Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fixing Bihar

This was an article that I had submitted to Indian Express in response to an invitation to its readers. For the unintiated Bihar is one of the most backward states in India.
Here is my contribution, I am not sure wether it was ever looked at but by posting it here hopefully it gets noticd.
By and large most in the media have hailed the end of
Laloo’s 15 year reign. Now Bihar’s problems hasn’t
been blessed with good governance prior to Laloo
either. However Laloo took over just as the rest of
India was entering a high growth phase.
Even a 15 year old will be able to list out Nitish
Kumar’s priorities. Law and Order,
Infrastructure and related development. None of which
will be easy since each is linked. You can’t have
development when businessmen don’t feel safe. Crime
follows from poverty. A very simplistic analysis no
doubt but it does contain a grain of truth.
The Bahubali’s have been used by either side in equal
measure so one cannot expect them to disappear. But
Nitish will have to prevail on those on his side while
cracking down on the ones on Laloo’s. A demoralized
police force has to be re-equipped and retrained. Once
the police realize that they will be allowed to
function without political interference , they can
actually serve as a deterrent to crime instead of
being mere bystanders. Nitish will have to go the
whole hog in attracting investments from high profile
industrialists since this is what will draw others. To
do this there has to be an increase in the
availability of water, power and roads. None of which
will happen overnight. Bihar with sufficient natural
resources(coal can be sourced from Jharkhand) should
encourage captive power plants and also be willing to
buy excess power from the same. Rural infrastructure
should be given priority so that agricultural products
can reach the market and with some value addition.
Education and health care must receive their due as
well. Whereas the bihari urban middle class have
proved that they can stick it out with the best in
their respective fields , the rural masses have gotten
left behind in the education stakes.
Now Bihar will also be imporant for one other reason.
For the last decade and a half the BJP has been the
only principal opponent to the Congress. BJP itself is
however racked by an ideological struggle , will
hindutva + socialism(read populism) + caste equations
fetch votes or is it devlopment and good governance.
They fought an election on the governance plank in
MP but since then they have lost the plot. A bihar
that makes vast strides in the coming years will serve
as a big plus for the rationalists in the BJP. And if
things go to script the BJP becomes a much milder
version of itself and actually builds bonds with the
muslims and becomes a genuine representative of the
people of India.

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