The success story of bihar

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bihar: Rising From the Shadows

CM Nitish Kumar has wrought a remarkable change in Bihar, but for the state to truly come into its own, he needs to go far beyond the quick fixes he has applied so far............

Winds of Change
We are driving from Patna to Munger. This is the first time I have ever travelled on these roads. The two-lane highways are smooth, though for a big city dweller used to eight-lane expressways, they seem narrow and congested. But almost everybody in the state is raving about how roads in Bihar have transformed. “Nitish has changed the condition of the roads completely,” gushes Patna-based Raman Jha who runs Super Travel Agency. In the last five years, his 12-car fleet has expanded to 30. His car rental business has grown 100 percent during the period. Earlier people would avoid roads at night. Not any more, he says. Better law and order conditions have helped. For long distances like Patna to Bhagalpur (250 km), train used to be the best option. Now people prefer roads. Travel time between Patna and Munger has come down from about seven hours to about 4 hours. Even city roads in Munger are well maintained. 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has rated the road work in Bihar as one of the best. “The aim is that within the state you can reach from anywhere to Patna in six hours,” says Pratyay Amrit, CMD, Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam. For example, Sitamarhi to Patna took 12 hours; now it takes just three. “By 2015, we want Bihar roads to be the best in the country,” he says. Amrit is now preparing his company to bid for projects outside the state.

Government hospitals too are changing. In Munger Sadar Hospital, K.C. Singh, civil surgeon and superintendent, can feel it first hand. The hospital once wore a deserted look. Stray dogs roamed freely. “Today, at times we have so many patients that we can’t handle,” Singh says. 

“I come here once in a while. Earlier I wouldn’t have even peeped here,” says Mridula Jha, a retired higher secondary school principal, who lives alone in the city. What’s bringing back the patients is the improved facilities. From note-pads for doctors to ambulances and generators, the government is investing in hospital infrastructure. Hospitals are clean and better staffed with more doctors. At the Munger hospital facilities like x-ray, ultrasound and 15 pathological tests are free. 

It’s a similar story at the Baidyanath Girls High School (IX to XII Standard), Munger. The school had no teachers for many subjects. “No recruitment for 15 years had taken its toll,” says Syeda Parveen, the principal. Out of the 45 teachers that they have today, 30 have been hired on contract. The average class size has come down from 100 to 60 now. The number of girls too has gone up from 500 to 1,400 even as academic results show improvement.

Nitish’s Magic Formula
How has Nitish Kumar managed Bihar’s turnaround? Where the Laloo-RABRI government did nothing — or worsened things — for 15 years, even modest work by Kumar’s government makes him look good. He has picked his battles well. Law and order, roads, healthcare and education — the four big thrust areas, have a broader relevance for the people, cutting across income and social class.
Of course, Kumar has tremendous motivation to deliver. His political career hinges on it. Unlike Laloo Yadav who became complacent, assured of loyal Muslim-Yadav votes (which gave him a 26 percent upfront edge over others), Nitish Kumar has no such loyal support base. Only his work will hold the key to his electoral fortunes, as the state prepares to go for election this year. And he knows it well.

Law and order is perhaps the biggest area of emphasis. The government sent a clear signal that political patronage of criminals has ended. “Bahubalis” (strongmen) like Shahabuddin were tried and jailed. “We monitored selected cases, irrespective of the parties, ensured evidence and speedy trial and punishment. It worked,” says Amir Subhani, home secretary, Bihar government. State policing infrastructure is being beefed up — from recruiting constable, sub inspectors to building police facilities like training academy, police stations (200 are under construction). After being neglected for years, the state’s spend on law and order will touch Rs. 2,006 crore in 2009-10. Lawlessness had scared away many. For example road contractors would simply did not bid for Bihar projects. Under Nitish Kumar, any ransom call or threat was tackled on a war footing, says Amrit. `

2qNitish has picked his team of bureaucrats well. Amrit has overseen completion of 400-plus bridge projects. Once a loss-making state unit with Rs. 300-crore turnover, it is now a profitable enterprise with a turnover of Rs. 2,700 crore. 

Use of technology, outsourcing and smart initiatives have enabled him to scale-up rapidly, improve quality and bring transparency. E-tendering has cut the 60-day process to 21. Smart devices like mobile inspectors — GPRS-enabled mobile phones — helped effective real time project monitoring.
Outsourcing and appointment on contract has been a consistent thread across different departments. It enables the government to do quick scale-up, offer flexibility for course correction and
improve delivery.

Teachers, doctors and even retired policemen have been hired on contract. In hospitals, from generators, diagnostic facilities, X-ray machines, housekeeping, ambulances and even food has been outsourced to third parties who are paid depending on services delivered, with regular monitoring.

A Task Unaccomplished
Bihar is vastly better today than it was five years back. But perhaps it’s still not good enough.
To me, Munger still looks like the city I left in 1989. Power cuts are severe; the city survives on invertors and generators. There’s still just one good private school. While contract appointments in government schools and hospitals have kindled new hopes, private corporate investment is missing. Unemployment is a major problem. While schemes like NREGS may have held back the poor in the villages, the Bihari exodus continues. Malls, multiplexes, restaurants, hotels — the consumerist wave sweeping other parts of the country — are years away. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

From Worst to Near First

How India's most desperate state transformed itself to become a model for the rest of the country.

For centuries, it seems, the northern Indian state of Bihar has been plunging downhill. Once the seat of one of the world's most glorious empires, the state was first devastated by colonial policies that enshrined feudal landlords, then shunned by a succession of Indian governments, and finally riven and destroyed when the seeds of caste and class conflict matured into a small-scale civil war in the 1970s. As the militias of upper-caste landlords clashed with revolutionary guerrillas fighting for the oppressed, and caste-based political agitations threw up a series of incompetent and allegedly corrupt governments, state services ground to a halt, highways disintegrated, bridges crumbled, and career criminals ascended from the back rooms of party offices to take seats in the state legislative assembly, and even the Indian Parliament itself. By the 1990s, brazen and deadly highway robberies put an end to traveling after nightfall, and as business activity plummeted, kidnapping for ransom was declared the state's only growth industry. The so-called Republic of Bihar—viewed as a criminal fiefdom beyond the purview of the government of India—was effectively a failed state. "Institutions had collapsed," says Nand Kishore Singh, a member of the upper house of Parliament. "Law and order had come to a grinding halt."


No irregularities in dept: Excise secy

PATNA: After a long silence and anticipating `hungama’ over the alleged excise scam during the budget session of the state legislature beginning from Monday, excise department secretary Amir Shubhani pooh-poohed the charges levelled by sacked excise minister Jamshed Ashraf, claiming all is well in the department.

The excise secretary said that it was wrong to drag the name of chief minister Nitish Kumar in the episode because as per Bihar Excise Act the files pertaining to the excise department doesn’t go to the CM’s secretariat and is normally disposed of at the minister’s level itself. Only such files which are related to policy matters goes to the cabinet, he said.

“Jamshed Ashraf has levelled false allegation that molasses were purchased on higher rates and sold to distilleries at lower rate which caused huge loss to the state,” Shubhani said, adding the fact of the matter is that purchasing and selling of molasses were beyond the ambit of the excise department.

Shubhani, who is also in-charge of the home department, said there is no question of handing over the charges levelled by Ashraf, to the CBI as there is not even a single transaction in the excise department which showed irregularities. The department rather had earned revenue which no other department could generate, he said.

When asked if everything was well in the department then why was excise commissioner N Vijayalaxmi shifted amidst controversy, Shubhani said, “Transfer is a routine thing and one should not read much into it.”

To a charge levelled by Ashraf that Bihar has a market of mobilizing Rs 2,500 crore, but because of the corrupt practices pursued by the officers at the CM’s secretariat, the excise department could generate only Rs 900 crore, Shubhani said, “I don’t know on what basis he could say that there is a liquor market of Rs 2,500 crore when to date no survey has been conducted.” Shubhani further said, “Hamney hamesha mantri ka adesh mana hai.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bihari youth to develop course curriculum for US varsities

PATNA: A linguist, M J Warsi, currently teaching in the department of Asian and Eastern Languages and Literatures, Washington University, has been assigned to develop course curriculum of South Asian languages, particularly Hindi and Urdu for US universities.

Warsi hailing from Kusheshwar Sthan village in Darbhanga district has been given a grant of US $ 25000 to develop course curriculum funded by a grant from the US department of education's International Education and Graduate Programme Service.

"The project would be completed latest by August this year. The course design would be based on communicative method which is very modern and scientific way of teaching languages and linguistic courses," he told TOI from Washington.

"I belong to a place in Bihar, where there in no electricity, road and safe drinking water. Being a proud Bihari, I am fortunate to get important assignment to design course curriculum for the best universities of US," he said.

A gold medalist from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and a West Bengal Urdu Academy award holder, Warsi has also authored many books to make people understand the efficacy of common contact with regard to languages and culture.

Besides his academic commitment, Warsi has also been very actively involved with the community on the campus. He has been described as an "unsung hero" by the students of Berkeley University for his "extraordinary contribution" to academic and personal matters.

He has been chosen as a role model by undergraduates of the Berkeley-based university in a survey conducted to identify those staff persons who went beyond their duty to assist students in academic and personal matters.

Warsi's journey has been a long and tumultuous one marked by obstacles, dedication and tremendous courage in the face of great adversities. He has to his credit 23 papers and five books, besides many articles.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Irfan to gift Obama litti-chokka

BEGUSARAI: Bihar's famous snack litti-chokha will soon find place on the plate of US President Barack Obama. A day after his meeting in Patna with the US ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer, bihar's own Irfan Alam who has been invited to the Entrepreneurship Summit called by Obama told TOI on phone that he would carry a tin of freshly baked litti with dry chokha besides a model of his rickshaw to hand over to President Obama at the White House in April this year.

Irfan, who hails from Begusarai and even graduated from the local G D College, said: "I have already conveyed my decision in this regard to the US envoy when he asked me what I would like to present the US President when I meet him during my US visit," Irfan said.

Irfan said the dry littis will have the provision to be soaked in the ghee.

"In fact, I'll like to carry a large tin of littis so that others may also get the taste of this famed Bihari delicacy," he added.

Irfan said he has gifted a model of his rickshaw to the US envoy which the latter assured would be put on display at the US Embassy in New Delhi. Irfan termed his propsed meeting with the US President as "unique" as he will represent of one of the most socially and economically backward sections of the world, while Obama is the President of the world's most powerful nation.

The Bihari enlightenment

One of the more unlikely case studies offered by Harvard Business School describes the turnaround of Indian Railways under Lalu Prasad Yadav, a shrewd, roguish politician who ruled Bihar, India’s most depressed and unruly state, for 15 years. His predecessor at the railways, Nitish Kumar, now leads Bihar. He may one day draw similar interest from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, for rarely has a failed state escaped political bankruptcy so fast.

With a population bigger than Germany’s, Bihar still suffers from potholed roads, indolent teachers, apathetic officials, insurgent Maoists, devastating floods, shortages of power, skewed landholdings, caste resentments and an income per head that is only 40 per cent of India’s as a whole. And yet, bad as that may sound, Bihar is far better today than it was in November 2005, when Mr Kumar came to power.

Today Bihar has pot-holes, where formerly it didn’t have roads. Businessmen grumble that they cannot raise money to invest in the state, whereas before they spirited their capital out of it. People complain that Mr Kumar’s government has fallen short of its ambitious development plans. But at least it has ambitions. Mr Yadav did not offer development. At best, he promised izzat, or self-respect, to downtrodden castes, who once voted as their landlords demanded, and later enjoyed picking someone their “superiors” could not abide.

How has Mr Kumar pulled off this transformation? He first imposed law and order, restoring the state to its role as night-watchman rather than rogue. He has put several gangsters — the sort of people who in the past became heroes — behind bars. He demanded speedy trials, where formerly defendants could intimidate witnesses and drag out proceedings. He has ensured that convicted criminals no longer get lucrative licences for liquor stores and ration shops, which sell subsidised food and fuel. And just as police reformers in America fixed broken windows, Mr Kumar’s police improved perceptions of safety by forcing Bihar’s many gun-owners to conceal their weapons, rather than brandishing them out of their cars.

People now feel confident enough to buy cars and go out after dark. The economy, always volatile, has grown at double-digit rates, on average, since he took power, partly thanks to funds from Delhi. He built over 2,400km of roads last year. In Bihar’s villages, posters advertising immunisation compete with adverts offering cheap mobile-phone calls.

Thanks. Now what?

The policies Mr Kumar has pursued so far have broad appeal. After the national elections in May 2009, a survey found that 88 per cent of people were at least somewhat satisfied with the state government’s work. His second act will be trickier. He has shied away from land reform, which is both fiendishly complex and deeply unnerving to the upper-caste landowners included in his coalition. And to overcome what one minister describes as a “crisis of implementation” — teachers who don’t teach, nurses who don’t nurse, roads built but not maintained, funds received but not spent — he will have to overcome the most obdurate caste of all: the local bureaucracy.

More than the floods that frequently test Bihar’s embankments, local officials fear the rising expectations of people who no longer meekly accept their lot in life. Their instinct is to contain the waters by discouraging such self-assertion. But it is only by giving people their say, by turning unmet need into a political demand, that the state apparatus will begin to do its job. Mr Kumar must win re-election before the year is out. The biggest risk to him may be the rising expectations of his constituents. But that is also the measure of his success.

Monday, February 01, 2010

UP and Bihar India's top two IAS churners

Uttar Pradesh may still be reigning supreme as far as recruitment to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is concerned, but Bihar has emerged a not- so-surprising second, leaving civil services nurseries such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh far behind.

The latest personnel ministry figures for 4,443 IAS officers show that while 671 (15 per cent) of them are domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar contributes 419 (9.4 per cent) officers to the service.

Most of these bureaucrats are working outside their home states, and that is expected under the recruitment rules of the IAS, an all- India service.

Although the figures include names of state service officers promoted to the IAS towards the end of their tenure, the data convincingly shows that bureaucracy continues to be a major draw for the youth from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The total number of IAS officers in the country is more than 5,500.

Tamil Nadu ranks third with 290 officers, 129 less than Bihar, while Andhra Pradesh occupies the fourth slot with 269, followed by Delhi ( 233), Rajasthan (233), Punjab (228), Maharashtra (222), Haryana (158) and Madhya Pradesh (152).

" While Uttar Pradesh has always been on top, the swell in numbers from Bihar is mainly because of the absence of other career options in the state. In the underdeveloped Bihar, government service has always enjoyed a premium," a senior IAS officer from Bihar said.

" Bureaucracy, just as other top- notch competitive exams such as IIT- JEE, is an easy and legitimate way to gain social mobility and recognition in Bihar, a state which still carries remnants of its feudal past. Tamil Nadu has seen a rapid expansion of the private sector while youth in businessoriented Gujarat prefer nongovernment options quite early in their life," he added.

The observation is not off the mark because only 76 IAS officers are domiciled in a state such as Gujarat while ' tiny' Kerala has contributed By Ashish Sinha in New Delhi UP and India's top IAS churners 143 bureaucrats to the pack and the Left Front- ruled West Bengal accounts for only 117.

The Bengal youth used to opt for civil services in good numbers before Independence and the years immediately after, but the numbers have diminished over the years.

Besides the Hindi heartland, the sheen of the civil services has grown in other north Indian states as well. The number of IAS officers domiciled in agrarian states of Punjab and Haryana is 228 and 158. While a relatively larger Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh account for only 150 and 152 officers respectively.

Delhi is another interesting case. The number of IAS officers domiciled in the national capital is an impressive 233.

" This is expected because parents of a large number of aspiring civil servants are based in Delhi. Most of them are already in government service. Delhi also happens to be the education hub of the north," an official posted with the Union Public Service Commission said.

Experts say that 27 per cent reservation for the other backward classes ( OBCs), which was implemented in the early 1990s, has also made a qualitative difference to the recruitment trend. For instance, the number of OBC entrants to the civil services has been going up in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The benefit of reservation for the scheduled tribes ( STs) is more remarkable in Rajasthan, which has seen a good number of Meenas joining the IAS. Candidates from the North- East have also made good use of the ST quota. Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland have contributed more than 20 officers

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Govt to promote ‘Bihar Gaurav’ with Oscar films

PATNA: By common knowledge, improvisation has never been the part of normally stiff-necked bureaucrats when handling matters related to art and cultural affairs. For a change, however, the state government and its information and public relations department (IPRD) have shown resilience in their bid to sing songs of `Bihar Gaurav (Bihar Pride)’ under Nitish Kumar regime.

The IPRD has decided to go for packaging its propaganda products with an Oscar film. As it is, the IPRD, in collaboration with Cine Society, has come out with the project of screening `Bihar Gaurav (Bihar Pride)’ documentaries on the state by coupling it with the screening of an Oscar film every week in February. In fact, the month would be celebrated as Oscar Month.

In other words, it would be a combo show, when the audience would have the opportunity to watch a documentary on Bihar, and at the same time, subsequently they would also enjoy the screening of an Oscar film. The event would be held every Saturday in the auditorium of Lok Nayak Bhawan.

As a prelude to it, a show was organized on Sunday in which a department’s documentary titled `Bihar Gaurav Gaan’ was screened, followed by the screening of a Shyam Benegal directed film `The Making of the Mahatma’. IPRD minister Ramnath Thakur inaugurated it.

According to an IPRD communique, during the screening of Bihar Gaurav documentary and an Oscar film every Saturday in keeping with the month-long project, the department would not charge any fee. The audience, however, would get the entry into the Bhawan auditorium to occupy the seats on the first come first serve basis.

It is not the first time that the department has shown interest in cinema. Earlier, the department had organized week-long film-screening programme by coupling it with a course in film making, direction and cinema criticism.

This time, however, February as the Oscar Month has seemingly been conceived to also inject and infuse the sense of `Bihar pride’ among lucky viewers. An IPRD improvisation could really prove to be interesting for both the amateur and professional cine enthusiasts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bihar Special Court Bill approved by Centre: Nitish


Patna, Jan 26 (PTI) The Centre has approved the Bihar Special Court Bill 2008, aimed at weeding out corruption in public offices in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today.

"The Centre has given its assent to the bill which was passed by the state legislature and sent for approval in March 2009 after repeated reminders... I received an intimation that the Centre has now okayed it a couple of days ago," he said here.

Kumar said he had taken up the issue with Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily during his visit to New Delhi in October.

The bill empowers agencies probing corruption cases to confiscate assets of public servants if they are found to be disproportionate.

Kumar said he has decided to use the palatial buildings owned by corrupt public servants as schools.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'Bihar's factory output races to match India's pace'

Laggard state of Bihar seems to have caught up with the rest of India as it clocked 14.80 per cent growth in factory output in 2007-08, marginally less than the country's rate of 15.24 per cent.

"Bihar is doing well," Ashish Kumar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) said releasing summary of Annual Survey of Industries 2007-08, the volume of which would be out within a month.

The survey conducted by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and National Sample Survey Organisation under MOSPI provides information on factories, and bidi and cigar units across India. State-wise details are expected in the volume.

"Bihar's total factory output was 14.80 per cent and total employees grew by 10.02 per cent in 2007-08 over 2006-07," Kumar said, adding that India's factory output during the year grew by 15.24 per cent.

Recently, Bihar had hit the headlines as a CSO data showed the state clocking an astonishing 11.03 per cent growth per year during 2004-05 and 2008-09 second only to Gujarat at 11.05 per cent, when the country grew at 8.49 per cent.

According to the ASI 2007-08, the highest number of working factories was in Tamil Nadu (14.37 per cent) followed by Maharashtra (12.50 per cent).

Maharashtra had the highest invested capital at 16.78 per cent followed by Gujarat at 16.37 per cent and Tamil Nadu at 10.12 per cent, it said