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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nitish Kumar Government's Report Card for 2011

As with the last few years, Nitish Kumar will come out with a report card on November 27th on the performance of the Bihar government in the last one year after it assumed office for the 2nd term.

It will be interesting to read the report card this year to understand whats changed. There was a lot of meat in the first 2 report cards which common people like  you and me could relate too like improvements in health statistics, etc and so it will be worth the wait to see what the government tables in the report this year.

Some expectations is that the report will focus on the government anti - corruption statistics and will play strongly on the cases like the conversion of a siezed property into a school, etc. It will be worth the while to wait and see the report on the success of anticorruption activities. I remember reading a Times of India article in 2005 which summarized that Bihar was the most corrupt state in India followed by Bihar. I want to see if there is a change in these statistics. I want to see more officials become honest and leaving corruption behind. This will ultimately benefit all Biharis.

But beyond anti-corruption and successes around it, I would really like to see what has been achieved in the areas of agriculture, services and industrialization and what is the plan to accelerate the developments in these areas. Hoping for some renewed rounds of fireworks in the first year of the 2nd innings of Mr. Nitish Kumar at the helm. After all many of us believed and have put faith in Nitish Kumarji's leadership.

Floods in Bihar - What is the solution

Year on Year we keep hearing that Bihar is either suffering from Drought or from floods. More often than not, some part of Bihar goes through a drought situation , while other areas experience floods and that too at the same time. In all situations it is the people who suffer, it is the people who die.

This year again floods came calling: Read The Times of India article from 26th August 2011 - Floods hit thousands in Bihar, UP.  Or the more recent articles Floods in 6 Bihar districts still grim, govt sounds red alert and Flood situation worsens in Bihar.

And then I read an article on BRF (Bihar Revival Forum) that has been trying to garner support for a Canal proposal that will not only ease the flood problems of the people affected by the floods , but at the same time help in improving agriculture in other drought affected areas of Bihar (Read: BRF moots simple plan to check flood in north Bihar). Not only that, as per the plan put together by the BRF, the same water in the canal can be used for generating hydroelectric power. They have reached out to many people for support like ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and senior BJP leader L K Advani but have not been very successful.

This prompted me to read more about the flood situation in Bihar and the findings are mind-boggling:
  1. 76% population of North Bihar remains in recurring threat of floods
  2. 16.5% of India's total flood affected area is in Bihar
  3. 22.1% of the flood affected people in India stay in Bihar
  4. 73.06% of the total area of Bihar is flood affected
I knew that floods were a major problem but just realized the magnitude after really doing the research. So the question that comes to my mind is "Why haven't successive state of central government done anything about the flood situation in Bihar?"

The number of people affected by floods is the highest in Bihar,  Poverty is the highest in Bihar: I would think this to be a no brainer - Do something to reduce the floods, channelize the water to other drought affected areas and use it as a multipronged tool for the prosperity and well being of the people of Bihar. This will not only ease the problems of the people affected by floods, it will also help them and the people from the other areas who will benefit from channelized flood water for irrigation, prosper. Bihar is an agricultural economy with 70% of the people or more engaged in agriculture and therefore I would think that building a canal should have been taken at the highest priority... . After all one of key reasons for Punjab and Punjabis in Punjab to prosper is that they put in a canal system in place and that led to a green revolution of sorts in Punjab.

The estimated spend by BRF for their proposal has been pegged at Rs. 600 crores by them but the Bihar government estimated it more like Rs. 6000 crores. I would guess Rs. 600 crores mooted by BRF would be the cost of labor and material for building the canal and not included the estimates for land acquisition, project management, government approvals or not factored in some other costs. But either ways looks like the cost will be anywhere from Rs. 600 crores to Rs. 6000 crores.

The canal should be built even if it means spending Rs. 6000 crores or even Rs. 10,000 crores.This amount is way smaller than the amounts that some ministers and government officials are supposed to have made in the recent time in scams like 2G etc. And afterall it will help give a better life to the people of Bihar which will also benefit people across India. With better life in Bihar, there will be lesser people who will migrate out in search of a job or better living conditions and therefore it will reduce the kind of backlashes like the one the Bihari people faced at the hands of the likes of Raj Thackeray's MNS.

So what is the government waiting for? Industries are still not coming to Bihar at the scale that is required. We keep talking about water for running the Thermal plants and that we are not being allowed to use the water from Ganga for it... Why do we need water from Ganga... Let's spend on building a Canal system and perhaps the flood waters will themselves help run our Thermal power plants. Maybe with better electricity and availability of water, more industrial houses would be willing to set up shop in Bihar.

I see a lot of benefits from being able to channelize the flood waters for better use which benefits everyone. I hope the government also realizes this and does not delay any further on taking tangible actions on this at the earliest.

Source of data for Flood statistics - Flood Management Information System of Bihar

Friday, September 16, 2011

More rural roads in Bihar

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, the Union minister for rural development, has approved a plan to build a network of roads in Rural Bihar which will cover all the rural roads necessary to provide basic access to all habitations in Bihar. This is good news as now everyone will be connected to City and district headquaters and can start reaping benefits from the improvement in infrastructure and law and order in the state. These roads will also boost development activities in the tribal areas including the Maoist affected areas .

The roads will be built on under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana which aims to provide all-weather road connectivity in rural India.

The other advantage of these roads is that this new investments will continue to help Bihar's GDP growth in the near future.

More details can be found out in the Live Mint article Ramesh clears rural roads plan for Bihar

Metro rail in Patna

More good news for people living in Patna. The decks have been cleared to start Metro rail in Patna after the planning commission gave a go head. The Metro rail will run on two routes and the likely routes are
  1. Dak bunglow Square to Saguna Morh and
  2. Danapur to Patna city
This is good news as there are better chances of services industry like IT, BPO, etc to come and set up show in Patna since the commuting infrastructure in and around Patna would be greatly improved.

More details can be found in the Economic Times article "Metro rail to arrive in Patna"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

US Congressional Report - Nitish Kumar highlighted

Many of you would have read about the US Congressional report, that talks about India's domestic issues, strategic dynamics and US relations. This article has highlighted and appreciated Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar for their achievements in their respective states. (Its a different matter that people are playing politics around these reports).

However these are good achievements for both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar for getting recognized by the most powerful nation in today's times.

This is what has been said of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar:
  1. Narendra Modi  
    • Provided effective governance and impressive development, Streamlined economic processes, removed red tape and curtailed corruption in ways that have made the state a key driver for national economic growth.
  2.  Nitish Kumar
    • Successful in emphasizing good governance over caste-based politics, credited with restoring law and order across much of the state, as well as overseeing infrastructure and educational improvements of direct benefit to common citizens projects.
The report also highlights how Mayawati is taking a leaf out of Modi's and Nitish's good work to focus on development in U.P.

 This is a good recognition for both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar and I wanted to highlight Mr. Nitish Kumar's recognition to all those who have missed reading about it in the news. Good work Nitish Ji and Modi Ji.

The report goes on to highlight other states and issues, bilateral issues between various countries, the Kashmir problem, US - India collaboration, etc. Its a good article to read and the actual report can be found here: India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations. Read when you get time or when  you have time to spare.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Child marriages in Bihar : The highest in India

A state which was at the pinnacle of education, seat of learning , etc should have the highest child marriages in India, should have surprised any rationale human. But knowing the state of affairs in Bihar over the last so many decades, many of us will not be surprised to hear that 68.9% of marriages in Bihar are child marriages.

As per Unicef,  Bihar has the highest percentage of child marriages in India with 68.9 % of the marriages in the state involving girls below the marriageable age of 18. Bihar is followed by Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The percentages are below:

Percentage of Child marriages
Andhra Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal

Now that we have made significant progress in the last 6 years in Bihar, it is time to focus on social issues too. Hopefully with the focus on improving the state of education in Bihar, we will see these numbers come down in the next 5-10 years. In parallel, the social welfare minister of Bihar has a stupendous task cut out: To create awareness against the pitfalls of child marriages. Some of the questions that come to my mind are
  1. Is there a focus to educate the people on the pitfalls of child marriages?
  2. How effective are these programs?
  3. What more can be done?
  4. How can people like us help?
Indian legislation banned child marriage in 1929 and enforced it with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 making it illegal for girls to marry below age 18 and for boys below 21 years. Child marriage is an offense punishable with a fine up to Rs. 100,000 (One lakh) or  up to two years of imprisonment or both. Few get prosecuted, however.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bihar's fight against corruption

It was a good day in Bihar. Bihar's fight saw a first , probably the first in India. The palatial house of an officer of the state who was found to be corrupt, has been converted into a school. A school in the neighbourhood that did not have a proper school building has started operating from this building.

Great start to the fight against corruption. I hope it only gathers further momentum.

(Photograph courtsey - The Hindu)

More details can be found in the article from The Hindu: Suspended IAS officer's mansion becomes a school

11th five year Plan - Bihar exceeds GSDP Growth target in the 1st four years

Everyone who has been following Bihar and its growth would know that Bihar's GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) growth as of last year stood above 11% for the first 3 years of the 11th five year plan (2007-12). This made a lot of news and prompted many debates in and around March last year.

Booming Bihar: Fact or Fiction? - Article by R. Nagaraj  (Mar 2010)
Bihar - A Growth Story - TOI - Mumbai Edition (Jan 2010)
People were skeptical whether the growth story will continue and it has, atleast this year. The GSDP for Bihar for the 1st 4 years of the 11th five year plan stands at 11.44% against the plan target of 7.6%. This is good and I believe that a similar sustained growth over the next 5 years will ensure that the growth pattern in Bihar will have its own trajectory and that the state's situation cannot be turned back to the 1990's and early 2000's era.

Besides Bihar, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, UP and Punjab also exceeded their set targets.

Target (%)
Achieved (%)
Uttar Pradesh6.17.28

More details can be found in the MoneyControl article Only 5 states exceed 11th Plan growth targets: Govt

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rampant copying in Bihar exams

Zee TV carried out a coverage of exams in Bihar in Mar 2010 which shows that coping is rampant in exams in Bihar.

I would like to think that things would have gotten better in the last 1.5 years and the education ministry would have taken steps to reduce copying in Bihar after the news was captured and flashed across India.

However, I just posted another article which showed the quality of education in Bihar. Looking in conjunction with what we see in the embedded youtube video of the Zee TV coverage, there is a lot of work that has to be done in the education system of Bihar.

The education minister / HRD minister of Bihar, has a lot of work cut out for him. The future of Bihar is in the hands of the Education (HRD) Minister and the Education (HRD) Ministry. Are they listening?

State of Education in Bihar

There was a time not long ago, about 5-6 years back when Bihar had an acute shortage of school teachers. There was a shortage of more than two lakh (2 Lakh) teachers, more like two and a half lakh (2.5 Lakh) teachers. So many teachers were required because the vacant positions had not been filled in mnay years.

The current government took an initiative to appoint two lakh school teachers. Hiring two lakh teachers at a shot meant that many untrained but educated youths got a change to become teachers. It also reduced crime on the streets as the unemployed educated youths got a change to give up street crime which not only let them make a decent recurring salary but also take up the noble profession of teaching.

However with the good, there were some problems too. Many of these teachers did not have teaching skills. Besides, corruption being present, many unqualified people became teachers over qualified ones. Here is an example of the state of teaching, specially in the rural areas:

Is this representative of the total education system in Bihar? - I do not know. However this is indicative of what has to be done. The first step was taken and well received by everyone who cared a dime about Bihar. But  that was in the past and not good enough now. The Education department , ministry and everyone concerned have to take steps to improve the quality of learning being imparted to the students. Only then Bihar will continue to become more competitive and the students will not face ridicule when when venture outside Bihar for higher education, jobs, etc. Imagine the kind of ridicule the students from this video will face when they venture outside Bihar and spell MONDAY as MANDE or APPLE as APIL.

Do we want our children to continue facing the ridicule that many amongst us from Bihar have faced all over India?

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