Bihar’s Bad Luck

Yesterday I happened to talk to Alok, my cousin in village. I wanted to know about the health of my uncle. And he informed that uncle was in other village, Samahuta where cycles were getting distributed to students of Girls High School. I felt good. Nitish government has done good work on rural roads. At least, the girls will use the cycles.

As it appears, the next state assembly election is pretty near. All the news reports from the state indicate that. Each of the troika is busy in doing everything to grab the state or at least to remain relevant in state politics.

While incumbency may be against Nitish, his performance in the last four years has made a big change in perception of Bihar in the country and makes him the best choice for the next time too. The Bihar government has come out with its exhaustive performance report of the last four years that it completed on November 24, 2009 on PatnaDaily.com today. The reports are in part I, II, and III and present pretty rosy picture. I don’t how many will go through it and will it influence the people who matter in the next election. It is a special edition with Nitish portrait on cover and declaring him as Person of the Year- 2009.

Unfortunately, even with a real improvement in law and order confirmed by many independent observers, Bihar has failed to attract significant number of big private entrepreneurs. Nitish thinks without the centre granting the status of “special category state” to Bihar with exemption of taxes, it will not be possible. Even the hope of revival of sugar industry is almost dead: “There just isn’t enough sugarcane to feed the mills, investors say. Set up the mills and the sugarcane will follow you, Kumar counters.”

Unfortunately, even with a real improvement in law and order confirmed by many independent observers, Bihar has failed to attract significant number of big private entrepreneurs. Nitish thinks without the centre granting the status of “special category state” to Bihar with exemption of taxes, it will not be possible. Shaibal Gupta, Economist and Member Secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, Patna endorses the view. Even the hope of revival of sugar industry is almost dead: “There just isn’t enough sugarcane to feed the mills, investors say. Set up the mills and the sugarcane will follow you, Kumar counters.” Some suggests that Bihar will have to look for its own entrepreneurs for investments. Is it prudent? Could Bengal get entrepreneurs even with better indigenous resources of raw materials and trained labour till Buddha took some personal initiatives? Interestingly, according an industry estimates, local entrepreneurs have invested close to Rs 1,500 crore in the recent past. But Bihar needs huge investment and it can come only from the bigger established houses.

Perhaps for the first time Business Standard has published some pretty balanced views on Bihar’s problems in its issue of January 2, 2010, based on a roundtable discussion arranged by its Hindi edition. The centre has been negligent to Bihar. And for many of its ills, it must take responsibility. And TN Ninan has been very forthright: “It is not possible to solve the problems of Bihar by forcing Biharis to go to Mumbai; they need options in their own state. Once again, it is public policy that has failed. The surprising truth is that fiscal transfers from the Centre to the states have worked against the poorest states; if Maharashtra got the same per capita fiscal transfers that Bihar did, the story in that state would have been the same as in Bihar (as the Thackerays should be told). As in so many other things, the starting point has to be public investment.”

Lalu and Ramvilash have been busy only in negative politics. Even during the period when both were senior ministers in the UPA-I, they did anything concrete to pull up the fortunes of unfortunate people of Bihar. None of their projects is going to see daylight. Discarded by Congress after the 2009 parliamentary election when they lost the mandate from the people of the state, they reached Patna and started making the life of Nitish miserable. I am sure they could have done some positive work with so big a following. At least, they would have taken intensive tour of the state and convinced the people to send their children to schools. But as I understand, they wish to keep them ignorant as that can only help them.

But Nitish with all the good work done can’t escape my criticism.

Unfortunately, Nitish lacks good advisors, and has fewer aggressive implementers in his team.

Nitish would have encouraged many more entrepreneurs such as Kausalendra, if required through his personal mentorship to exploit the potential of Bihar for enhancing the production of quality vegetables that would have brought prosperity and happiness to a large number of petty farmers of Bihar.

Nitish would have taken personal interest in getting private educational institutes for higher education set up in every district, if not in every block of Bihar to stop Bihar’s huge money going out of the state.
Nitish did also fail to make the poor owners of the trees that they plant under NREGA on government land. Nitish could have certainly distributed the land available with the government to needy without fearing the reaction in some circle.

Nitish did not take any initiative to encourage private entrepreneurs to build planned new cities on the two express ways- Golden Quadrilateral and East West Corridor passing through the states. Bihar could have 20 such cities. It would have certainly boosted the state economy and provided employment too. Perhaps his socialism is stopping him from taking such a bold step.

Will Congress Party at centre change its attitude and come out with the special status for Bihar? Will Rahul Gandhi interfere in case of Bihar too as he did for Bundelkhand? Can some young men from Bihar impress upon Rahul its necessity for winning over Bihar at least to some extent? Will Nitish change his present alliance partner with Congress? Will it win Bihar to bring Bihar back on the path of prosperi

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