Changing BIHAR | Milaap

Changing BIHAR

After a long journey of 2300 kilometers I reached Patna the capital of Bihar in the middle of a political turmoil. I had arrived at Patna at about three in the afternoon on 20th of February, the day when the chief minister of Bihar was supposed to prove his confidence vote test. So, there was high-voltage drama in the state. And the drama goes like this “A Chief Minister is propped up who is now doing everything in his power to remain the Bihar CM even after the next state elections and that too at the expense of the very person who made him the CM”. Everyone was talking about the political situation in the state from a car driver to a Dhaba boy. I will be in Bihar for next six months as a Milaap fellow and will be working with one of its field partners CDOT. I checked into a beautiful guesthouse near the CDOT headquarters. I met with Ambar. He had been working for CDOT for a few years and previously worked in the garment industry for many years. Ambar suggested me to explore a newly built mall which was just about 500 meters away from the guesthouse. So I visited the place and it provided me a glimpse of changing Bihar. The very next morning, we decide to head towards Bihar Sharif which is 90 Kilometres from Patna. CDOT’s regional office is located in this area. I was surprised once we crossed the city roads. Bihar, for long, remained infamous for its bad roads and pitiable connectivity. People suffered due to utter lack of connectivity. But much to my surprised we covered the 90 kilometres distance in less than one and a half hour including a five minutes break. The road which connects Bihar Sharif to Patna presents a big contrast to what I had in my mind before experiencing it. Roads and bridges are the visible signs of development as well as a basic component of the infrastructural development.[caption id="attachment_6787" align="alignnone" width="505"]Different picture of roads in Bihar A road which leads you to a changing Bihar[/caption]Bihar is a part of “BIMARU”, an acronym formed from the first letters of the names of the four northern states of India. It was coined by Ashish Bose in the mid-1980s. BIMARU has a resemblance to a Hindi word "Bimar" which means sick. This was used to describe the poor economic conditions in the backward states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.A lot have been said about Bihar’s roads, power supply, poverty and law & order. I am witnessing a different picture in some cases though. Bihar has come a long way in the last few years in terms of human development and rule of law. At least I can say this for the region I am putting up now. During my stay in Bihar Sharif, I learned that it has electricity for twenty two to twenty three hours a day, which is commendable.Numbers itself tell the transformation story of Bihar. In terms of average growth over 2005-12, Bihar was one of the highest in India at 11.32%. But this is not the whole picture, there are dark spots as well, something that became evident when I visited locales like Hilsa and Noorsarai. No doubt better roads and good communications networks are a sign of progress, but what about basic needs like education, health and electricity in these remote places? Places like Hilsa and Noorsarai are microcosms of Bihar. Poor basic infrastructure has kept this eastern Indian state from achieving real progress. Its human resources are being wasted. The aspirations of the new generation are going unrealized for want of proper planning and infrastructure.[caption id="attachment_6790" align="alignnone" width="2048"]A ray of hope A ray of hope[/caption]The state of Bihar has some way to go before catching up with the gains made by industrialised states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, if that is an objective of sorts. Bihar’s social indicators are still weak and perhaps somewhat contrary to the positive perception the state has enjoyed recently. However, the fact is that there is, as I said at the start, a sense of change and expectancy. Bihar still has a way to go before recovering from the lost decades, particularly when it comes to poverty. Holding and nurturing the growth surge thus becomes all the more critical.But things are changing, a visit to Bihar provides plenty of anecdotal proof. The old cloud of fear has been replaced by peace and confidence. Safety has allowed small businesses to burst into activity. Women say they are no longer afraid to walk the streets. Hopefully this change will continue and Bihar will soon be able to shed the BIMARU tag.