I had to go to Bihar twice in last two months to attend two marriages, the first in Patna and the second in Dehri-on-Sone. I got rare opportunities to talk with a good cross section of the society. The law and order situation has certainly improved. Not a single person had any thing to say against the law and order situation. I found the people in marriage party travelling across Bihar whole night without any trouble. Roads have lesser and bearable potholes. In both the marriages, people moved from the western Rohtas to eastern Bhagalpur and Purnea and back. People preferred night journey by 4-wheelers, mostly Baleros of M&M. Only some took to trains. It was for escaping the scorching heat of the daytime.
Farmers are doing better. However, the government has hardly done any significant contribution in the field of irrigation. There is hardly any initiative to improve upon the existing canals or building new canal system. Bihar’s land is very fertile. With availability of water, the yield can be ensured. Bihar still lacks badly in having electricity for farming or for domestic uses. Farmers have gone for diversifying the crop for better earning. I was amazed to hear that many in my relationship are growing menthol mint(Mentha arvensis) instead of wheat between February and July. Interestingly, they have invested in extracting and processing for converting the plants into oil that they store for selling when the price is good.
Some young men are also exploring ways and means to get into business. A young man, the son-in-law of my wife’s younger sister has started a small manufacturing units for copies of different types (stationary)in Natwar. After the initial teething trouble, the business is stabilising and the revenue is reaching to about Rs 10 million. Interestingly, I found him well-informed about the prospect in the business and the competition from the large scale manufacturers that are setting up plants and his strategy to face the situation.
But the most disturbing situation is in education, particularly in the government schools in Bihar. The system is at the deathbed. And the most affected are the children of underprivileged class where education is most needed. The government perhaps does not want to do anything about that. However, the parents, particularly landholders are getting their kids admitted in private schools based on their resources. Most of them move the kids with a lady of the house to the nearest town to educate them there.
Nitish Kumar would have focused on effective education and skill training. People expect at least this much from him. But perhaps he hardly has any time for this important task.