Bihar- Hope and Despair

Nitish Kumar may be a nice man, perhaps gentleman unlike Laluji. However, my views are not based on any facts. It is through the media reports about Nitish that I liked. Recently, all his party men were after the blood of Raghubans Prasad Singh. Television channel showed footages of two boys (age 11 years) working in the field of Raghuraj Singh, the brother of Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh near his Shahpur home under Mahnar in Vaishali (Hajiprur). However, it was established later that the two are “regulars in schools” and “had pulled the log across the field when promised a chance to appear on television and Rs 20 each.” Nitish behaved as a real mature person. He didn’t go with his men. And finally, the truth came out. Another news report related about his visiting his senior party man George Fernandes and requesting him to inaugurate some development projects in Muzaffarpur. George Fernandes have gone against Nitish with no malice and inhibition, as he didn’t back him for heading the party.

These acts are magnanimous. But then is it good enough for Bihar and its people?

But then good news came from Tokyo. NMG (Nalanda Mentor Group) had its second meeting, headed by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, recently at Tokyo. By early next year, the blueprint for reviving the 1197 AD Nalanda University in Bihar – is expected to be ready. At Tokyo, the NMG decided that the university would have schools of Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative religions; historical studies; international relations & peace studies; business management and development studies; languages and literature; and ecology and environmental studies. I had some more ambitious dreams about this rebirth of Nalanda. It must have also included institutions of excellence of technology and sciences at par with MIT. NMG can invite western countries too to join in this unique endeavour, or IISc and IITs to pull together their resources to set up institutions in the premises. Alternatively, the IIT and IIM for Bihar, sanctioned by the HRD ministry should become part of the campus.

Another exciting news report related to sugar sector that may become the main industry for Bihar. Reliance Industries, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and India Glycols Ltd have bid for closed sugar mills in Bihar. The privatization must move on fast track and the government must encourage the private companies to include ethanol, cogeneration as well as some food-grain based manufacturing activities in the state on priority.

Even with all the troubles and mudslinging between the trio the people of Bihar have retained their innovative talent and entrepreneurships. And that is evident when I read the report: Kanishk and Lipika Sinha, a young couple from Patna have invented an energy-saving rather fuel-free engine, at a cost of Rs 35,000, which can run without petrol or diesel and can last for a 4.5-lakh kilometre run. Kanishk Sinha recently got the engine patented (1077/Del/2005) with BigPatents India, a body supported by the Ford Foundation.

But again I appeal to Nitish to concentrate on the law and order situation that might have improved by statistics but not in real term and in the perception of the investors. Kidnapping and abduction are still rampant. A recent report in Mail Today was agonizing how it is now a moneymaking business for small enough criminals. It requires ruthless handling and exemplary harsh punishment.

Another report about the central agencies dropping the rural road building projects due to Naxalite’s fear is shocking: “The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) working on many road projects in Bihar is planning to abandon the work due to the threat by Naxals. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), Bihar has a target to connect 9,600 villages involving a road length of 27,000 km. Out of 38 districts, IRCON is taking care of eight districts, NHPC and NPCC will make six each, CPWD four while the remaining districts are managed by NBCC. Out of nearly 57 such road projects initiated in the four districts of Arval, Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad, nearly 23 have been abandoned due to the Naxal menace.”

As much as I understand the Naxalites in Bihar are misguided unemployed youths from deprived class. Demands of extortion and ransom money by the so-called Naxalites and kidnappers are indications that the movement is not for the uplift of the deprived class, but it is for making easy money. It requires tough but humane handling. Let the state form a small and effective core group with some social scientists and religious gurus too to look into the solutions of the problem. Urgent land reforms, extensive skill building, massive adult education, and thrust on value building at school may be the basic necessity. I suggest that the politicians in their meetings including the Janata Durbars with so-called ‘aam adami’ insist on people present for sending their children to schools compulsorily.

Further, it pains to know that ‘Bihar’s committed expenditure towards interest payment, administrative and pension payments is almost twice the state’s own revenue resources.’ Bihar needs motivated and dedicated officers to make it move out from the rut. I wish they could have set some examples with some innovative approaches.

By now Nitish would have done much more than what has happened in last two years. Let us hope Nitish’s hard work pays back.

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