Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bihar - Changing for the better?

Things seem to be changing for the better in one of the states of India where they probably need to change the most. Bihar.

Fifteen years of long rule of Rashtriya Janata Dal is often accused of pushing the state into a state of continuous downward motion. While the state no doubt lost crucial, long years during that period, probably the most unfortunate thing that happened to it was that it came to be looked upon and perceived through the one and only window of Lalu Prasad Yadav; incapable, corrupt and criminal. I remember when I came for my higher educations to Pune in Maharashtra five years back, to my utter surprise, there was this batch mate of mine from Kerala who genuinely wondered if I had seen murders taking place and whether families in my home state kept locally made firearms in their houses.

Fortunately, with the coming in power of the Nitish Kumar government, things have started to change for the better. Not only has Bihar become the first state in the country to accept Right to Information applications over telephone, the state government has also started investing in road, educational and other infrastructures with an state of urgency, apart from organizing meetings with industrialists and Non Resident Biharis in order to convince them to invest in the still unexplored potential of the state. With all this, relatively positive news has started coming out from the state.

A case in point is the issue of India Today dated 7th of July, 2008. The cover story in this issue is titled Pioneers of Change, and talks about fifty entities/individuals picked from all over the country that have not succumbed to the day to day mundane life, but have chosen to do something positive and socially more relevant things for the communities that they live in. And guess what? Out of these fifty stories, three come from the state of Bihar. So while Abhayanand, an Additional DGP, runs a coaching institute and prepares children from poor families for IIT entrance examination completely free of cost in Patna; Prabhat Shandilya has revives more than a dozen abandoned water resources with the help of local youth, in and around the town of Gaya. Three stories out of fifty converts into a healthy 6% for a state with an 8% population share of the whole country. Excellent, I would say, especially considering the fact that there was little, if at all any good news coming out of the state till the very recent past.

Apart from this, it seems, the state has also started to experience the highly needed reverse brain drain. There was this news a week back or two in the national media about one Kaushlendra Prasad, an IIM Ahmedabad graduate choosing not to opt for the placements of the esteemed institute, but instead sell vegetables on modified carts in the streets of Patna to start with, and then take the business nation wide in the years to come. He in fact, has already launched himself in the business and already has a fleet of a hundred or so carts up and running in Patna, the capital city of Bihar. He apparently nurtures a dream of building Brand Bihar and to promote the state as the vegetable basket of the country, and is ready to dedicate the crucial years of his life towards realizing the same. Then again, there is this Dr. Ravi Chandra, a dentist by education and an MBA from the well known Institute of Rural Management Anand, Gujarat, who has also left his well paying job, choosing instead to work with the poor of Bihar in the field of Microfinance through his NGO named Bihar Development Trust. While still struggling to raise more funds, he claims to have been relatively successful and has apparently already disbursed a loan of Rs.10 lakh or so among the poor of Bihar.

While stories like these might not be that important for others, for Bihar they definitely are. After all, it is not very often that people who have gone out of this state return. Can the return of these people be an indication of the things to come in the future? Do they indicate that Bihar is an idea whose time has come and that it will not be too far in the future that the state will rise from its ashes and demand its rightful place in the ranks of the Indian states? Hopefully yes. But then it is a question which probably is answered best when answered by time.

1 comment:

Shatadru Gupta said...

your observations on recent development is indicative of a very positive trend.

i am looking forward to the day when i can explore unhindered and fearlessly the natural beauty of bihar on my bike. till now i have been quite cautious to avoid any route that traverses through the state!