Bihar: Something Unusually Exciting

I wrote in my earlier blog ‘From Janata Durbar to Vikash Yatra’, “I wish him a success if it is not a pre-election gimmick. He should also see that all the normal work doesn’t stop in the area he visits because of the excuse of his visits. I don’t know if he will also spend his nights in the villages to understand the reality from nearer quarter or in the towns with circuit house or some other government accommodations.”

Interestingly, Nitish provided the answer in his ‘last durbar in Patna’, “I will live in tents prepared by prisoners of Buxar jail in the villages. I will have night halt in the villages and will listen to the problem of the people,” Nitish’s Vikas Yatra promises to take the government at people’s doorsteps, officially termed “Janata ke durbar mein mukhyamantri (CM in people’s court)”. Every camp will have accommodations for at least 300 officials, including security personnel. Important departmental secretaries, district magistrates and superintendents of police would accompany Nitish. Will the chief minister or his secretary do some home work about the villages to be covered from one location? Are they having the master plan of the projects for the area or will they prepare one? Will Nitish look into the personal problems such as employment or transfer or financial help?

I have no complaint about Nitish’s Vikas Yatra. It may be a good PR move. It may sort out some grievances. It may provide Nitish a firsthand glimpse of the actual conditions of road, electricity, and health care provisions including the sanitation in the villages. But I doubt if it is an effective way to get the desired fast development. I wish the collectors or Block Development Officers taking clue from Nitish’s Yatra provide the services to the people at their doorsteps in their respective region for which they are accountable. They can have one day of the week for a village or panchayat. Additionally, I request Nitish to address the people and explain how education is bringing revolution in other states and appeal to send their children to schools and to demand better functioning of the schools. It is the education, and education only that can bring about the change. I wish if he requests panchayat executives to prepare a master plan for all the villages and ask for the suggestions to create employment locally.

I do believe that there are many excellent and missionary officers in the state. They require motivations. One such case has come to my knowledge that is related to Kosi. “We are using all the skill and hard work at our disposal. If we fail to meet the work deadline, we will dive in the river and create a human chain to check the devastating of settlements,” said N. Sanyal, the head of the Kosi Breach Closure Advisory Team. It has been monitoring the embankment rebuilding project at Kusaha in Nepal. The statement of Sanyal – a civil engineer of repute – sums up the pace, urgency and spirit with which 72 engineers, 1,500 workers, over 20 trucks and 12 rollers and dumpers are engaged in the massive engineering exercise. This is certainly something that can make one feel proud.

On education front too, the improvements in number appear to be excellent. According to the Annual Status of Education Report on rural India of NGO Pratham survey that covered 564 districts, 16,198 villages and 3.35 lakh households, Bihar has done remarkably well in getting children to go to school. From 13.1% out-of-school children in the age group of 6-14 in 2005, the state has brought the number down to 5.7% in 2008. Similarly, the proportion of out-of-school girls in the age group of 11-14 in the state has dropped from 20.1% to 8.8%. Again the Educational Development Index for 2007-08 prepared by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) has also similar encouraging news. Bihar has considerable increase in primary enrolment to 11.27% from 8.9% and 8.22% in upper primary from 6.6% in 2006-07. Interestingly, Muslim girls form 46.8% of primary school enrolment and 44.76% of upper primary enrolment.

However Bihar is go miles before it comes anywhere near the developed states of the country. For example, less than 1% schools in Bihar have computers. And it is only Nitish and his government that can provide the infrastructure and equipment. But Bihar must drop the practice of engaging the teachers on a dismal fixed pay. Let it employ the best and dismiss those who are useless, but not degrade the profession.

I wish from the exposure of the rural Bihar in different regions, Nitish may get enlightened and will take some innovative steps for mitigating the misery prevailing in the different parts of the state. I have at least some suggestions.

Can the civil engineers of Bihar come out with some housing design for rural Bihar where the age old practices of living with the cattle be effectively avoided?

Can a cheap water filtration plant for safe drinking for each village be planned and executed?

Can a knowledge kiosk with computer and Internet manned by an interested local person be set up on the line of ITC’s e-Choupal for education, telemedicine, and other services in every village?

Can the women of the villages be engaged in adding to the household earnings through various engagements, be it dairy, homemade toys, or embroidery?

Let the Nitish’s Vikash Yatra bring in a new dawn for Bihar.

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