Nitish Kumar begins with much goodwill

Bihar, it looks like breathing free after a long time. It is the poorest state and also the most problematic. The social inequalities and inequities have been much commented upon. The Naxalites hold and the role of the Ranvir Sena are the two faces of rural violence and also the breakdown of the rule of law. Who led or contributed to this anarchy is a complicated question. Lalu Prasad Yadav himself, single-handedly can’t be held responsible.

Now, in the Lok Sabha, the Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav, a close Lalu confident but otherwise one of the saner faces, had revealed how in Bihar for some9,956 rural habitations have no roads to the length of 9,295 km and for all the tenders for laying roads no one comes forward to bid! This is strange considering in other states, there is a new army of bidders, the new political party functionaries who routinely bid for such government contracts and make money through these government contracts. In Bihar, perhaps such political functionaries or even the traditional bidders have learnt to make money in more easy ways. One is not surprised. Bihar politics has record number of criminals and those who can’t be touched by the arm of law for fear of reprisals.

So, Nitish Kumar’s new regime comes for lot of attention. He had cultivated the bureaucrats and sought the help of Bihar bureaucrats based in New Delhi for their co-operation. This, observers say, hadn’t happened for the last 15-20 years! Development vs. law and order is the new challenge, observers say. Says Dr.Shaibal Gupta of the Patna based Asian Development Research Institute “It is too early to say what the new CM would achieve. But what one can say is the new CM is making a difference. After years of absence of governance we have an authentic CM who functions from the Secretariat and looks at files and other aspects of governance-something Rabri Devi did not do. It is good to have a CM who comes to the Secretariat at 9 a.m. and works there till late in the evening”. Further he says: “It is good for Bihar to have a CM after almost eight years, a CM who is firmly in saddle and who can analyse the State’s affairs himself without having to depend on anybody else.”Nitish Kumar is an engineer and an idealist and his past track record shows he is a capable administrator and who has no penchant for cheap populism and the sort of indulgences to which his predecessors had given themselves to. This is for instance not much chance for dynastic politics the sort that the RJD and the Congress had sold themselves to with such disastrous outcome!

Bihar, along with UP, are dragging down the development scale of Indian economic progress. Bihar has 42 per cent of people living below the poverty line, as against just the 26 per cent BPL that had been reached by the rest of India.

There are several projections for growth in Bihar but every expert seems to agree that if Bihar is to grow and catch up with the rest of India, then Bihar’s economy must grow as high as 15 per cent for the next 15 years. A tall order indeed! According to Dr.Gupta’s ADRI studies for the 12th Finance Commission, the amount for Bihar’s development would come to an outlay of Rs.38,000 crores to be spent each year in the State both in the public and private domains. “Where is the money of this magnitude to come from?”

One common story is that under Lalu, the very authority of the bureaucracy was underminded; Lalu would give direct orders to the lower level officials, bypassing the SP and DSP or even give orders even to such lower level daroga! All this must end now, hopefully.The buzz now in the bureaucracy is that Nitish has promised the police a free hand and no political interference. Provided, the police force gives an honest and effective job. Here again, the challenges are too many. The state’s bureaucracy is not known for their honesty or uprightness. There had been much corrosion. Very much like elsewhere even in the advanced states like TN.But one clean politician at the helm, there could be dramatic changes. As there were in Karnataka and AP under dynamic CMs like Krishna and Naidu. They made these states internationally recognised. So, if Nitish Kumar takes some lessons from the other states he too can turn around Bihar with its hoary past for glory. A new glory, a new opportunity awaits the people of Bihar. All good luck to the people of Bihar.

“It is too early to say what the new CM would achieve. But what one can say is the new CM is making a difference. After years of absence of governance we have an authentic CM who functions from the Secretariat and looks at files and other aspects of governance-something Rabri Devi did not do. It is good to have a CM who comes to the Secretariat at 9 a.m. and works there till late in the evening”.

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