small bridges has been decentralized.

Footfalls in state hospitals continue to grow. Classes in panchayat-run government schools are being held. Every girl child born in a family below the poverty line will be given Rs 2,000 that the UTI will manage until she comes of age.

One quintal of rice to every flood-hit family – regardless of economic status – will continue to be given two months until after the floods. This was earlier 25 kg, barely sufficient for a family of four and would result in large-scale migration every year to stave off hunger.

A scheme to provide a toilet to every home, no matter how small, will cost the state government Rs 1,300 crore but will at least begin to address the problem of sanitation in rural areas.

There was a time the MLA was everything and the DM, nothing. Now it is the other way round. This is causing tension, with party men otherwise loyal to the chief minister, turning against him for being so bureaucracy-led.

However, there are times when Nitish Kumar comes to a standstill while taking administrative decisions. The state has not acquired a single acre of land for industry wanting to invest in Bihar.

The result: an investor for the Rs 1,320 crore Appu Ghar amusement park project got an assurance from the Bihar government that state-owned land on the banks of the Ganga in Patna would be given to him. Then the chief minister got cold feet. The project has since relocated to Delhi. The state government has cleared proposals worth Rs 2,37,000 crore since coming to power. But only the bravest are actually putting money in the state.

With the best of intentions and working 18-hour days, Nitish Kumar needs to succeed, not just for Bihar but also for India. To do this, he needs to be resolute.

I am sure there are many more things happening. I heard the vigilance commission has effectively moved to take action against black seeps. As reported, “since January 2006, the bureau has laid 153 traps and caught more than 178 public servants including IAS and IPS officers, engineers, and senior officials of the forest department.” Many criminals are behind the bar. Crime is under check. But can’t Nitish move faster on the industrial development front too? Can’t he pick up someone who can do some miracles in taking the proposed investments on fast track? As the Chief Minister of Bihar, he can pick up any one he wishes who can make Bihar industrially developed. Perhaps, main obstacles to investment in Bihar relate to the perception about the crime and corruption in the state. Perhaps that will take time.

I personally feel that the trio of Nitish, Paswan, and Lalu can do that by shaking off their party affiliation. Let them stop criticizing each other in public. It would not make any difference if they don’t do that. Let them shift their personal priorities to uplift Bihar that still live with the lowest per capita productivity in agriculture at Rs 661 against the national average of Rs 2,370, and the lowest investment having a highly adverse credit-deposit ratio of 24.5% against the national average of 53.4%. 56.5% the population of the left-out Bihar still lives in flood-prone conditions. Bihar has the country’s second largest number of poor at 41.4% after Orissa (46.4%). Furthermore, more than half (55%) of the state’s urban population lives on just Rs 19 each day.

Are they listening?

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