Progressive Bihar - Finally the sleeping giant is waking up

Progressive Bihar - Finally the sleeping giant is waking up
Progressive Bihar - Come support it's growth path.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bihar's big moment: An interesting article by Utpal Kumar

I came across an interesting article written by Utpal Kumar written in the Pioneer where he has touched on Bihar's sense of pride or the one that has taken a beating over the years. Worth reading....

Bihar’s big moment

October 31, 2010 12:57:32 PM

With development as poll agenda, Nitish Kumar has changed the very electoral rules of the caste-ridden State. So much so that even Lalu Prasad seems ‘progressive’ today. Utpal Kumar analyses the trend

If you seriously want to know what it means to be a Bihari, then take the first train out of Bihar. I was fortunate — one can call it a misfortune as well — to have experienced this early in my life when I insisted my father take me to Nagaland, where he worked as an academician. My father was one of the few well-placed Biharis in the State, I was told by my local friends. “The rest are filthy labourers,” they would chide me.

At least the perception was so in Nagaland. And why not! ‘Lalu-isation’ of Bihar was already in place, though the worst was yet to come. By the time the image of Bihar hit its nadir, I found myself in Delhi, wanting to pursue higher education from the University of Delhi.

“So, you are looking for a rented accommodation,” I was quizzed along with two of my Bihari friends. Before we could say anything, came a terse question: “Hope you are not a Bihari!”

I was stunned. It was my third day in the Capital. Being unaware of the ‘politics’ of house-hunting, I could have all but lost that flat. Thankfully, my friends interrupted. “We are from Allahabad,” they said.

Then began a series of Bihari-bashing from our prospective Punjabi landlord, unabashedly calling us filthy, thieves and mischief-mongers. It was an agitating moment for me. More so to see my friends listening to the non-stop anti-Bihari ranting with a smile on their faces! How could they lie in the first place? Worse, how could they listen to such comments, and smile?

Being a Bihari, that was my first lesson in the Capital. Today, when I hear the hardships being faced by Muslims — or even Northeasterners — in getting accommodation in Delhi and other metros, I just smile and say, “What’s new in that!”

As I spent some time in Delhi, I realised how my Bihari friends could smile at being rebuked. I, too, learnt to remain indifferent to such slurs being thrown, though not always I could take them hands down. But most times I kept quiet, preferring to blame the Biharis for such a sorry state of affairs — more so their political leaders for deliberately mocking at themselves through comical and at times nauseating antics.

In the past two to three years, however, there has been a perceptible change in the manner in which Bihar is being looked at in Delhi. There is a growing feeling that the State and its people have finally woken up. Even the Biharis seem more confident today. I discovered this myself a few months ago when I did not get agitated when someone shouted the term ‘Bihari’ in public. “Bihari ko Bihari nahin bolenge to kya bolenge,” I wondered.

If nothing else, one can count this sense of self-confidence as the single-most important contribution of the Nitish Kumar Government. And, this feeling is not confined to ‘Non-Resident Biharis’. During a recent visit to “the place where civilisation ends”, a Naipaulean epithet for Bihar, I was surprised not to find a single person who felt the State had not changed for the better in the past five years.

How could Nitish usher in such a turnaround, which till a few years ago seemed unfeasible? The first thing he did was to put the criminals in place. According to a report, at one time no less than 50,000 people were placed behind the bar on the pretext of one crime or the other. This had its impact. The State, which witnessed over 22,000 murders in the five years since 2000, saw a substantial decline of about 8,000 deaths between 2006 and August 2010. Likewise, there were 484 kidnappings between 2006 and 2010, down from 2,196 kidnappings from 2000 to 2005.

With most criminals behind the bar, business began to thrive as never before. This was instantly evident with the flooding of food chains and mobile service providers across the State. On a more sophistic term, Bihar, which had grown at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent between 1999 and 2004, took the highway of 11 per cent growth rate for the next five years, next only to Gujarat. Change was also perceptible in the per capita income, which soared from `8,307 in 2004-05 to `13,959 in 2008-09.

The benefits of economic growth might not have reached every Bihari, but the hope for a better future has reached them all. No one expected a miracle in five years, but the State, which witnessed not a semblance of governance for at least 15 years, saw its fundamentals getting corrected under the Nitish regime.

With economic prosperity trickling down, not only the number of Bihari migrants has come down, but also many people have begun to ponder about returning to their roots. According to a report, the number of fresh Bihari migrants in Punjab has come down by 30 per cent. This led to such an anxiety among Punjabi landowners that this harvest season many were seen waiting at railway stations for the trains pulling in from Patna!

Delhi, too, is witnessing this trend, though on a minuscule scale. And why not! Construction boom in Bihar has led to rise in the daily wages from `120 to `200 for labourers and from `150 to `250 for masons. “Why should I work here when opportunities are there in Bihar,” quipped contractor Zuber Alam, working in the National Capital Region for almost a decade. Last month he shifted his base to Patna with a dozen of his fellow labourers.

Nitish has also initiated another revolution, though unintentionally, in Bihari society by providing Bihar sub-nationalism a pride of place. Traditionally, there have been two forms of nationalism in Bihar — Indian and caste. A Bihari was always an Indian and of so-and-so caste; in contrast, a person in Bengal is an Indian, a Bengali, and then of his caste. What this means is that there is no one to vouch for the Bihar cause. For instance, when Jharkhand was carved out of it, there were only minor voices opposing it, unlike the one being witnessed in Andhra Pradesh.

It was this lack of sub-nationalism that also made Biharis indifferent towards the Centre’s erstwhile freight equalisation policy, which meant that transport was not to be considered an input cost. This enable a factory to be set up anywhere in the country and the transportation of minerals would be subsidised by the Union Government. This in turn nullified undivided Bihar’s natural advantage as factories could have been — and were — set up everywhere except in Bihar.

Arvind N Das takes up the sub-nationalism issue in his book, The Republic of Bihar, and tries to explain why Jaipurs, Jaisalmers, Udaipurs, Bahmani kingdoms or Hyderabad couldn’t arise in Bihar. “No baronial nizam-ul-mulk could carve out a territory for himself in a region whose produce was vital to the imperial existence that control through proxy could not be risked,” he writes. Bihar was too important to be left for barons!

Development, however, is no guarantee for electoral success in Bihar. And no one knows this better than Nitish, who, despite doing good work in his Lok Sabha constituency of Barh, lost the seat in 2005. No wonder while Nitish talks about development, he has openly indulged in social engineering, carving out a separate new section of ‘Mahadalits’ (Most Backward Classes) out of the existing Dalits that have traditionally supported Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan. With Mahadalits having 36 per cent vote-share, Nitish has gone all out to provide special financial and employment packages to this section. This, along with the BJP’s traditional upper caste vote-bank, can become an almost unassailable combination for the ruling alliance.

To counter this, Lalu is trying to regain his Muslim-Yadav base, whose loss had played a big role in his losing power in 2005. In the polls held in February 2005, the RJD had fielded 32 Muslim candidates, of which 21 lost. In the October-November 2005 elections, only four of the RJD’s 30 Muslim candidates won. Its ally, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, fared worse, losing all 29 Muslim candidates. One wonders how Muslims will vote in the wake of the Babri Masjid judgement. Lalu expects some benefits out of it. This explains why almost a third of the party’s candidates for the first phase were Muslims. Nitish, too, seems a bit wary. Thus the decision to keep Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi out of Bihar campaigning!

One hopes Bihar votes on the issue of development, and not caste and religion. Initial indications suggest that even if Nitish doesn’t succeed this time, which seems improbable at least now, he has set in motion a process for a different Bihar where a ‘feudalistic’ Lalu Prasad is forced to talk of development and the ever-indifferent Congress promising to take the State to the level of better administered federal units like Gujarat and Maharashtra. Whatever be the people’s verdict, Bihar can no longer be dismissed in Naipaulean terms; it could well become the place where a new civilisation begins.

Making of Nitish Kumar

1971 Member of Ram Manohar Lohia’s youth wing, Samajwadi Yuvajan Sabha
1974 Joined the JP movement, arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act
1975 Arrested during the Emergency
1989 Secretary-General, Janata Dal, Bihar. Elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time
1990 Union Minister of State for Agriculture & Cooperation
1999 Union Minister for Surface Transport
2000 Union Minister for Agriculture
2001 Union Minister for Railways

Chief Minister2000 Chief Minister of Bihar for the first time; resigned after seven days when he couldn’t prove his majority
2005 Elected Chief Minister of Bihar for the second time
2010 Heads NDA campaign in Assembly election, seeking another term as CM

What's changed in Bihar

With the current elections in Bihar, multitudes of people are debating and talking about Bihar, some for Nitish, some against Nitish. I did come across one such post in one of the forums and couldn't stop myself from giving my two cents on it.

When I think of Bihar and read more and more reviews of what people are saying, I am more and more convinced that Nitish Kumar has done a lot of work of Bihar and has achieved more than what most erstwhile chief ministers have achieved in the last 60 years... He has done two major things for Bihar
  1. Set the ball rolling for Development: Whatever anyone does or whoever comes to power, he will have to follow a development agenda. People in Bihar have, for the first time in many years started hoping... Hoping for a better and developing Bihar. Nitish has given people hope.
  2. Got people to think beyond caste considerations: This was not easy and in the last 60 years most elections were won only along caste lines and leanings. It is after a very long time that we see people visibly talking of development cutting across caste or community lines. Many people in Bihar are now  talking about development which they were not doing before.
These are by no means easy feats to achieve in 5 years time, so much so that other important larger than life politicians are also talking of development and promising development.

But these are not the mere achievements. There are many others to quote:  like better law and order, a governance in place, better roads, more teachers, better education data, a sub-nationalism that has not existed for a long time, brought some pride to Biharis, etc. I also think, getting the whole bureaucracy to start working and thinking of development, itself, would have been a mamoth task and would have taken time and very difficult to achieve.

Hence we can all debate on what good has been done or what is still pending; what development has been done and what has not been done BUT Bihar has started rolling on a path of good: a path of development and the credit goes to Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi. Today we all are debating and we are debating because Nitish has given us a reason to debate, a reason that was not present before.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Business Standard - Bihar needs Nitish

An interesting article published in Business Standard caught my eye. Various newspapers, magazines and journals are closely following the Bihar elections , some taking a neutral stance, some highlighting the positives of one or the other, but none of them has completely sided with anyone... until now.

The Business Standard in an article published on 24th of October, i.e. today has clearly taken a stand that Bihar needs Nitish Kumar in a similarly titled newspaper article.

Bihar needs Nitish Kumar

India deserves more chief ministers like him
Business Standard / New Delhi October 24, 2010, 0:19 IST

This newspaper has not often taken political sides. Indeed, Indian journalism has not had the western tradition of the media declaring its political preferences. In the state of Bihar, however, which has now entered a month-long election period, the choice is clear and preferences should be stated. Bihar’s voters have to choose between five more years of a government led by Nitish Kumar, or five years or less of confusion created by an uncertain and split verdict, or five years of some nameless politician serving his tenure in Patna at Delhi’s beck and call.

There are many reasons why Bihar deserves Mr Nitish Kumar. First, he is a decent chap. In the rough and tumble of Indian politics it is not easy to come across men and women of basic and simple decency. That in itself should be a good reason for his remaining at the forefront of Indian politics. Second, he has done an impressive job. While the Congress party has every right to criticise his government and question his record in the heat of an election campaign, the fact remains that Mr Kumar has done more for Bihar than any other chief minister of this hapless state in the past five decades. Consider some simple numbers.

According to the state’s economic survey published earlier this year, Bihar’s economy registered an annual growth rate of 11.35 percent over the five-year period from 2004-05 to 2008-09, covering most of the term of Mr Kumar. It was only 3.5 percent per year in the previous five years. This should rule out the idea of returning to a Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime. Bihar’s per capita income rose from Rs 10,415 per year in 2008 to Rs 13,959 in 2009, compared to Rs 7,443 in 2004-05. This impressive growth comes from an across the board improvement in the state’s performance, barring the industrial sector. Bihar’s agriculture sector, construction, education, health and services sectors have all witnessed impressive growth. It is only in the industrial sector that the state’s economic survey shows low growth. The contribution of Bihar’s manufacturing sector to gross state domestic product (GSDP) was a lowly 4.69 percent. Bihar has less than 1 per cent share of India’s agro-processing industries. Despite the much improved performance of agriculture, health and education, Bihar remains a laggard and has a long way to go before it can catch up even with some of the more developed north Indian states, not to mention the states of western and southern India. 

However, if Bihar has to have a chance, if it has to finally catch up with India’s more developed regions, it needs another five years of the kind of development-oriented administration that Mr Nitish Kumar gave the state. If Bihar can move closer to the national average in terms of the various indicators of development, that national average will itself rise significantly. India cannot sustain growth rates of over 8 and 9 per cent, not to mention 10, if populous and large states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh remain stuck in the morass of backwardness, both economically and socially. While Ms Mayawati Kumari is wasting a golden opportunity in Uttar Pradesh, doing little for development and being obsessed about herself and her wealth and power, Mr Kumar has remained focussed on development. He is a model chief minister that other Indian states should also aspire for. Our vote goes out to Mr. Kumar.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Projections - 170 seats for JD(U)-BJP

The Star News - AC Nielson opinion poll conducted amongst 21640 people has thrown the following projections
  1. 170 seats for JD(U)-BJP combine and 41% vote share
  2. RJD - LJP combine reduced to 34 seats and 25% vote share
  3. Congress to get 22 seats (9 in last assembly elections) and vote share increase to 10%
But the best thing is 90% of the people polled said that they would vote for any candidate with a development agenda irrespective of his or her caste. Bihar is now really on the development path.

The entire details are present in the Times of India article JD(U)-BJP combine to get 170 seats in Bihar: Opinion poll

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Every Bihari wants respect now

I am pasting a brief interview of Nitish Kumar in an Outlook article "Every Bihari wants respect now" which I think is a good summarization of what many of us think. Infact the last answer is something very interesting and we should be able to see where it comes from.



‘Every Bihari Wants Respect Now’

On the campaign trail, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is full of confidence. He firmly believes his development plank will work with the electorate and that he will be able to take all sections of society with him. Nitish spoke to Outlook. Excerpts:
The last polls had an anti-Laloo plank. What is it this time?
The last election wasn’t fought on the anti-Laloo plank. Last time, people were sure that they wanted to vote for a clear-cut majority. This election is all about providing continuity.

Continuity to what?
Continuity to what we’ve done so far. This time there are three important factors that people will vote for: a fear-free Bihar where law and order prevails, development and Bihari pride. Every Bihari wants to be respected.

Your entire campaign is based on development. Will it work?
Yes, it will. People have seen the work happening around them. For the first time, they have realised that development can happen in Bihar and it can happen fast. A recent survey showed that 39 per cent of the total voters will vote for development. That says it all.

Don’t caste combinations play an important role in Bihar? You yourself engineered a subgroup within the Dalits called the Mahadalits....
Caste combination plays an important role all over the country. But caste is not the sole factor. Mahadalits are an important section of Bihar’s social structure. For ages no one did anything for them. Now they are confident that someone is looking after their interests.

What about the Muslims? Do you see the Muslims voting for you after the Ayodhya verdict when you have the BJP for a coalition partner?
People will vote for development. Look at what we have done in the field of education. That is for every caste and community. Secondary schools are full up. People will vote for the change that we have brought.

Have you been able to add any new groups of voters to the present set? Will it help?
This election will throw up a huge surprise. This time you will see a 25-30 per cent increase in voter turnout. That will come from the women. And this vote, this year, will be an independent vote. Our government has given them a sense of security and peace of mind from violence. We have empowered women with 50 per cent reservation in panchayats and the state education sector. Another section that will come out in huge numbers and vote for me is the new generation of Bihar. The young in Bihar has found a connect with the outside world. They are forward-looking and know that they have a glorious past and the time has come to restore it. This never happened in Laloo’s time.

Prevent the Ayodhya verdict from hampering Bihar's growth

As Biharis start voting for the assembly elections this week, I hope and pray that the Ayodhya verdict is not able to slow down or completely stop the progress of Bihar.

I was going through an Outlook India article which said "Nitish seemed well placed to retain power before the Ayodhya verdict. Now it no longer looks a cakewalk." It signifies that before the Ayodhya verdict, Development would win in Bihar... but now with the Ayodhya verdict, Development is taking a back seat with many voters giving more weightage to the Ayodhya decision.

However my belief and the belief of many people is that the Ayodhya verdict should not be allowed to make our voting decisions and determine whom we should vote for. Rather vote for the development of Bihar. Ayodhya verdict doesn't change people's situation in Bihar either ways. Ayodhya doesn't provide a livelyhood to the people of Bihar nor does it change the views of people outside Bihar in they way they look at Biharis. The only way the people who laugh at Biharis will stop doing so and respect each and every Bihari is if Bihar develops. The very same people who ill treated Biharis or raised slogals against them or even bashed hardworking Biharis will want to partner with Bihar if Bihar continues on the accelerated growth path it has been on in the last 5 years.

What we don't need is a Chief Minister who used social justice as his rallying point and presided over a kingdom of unsafe streets, endemic poverty and the kidnapping industry (The Bihar Glossary). What we need is a growth story presided over by a CEO-style chief minister in tune with the new economy, a re-made landscape where the roads are smooth and the mind is without fear (The Bihar Glossary).

Vandita Mishra has in a very matter of fact way echoed the above in the first two paragraphs of her article "The Bihar Glossary" in the Indian Express.

Can people who read this post and can influence those sections of Bihar who view the Ayodhya verdict as bigger than the development in Bihar, come forward and exert their influence and educate people to put Bihar's development ahead everything else?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What if the current ruling party looses elections

As I read various news articles on the election fever in Bihar, one thought comes to my mind... What if, what if the current ruling party looses the elections and the party that ruled for 15 years comes back.

In the next 5 years time there are various possibilities, but going by historical data this could be a highly likely outcome:
  1. Roads: We will have roads that get washed away in the rain, that is , if any roads are constructed at all
  2. GDP: Bihar's GDP will remain the same, if it does not contract
  3. State Budget: There will be no budget prepared for Bihar. Every expense will be taken case to case by going through a Vote on account. Result - No budget for development and thus no development in Bihar.
  4. Investments: Investments that have risen from 26 crores 5 years back to more than 1000 crores in Bihar, will go back to 26 crores or lesser. Industrialists who have been watching the election keenly will decide not to invest in Bihar because:
    1. Fear of the law and order returning to the state it existed prior 2005
    2. Criminals / Politicians with criminal backgrounds will have no checks and hence create chaos
    3. The environment will not remain conducive for investments.
    4. And big bucks would be required to grease the palms of these politicians to get things moving
  5. Kidnapping: Instances of kidnapping will go up. Kidnapping will become the main industry again. After all it achieves multiple things, significantly the politicians make money for each kidnapping and secondly people start living in fear again thus strengthening their rule.
  6. Criminals run free: Politicians and criminals who have been convicted in the last 5 years, will appeal and win those appeals and be set free. So people will again have to live with the scare and vengeance of the likes of Shahabuddin.
  7. Hospitals and Primary health care centers: Will go back to same condition that existed before
    1. No Doctors present in the hospital
    2. If Doctors are present they will see patients privately after the patients pay their private fees
    3. Medicines will evaporate and be found and sold in pharmacies privately
    4. The child deliveries that had gone up multifold will be back to old levels creating more child deaths and health problems
  8. Overturning of many developmental decisions: Many developmental decisions will be overturned. Afterall Lallu was the one who said that Bihar doesn't need IT.
  9. Reducing spend on education: An educated Bihar will not vote for politicians who do not work for Bihar's development. So why will the politicians educate the people at all. Rather they will remove investments in schools, teachers , etc.
  10. Below poverty line: 42% of Biharis live under the poverty line. This number will again start soaring.
  11. Multiple Dy Chief Ministers: So all of Ram Vilas Paswan's family members will be Dy Chief Ministers and same would be the case with Lallu. But to appease the Muslim and other minority community voters, they will make an equal number of Dy. Chief Ministers from various minority communities. Thus Bihar will only have a Chief Minister and a battalion of Dy Chief Ministers. Everyone will be a Chief Minister or a Deputy.
Well the last point might just be there for giving a good laugh, but the writing on the wall is clear... the state will head southwards (negative growth, etc, etc) if the people get swayed by the commitments of the likes of Lallu, Ram Vilas Paswan and others (including Congress) which never did any thing for the upliftment of the state collectively or the minority community individually.

Politicians can be shameful. Some promise free motorbikes  and some promise 5 litres of kerosene free: Where do these politicians think they will get the money for these commitments? From their own wealth ??? or burden the people of the state by diverting money earmarked for development of Bihar to fulfilling the commitments these politicians are making now (assuming that they will really fulfill the commitments).

Hence I appeal to the people not to get swayed by caste, community, Ayodhya, promises made, etc but to keep the past performance of the politicians and the development of Bihar in their minds when casting their important votes in this most important election in Bihar.

Make Bihar a winner.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Will caste politics have a bigger say over development?

    This has been the case with Bihar time and again. Most political battles in Bihar were fought on caste lines. This was probably the first time in ages that Development was to be the main plank for winning the election, but the Ayodhya verdict has a possibility of derailing "Development" from being the main poll plank.

    Political parties, who would not have won the elections, if people just thought of development, will now try to make Ayodhya a main issue and divide people around caste and communal lines.

    I hope people can overcome these challenging times, look above the caste and communal lines, and vote for the development of Bihar. In the past 5 years, people have seen things change and I hope the changes are enough to convince the people of Bihar to take the right decisions. May we all vote for Bihar's Development.

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