Bihar Under Transformation

Saibal Gupta, member secretary, Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna is pretty optimistic about Bihar and so am I. In a recent column in Indian Express, Mr. Gupta writes, “The grammar of politics is changing in Bihar. Election hereafter cannot be fought on the basis of the earlier benchmarks of muscle and firepower. The most under-governed and underdeveloped state of the country, for the first time after -Independence, is working out new development architecture. The discourse on development and its social or political matrix has changed in the state. The prophets of doom, quick to write Bihar’s epitaphs earlier, are now revising their script. Now Nitish Kumar, with the mandate of the ‘coalition of extremes’ and with an eye for detail, is using the same state structures in scripting an inclusive delivery system. In future, any political party that wants to make an electoral breakthrough in the state will have to do some introspection. Without a cohesive agenda and a cadre-building exercise, political parties would run the risk of electoral obsolence.”

With the news appearing in media, the prediction of Mr. Gupta seems to be right. However, perhaps Bihar at grassroots level needs some change in the mindsets of its people. The incident connected with cabinet minister Narendra Singh and legislator Phalguni Yadav or the post cabinet-reshuffle bickering for the head of Sushil Modi was the manifestation of the same old mindset connected with the caste bias. It can’t come without education and employability. New institutes such as Chandra Gupta Institute of management, or Chanakya Law University or for that matter IIT in Patna will certainly bring respectability. But Bihar must focus on creating more and more of its soft power, be it its school of art, yoga, or its cuisines. Simultaneously, the existing institutions and its faculty must work to bring honours through its research works, so that the students from all over India hanker for getting entry into those institutions. Again, Bihar must get the professional institutes in hundreds allover the state.

But here is one more story that again appeared in Indian Express. Can you relish it?

“How is the number of a polling booth related to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment headed by Meira Kumar? Well, without it a voter from the Congress leader’s constituency, Sasaram in Bihar, cannot hope to meet the minister and plead for help. Recently a young chap who had come all the way from Sasaram to Delhi to meet the minister was flabbergasted when the minister’s aide asked him the number of the booth where he casts his vote. “I have never voted. I am less than 18,” he mumbled. “You don’t look underage,” observed the aide. “Anyway, without the booth number you can’t meet the minister.” There was a typically Bihar solution to the whole problem, however. “State any number. Is he going to check it?” said someone there. Well, this is one poll booth strategy that may not work any longer.”

If it is not true, will Meira Kumar say so in media? I was going to write a letter to her for two things: I wish Meira Kumar with Mrs Ambika Soni could get Sasaram a status of heritage city. Unfortunately, neither she nor her illustrious father JagJivan Ram did anything for Sasaram. I also wanted to request her for getting electricity for my village Pipra (mardan Rai ka Pipra). Now I dare not write that letter. I don’t vote there. Can someone help me?

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