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8/9/2019 Bihar a Growth Story
SPECIAL REPORT 19SUNDAY TIMES OF INDIA, BANGALOREJANUARY10, 2010
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R oads as smooth as Hema Mali-nis cheeks was a promise thatLalu Yadav had once given to the
people of Bihar. Ironically, it is hisrival Nitish Kumar who seems tobe delivering on that front. De-
spite three years of floods followed by a yearof drought, backward and benightedBiharreports a miraculous figure:11% GDP growth,second only to Gujarat. The states economyhas never grown so fast so consistently as ithas since 2004-2005. A few pointers on whatsgoing right in Bihar:G Getting anywhere in Bihar has always beenan exercise in endurance. But thats chang-ing. More than 6,800 km of roads have beenrelaid and 1,600 bridges and culverts con-structed in the last four years.Journey timein Indias 12th largest state, sprawling over94,163 sq km, has been cut by half today inmany places. Now, most of the states 38 dis-tricts from northernmost West Champaranto Kaimur on the western end are a driveof six hours or less from Patna.G Automobile sales in the state grew 45% in2009,at a time when sales had dipped 20-25%in several other states during the economicslowdown. Is this buying spree an indicationthat a section of Biharis have more money to
splurge than they did earlier? A few peoplehad money earlier too, but they didnt flauntit for fear of attracting extortionists and kid-nappers,says Ranjit Singh,director of a high-end Patna hotel. That fear may have evapo-rated now.G Only 317 kidnappings for ransom were re-ported during the last four years as against1,393 during the previous four. The kidnap-ping industry has clearly fallen on hard times.One indication of this is that doctors no longerrefuse to go to patientshomes on emergencycalls. Today you can see boards at clinics say-ing we go on calls, says Dr Amulya KumarSingh, who runs a nursing home in Patna.G Most of Bihars infamous dons are behindbars. That includes Mohd Shahabuddin,theformer RJD MP who had once gone live on TV,daring the state police chief to arrest him.Things are a little different now. A ruling JD(U)MLA, Sunil Pandey, attempted an encore of sorts in early 2006 when he brandished a re-volver and talked murder on TV. But Pandeyfound himself behind bars within no time.Speedy trials have ensured a total of 38,824convictions between 2006 and September2009.The convicts included dons and theirhenchmen.G Gun-toting strongmen are no longer a com-mon sight on the streets of Bihar. Policemenpatrol them now. And places like Siwan, whereShahabuddin once held sway, do not get de-serted after dusk.
This improvement has shown results.Malls, shops and private educational institu-tions are coming up.So are mobile serviceproviders and banking firms.Its boom timefor real estate with apartment buildings com-
ing up all around. Thats because even non-Biharis for a change want to have a foot in Bi-har which has become a better place to livein, says economist Shaibal Gupta of theAsian Development Research Institute.AddsFaizal Alam of Kalyanpur Cements,Cementinflow to the state went up 18% to 51 lakhtonnes in 2008-09. Thats an indicator of theconstruction boom.
Ironically, this economic growth has hap-pened without any worthwhile contributionfrom the manufacturing sector. The stateseconomy is growing because of a boom in agri-culture and services sectors.Its government-induced growth, admits Bihar Industries As-sociation (BIA) president S P Sinha. Accord-ing to former BIA president K P S Keshri, pri-vate investments in the manufacturing sectorhave been as little as Rs 1,500 crore during thelast four years.
Many attribute the growth to the fact thatthe flow of Central funds to states has increasedmanifold in recent years.In the case of Bihar,it went up from Rs 37,341 crore during the five-year period 2000-2005 to Rs 55,459 crore duringthe next three years. But equally importantly,
the funds are now getting better utilized thanduring the Lalu-Rabri regime when largechunks remained unspent. Also,adds Gupta,the state made concerted efforts to mobiliseinternal resources with its own revenue col-lection going up from Rs 2,919 crore in 2003-04to Rs 5,256 crore in 2008-09.
The flip side is that much of this growthdoes not get reflected in social indicators whichremain abysmal.But, as Gupta says, it wouldbe unrealistic for anyone to expect the moonat this stage. Right now the fundamentals aregetting corrected and therefore you can findmostly infrastructural indicators of growth;one will have to wait for social indicators tobecome visible,he says.
While contractors and realtors stand togain, more than half the states 8.2 crore peo-ple 1.25 crore families still live below thepoverty line.For these families to prosper,Bi-har desperately needs huge investments andmore growth. The State Investment PromotionBoard,formed by the Nitish government, hasreceived proposals worth Rs 96,000 crore.Butmost of them, especially the major ones, re-main on paper as Central rules prove a stum-bling block.For instance,thermal power plantscannot come up in Bihar because the Centrehas so far refused to provide coal linkages toensure regular supplies to any such new plant.
Also, Bihar has a lot of catching up to dowith the rest of India. There cannot be anycomparison between Gujarat and Bihar, bothof which reportedly grew by over 11%; sinceour base is low, even a small investment re-sults in impressive growth in percentage,Gupta points out. State officials admit that cru-cial sectors like health are still sick with mea-gre resources in comparison to other states.
From its bleak past, Bihar may be finallymoving towards a brighter future,but the com-mon Bihari is not patting himself just yet.Maybe he is still waiting for this high growthto translate into better food on his table andmore money in his pocket.
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Many in Bihar say PratyayAmrits name should beentered into GuinnessWorld Records for helming
a sick corporation which built thehighest number of road bridges in ayear. As Bihar Rajya Pul NirmanNigam's CMD,this 1991-batch IAS of-ficer oversaw completion of 259 ma-
jor bridge projects in three yearssince 2006.In view of its success,thenigam has now been given responsi-bilities like road and hospital con-struction,among other things.Nowwe are out of debt,making handsomeprofits and are also spending croreson philanthropy as part of our CSR(corporate social responsibility), anigam official says.
Pratyay delivered.So have othersin chief minister Nitish KumarsA-team, who were chosen for theircompetence.Earlier as principal sec-retary (finance) and now as develop-ment commissioner, Navin Kumarhas been the chief strategist in fi-nancial matters. Known for his so-briety, the 1975-batch IAS officer isthe man behind the states budgetdrafts and also the all-importantmemorandum to the finance com-mission. He also heads the State In-vestment Planning Board,formed bythe Nitish government to attract in-vestment. The board mobilized pro-posals worth Rs 96,000 crore in justthree years.
R K Singh was the builder duringthe initial years of the Nitish regime.Currently secretary (defence pro-duction) at the Centre,the 1975-batchofficer was the architect of the de-velopment of the states road networkas principal secretary, road con-struction.
Madan Mohan Jha was speciallybrought in from central deputation.As HRD boss, he initiated the moveto recruit over two lakh teachers oncontract.He also conceptualized sev-eral other projects.After his untimelydeath in 2007, Anjani Kumar Singhhas been brought in as HRD princi-pal secretary to complete his unfin-ished work.
While Deepak Kumar managedthe key health department for thefirst three years, Afzal Amanullah'sthree-year tenure as home secretaryis still remembered for the bold ini-tiative to rein in criminals, includ-ing politicians of Nitishs JD(U).The1979-batch officer now looks after ur-ban development.
Anup Mukherjee, as rural devel-opment department head, supervisedimplementation of poverty allevia-tion schemes, including NREGA, andwon accolades for the state even fromthe Centre. The 1974-batch officer,who believes in working quietly, isthe states chief secretary today.
Bureaucrat-turned-MP N K Singhis also an important player in Nitish'steam. Not only does he give ideas tothe CM, but he is also credited withsuccessfully showcasing Bihar in thecountry and abroad.
BACKROOM BOYS: During the Lalu-Rabri regime, a single bureaucratcalled the shots at the CMs office.The change of guard brought a tech-savvy team to manage the affairs.Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, 52, theCMs principal secretary, has beenassociated with Nitish Kumar since1998 when the latter was railway min-ister. Both Nitish and RCP, a 1984-batch IAS officer of UP cadre, arefrom Nalanda and belong to the samecaste. Insiders say Nitish treats RCPlike a family member.
Nitish also banks heavily on S Sid-dharth (1991 batch) and Chanchal Ku-mar (1992 batch). As secretaries tothe CM, they coordinate with prin-cipal secretaries of various depart-ments and oversee implementationof welfare and development pro-grammes. Siddharth, from TamilNadu, is a BTech and has attendedadvanced courses at IIM-Ahmedabad.
Chanchal, an MTech, has also stud-ied micro-finance in the US.Theres a clear division of work.
While Siddharth looks after infra-structure departments like road,building,urban development and en-ergy, Chanchal has been assigned so-cial sector departments like educa-tion, health, social welfare and dis-aster management.
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Who carries you on a rickshawor an autorickshaw in Delhi?Biharis. Who drives the cars of Delhiites? Biharis. Who built
the Delhi Metro? Biharis. (You may notagree with the last one.)
Who is building the new houses and theexpanding suburbs of Delhi? Biharis.Whomade Punjab the most prosperous state inthe country? The answer again is Biharis.(Here too you may not agree.)
The credit for building the Delhi Metroor making Punjab prosperous will never goto Biharis. Does anyone ever say that blacksbuilt America?
In colonial days,Bihar supplied the gir-mitiya , or indentured,labourers who builtcountries like Mauritius, Suriname andFiji. A bulk of the labour employed in theRaj capital of Calcutta came from Bihar. Af-
ter IndependenceBihari workersflocked to placeslike Delhi, Punjaband Mumbai.
At the sametime, Biharis ex-celled in otherfields. Many be-came great politi-cal leaders, ICSand IAS officers,scientists, doctors,engineers,writersand artists. Delhi
and other Indian cities attracted huge white-collar Bihari populations and Biharisformed a large part of the Indian diasporaof professionals.
But in the eyes of the rest of India,Bi-hari had come to mean a labourer, a per-son doing menial jobs.It had become a termof scorn and contempt.In their anglicizedlingo, places like Delhi University turnedthe word into Harry, but the pejorativetone remained unmistakable.
Heaping scorn on the working classesis a universal phenomenon. That is howwords like Negro, Paki (used for Pakista-nis and Indians in Britain) and some of the
words denoting dalit castes in India earnedcontemptuous connotations.In fact, while Biharis were getting their
hands dirty on Punjabs farms, Punjabiswere migrating in hordes to the US, Cana-da, the UK and Australia. Never mind thatthey would take up blue-collar jobs as taxidrivers, petrol pump attendants and wait-ers in those faraway lands.
As the years passed,many of the Bihariswho had come to Punjab or Mumbai as man-ual labourers started moving up the eco-nomic ladder as did the blue-collar Indianemigrants abroad.A usually unnoticed as-pect of the so-called racial attacks againstIndians abroad is the threat the rise of work-ing classes poses to the entrenched socialorder. This accentuates the contempt theyface.From this angle, the attacks on Biharisin Punjab,and Mumbai,and the attacks onIndians abroad are manifestations of thesame phenomenon.
What stopped Biharis from bringingabout a green revolution or building aMetro in Bihar? The answer is geog raphyand history. Geography, because ravaged
by floods, the land of Bihar was unable tofeed its growing population. And history,because what was the centre of the biggestIndian empire in ancient times was re-duced to an obscure provincial existence.The skewed landownership system intro-duced by the British rulers worsened thesituation.Things could have improved af-ter Independence had the political leader-ship of Bihar been able to exert influenceon the rulers in New Delhi to get enoughfunds for development projects and set off
a process of industry in the state.On the contrary,Bihar continued to livethe same,conveniently ignored,provincialexistence.A system built on casteism, nepo-tism, corruption and crime came to domi-nate the state. It spawned a neo-rich classof netas,babus, contractors and govern-ment engineers who would build palatialhouses for themselves with the money
meant for dams,power projects, ration forthe poor or even fodder for cattle.
The money meant for roads and publicamenities would go into their bank accounts.No wonder, the roads in front of those hous-es would be full of ditches and become theplayground of pigs every monsoon.
With limited options of higher educa-tion and hardly any employment opportu-nities in the state,the youth of Bihar start-ed looking out. They flooded places like Del-hi University and Jawaharlal Nehru Uni-versity. They started dominating the coun-trys toughest competitions like the IIT-JEEand the civil services exam. With this suc-cess, Biharis started believing they had thebest brains.The world began to grudging-
ly acknowledge their capabilities.Academic success, however,did not do
much to rid the word Bihariof the scornit had gathered. People in Delhi continuedto laugh at those who spoke with a Bihariaccent.Those without an accent would getthis compliment: Oh,you are from Bihar?But you dont sound like a Bihari.
Biharis,meanwhile,were retreating intoa shell, with little but the historic glory of Buddha, Mahavira, Chandragupta,Chanakya,Ashoka,Aryabhatta,Guru Gob-
ind Singh and Sher Shah to bask in. Nowcomes 11% growth. The state can recoverfrom the damage it has suffered over hun-dreds of years only if such a high rate of growth can be sustained for many, manyyears. Then Biharis would not have to tillothers' land or build cities and countrieselsewhere.
The writer is proud to be a Bihari
Pride and PrejudiceNitishs A-team: Bihari babus show their mettle
From Basketcase To Booming Economy, Bihar Is On The Mend.Sunday Times Makes A Ground Check
Gun-toting men are no longer acommon sight on the streets.Policemen patrol them now.This change has shown results.Malls, shops, private schoolsand colleges are coming up.Real estate is booming
Those whospeak without
a Bihari accentget thiscompliment:Oh, you arefrom Bihar?But you dontsound like aBihari.
Source: Report of Special TaskForce on Bihar, 2008
POVERTY 54.4% of the population isbelow the poverty line;national average 37.2%
HEALTH32.8% children fullyimmunized; all-India 43.5%55.9% children underweight;national average 42.5%45.1% women underweight,highest in the country;national average 35.6%
AGRICULTURE81% of the populationemployed in agriculture,directly or indirectly2.7% Annual growth inagricultural GDP (1993-2003);all-India growth 2.2%
ROADS70% of the inhabited areasin Bihar are not connected bymotorable roads, which is thehighest in the country
INDUSTRY 3.2% Share of industry ineconomy; all-India 20.1%
POPULATION82.9m Bihars population,growing at more than 2%per annum (2001 census)90% of the population livesin rural areas
LAND HOLDINGS0.75 hectare Average sizeof holdings; national average1.41 hectares82.9% Share of marginalholdings less than 1 hectare
FLOODS68.80 lakhhectares Totalflood- prone area in Bihar,which is 73.06% of its totalarea and 7.2% of the totalflood-prone area in thecountry
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE?The newly constructed Chiraiyatand flyover in Patna
ALL THE CMS MEN
Pratyay AmritBuilt a record259 bridges in
Anup MukherjeeWon accolades
for Bihar onNREGA front
Afzal AmanullahCracked down
on criminals withpolitical links
R C P SinghManages affairs
N K SinghBihars brandambassador
R K SinghKickstarted theroad rebuilding
Chanchal KumarOversees health,
Imaging: Ish Kumar
Photos: K M Sharma