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Nitish Kumar: The man behind resurgent Bihar

Industrial Economist - Dec 02, 2010

The dynamic rise of Bihar holds a bigger promise for India. It shows to the rest of India that the focus on education, economic development and law and order are strong factors appreciated and rewarded by the electorate.

Creating history in Bihar’s politics, Nitish Kumar once again came back yo power as the poll results on 24 November 2010 showed. Nitish won a landslide victory JD(U) and the BJP alliance grabbing 206 seats(nearly 85 per cent) of the 243 member assembly
I WAS READING an article in my class when an Indian classmate came and sat next to me. He looked at the title of the article and smiled. The title read "Nitish Kumar: King of Bihar.” His smile and the article made me think and eventually changed my perception of Bihar as the most backward state in the country. One of the brightest sparks of the first decade in the twenty first century in India has been the resurgence of Bihar, the new Bihar led by Nitish Kumar. Ramachandra Guha famously called him the ‘Indian’ answer to Barack Obama. Amartya Sen praised him for his contribution to the economic resurgence.

This charismatic leader has led the state to an unparalleled level of development and progress. Under him Bihar has seen an influx of 1500 bridges and addition of 6800 km of roads. Bihar has 100,000 new teachers recruited for its schools. Bihar has 18 per cent increase in cement flow, 45 per cent increase in auto sales and attracted significant investments. Bihar per annum is growing at 11 per cent for the past 5 years. Bihar is rising like never before. The remarkable story of Bihar is attributed to the man, an engineerturned politician. Never would anyone dare even to think of such progress when Nitish took over charge from the Lalu family. The Bihar that Lalu left behind was one that was rotten, unsafe and corrupt to the hilt. The developmental wave that has swept the state is courtesy of Nitish. It is the result of an effective focus; education, development, law and order.

Focus on education...

Education for the poor is what Nitish turned to first. He realised that at the end of the day, the man who is going to vote for him is the common man, not the educated elite for whom voting is often too tedious a thing to do. He also realised that if the state were to grow at a rapid pace, education for the youth must be improved. Bicycles were provided free for all school going females so that it provides them a ray of hope and a sense of liberty. Plethora of primary schools, numerous teachers, massive investment in institutes of higher education were made.100, 000 new teachers were recruited. People who were crippled by the dogmas of the old Bihar were given an opportunity to educate themselves. Even the older people were educated to use the jigyasa scheme wherein they could call up a number and get the contact details of people in the government who could address their concerns. The younger ones were not far behind. They were given an opportunity to understand the world. They were given an opportunity to prove that Bihar's famed 'Super 30' IIT coaching centres were not an one off wonder. They were shown the light of education across all levels of people irrespective of caste, gender or any other discrimination. This made people realise that one of the most fundamental things for a state to break its shackles of decades of corruption, illiteracy and caste-based vendetta is to infuse and support the idea of development across the state.

...on development

The developmental thrust of Bihar is truly remarkable and second to none, only with Gujarat ahead. Massive infrastructure projects provide quality roads to the people of Bihar, a luxury all this while for the average Bihari. Despite the fact that most of the roads come under the National Highway scheme, the state government's expertise and cooperation made the Central vision a state reality. Once the fundamental necessity called roads were established, Nitish Kumar gradually diverted his trajectory towards the vertical end of the spectrum; the construction industry. A whopping 47 per cent growth rate in the construction industry over the last five years has astonished even the biggest optimist. Once the housing infrastructure and commercial buildings come in, growth in other sectors such as the retail, electronic media and supermarkets would thrive. This type of prosperity creates a
ripple effect on various other industries. Imagine its impact on people who have barely seen anything beyond the cattle and the village. This has created a mammoth Rs 95,000 crore worth of tenders for the State Investment Promotion Board created by the chief minister.

Law and order improve...

Law and order in Bihar was a joke to anyone a decade back but not so now. Nitish transformed the pathetic situation in his state to one that is respectable and one that made people walk in the street at peace even after 8 pm. The kidnap mafia was thrown away with shrewd bureaucratic changes in the security establishment and increase in income and protection for the police. The number of kidnaps per year dropped to 365 from 1390, almost a 75 per cent drop! Not only did this ensure that the people were at peace, it ensured businesses were not affected by such mafias and it ensured that the industrial establishment had a certain level of trust and confidence in the safety situation in the state.

The perfect combination of education to realise the need for development, development to realize the potential of Bihar and law and order to ensure the sustenance of such gigantic developmental projects. Nitish has his own set of critics as well. Some feel he is an autocratic and some set of critics have questioned his health care initiatives which are still not up to the mark. Some even question that the poverty rate is still high. Some questions are hovering around how he is going to handle the Naxal menace and the rising demand for electricity, due to these developmental projects. In a state which has been rotten for such a long time it takes a while to get the rot out. I feel Nitish has focused on the right issues and in his second term he would plug the other loopholes as well. The dynamic rise of Bihar fulfills a bigger promise for India. It shows to the rest of India that a state as backward as Bihar can move forward in such a short span of time. It shows that not only is the elite end of India growing, even the common man is moving forward. Most of all, it shows that one can even force your rivals (such as Lalu) to shift their caste based old style jungle raj politics to developmental, new age politics survival. Therein lies the biggest attestation of the rise of Nitish Kumar.As my class ended, my thought process was forced to a screeching halt. My professor announced the consistent performers in the class and to my surprise the Indian guy on my right stood up. After the end of the class, I asked him why did you smile in the beginning and who he was. He said: "I smiled because I knew the truth. I am a Bihari. I am a product of the new Bihar and there lies the roots of my rise here." I was impressed, Nitish Kumar has indeed transformed Bihar.

This article can also be viewed at http://www.industrialeconomist.com/page.php?page=66&&cid=202

 

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