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Rediff.com  » Business » Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

Last updated on: July 11, 2011 10:51 IST

Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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Navneet Anand


The S2-287 JetLite afternoon flight from Delhi to Patna, the fifth since morning on this route, is packed to capacity.

Even as I settle down at the emergency window in the 12th row (my favourite when I am travelling alone), I take a cursory glance through the length and breadth of this A 320 Airbus.

As someone who travels frequently on this sector, I can easily make out that among the 180 onboard passengers there are people of many hues.

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Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Photographs: Reuters
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There are, of course, proud Biharis travelling back home, some for summer vacation, some for mango bites.

There are consultants with glimmer of hope in their eyes for selling a range of services -- from solar energy to traffic management to ERP and organic farming.

There also are educationists who want to set up institutions, NGOs looking to expand footprints of their social interventions, corporate houses wanting to adopt a village or two as part of their social responsibility. . . the list could go on.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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There is also a young Delhi girl, Manvi, married to a Bihari, and who speaks eloquently for Bihari pride.

Mindset reforms set in

The change is discernible. Bihar, which till not too long ago, was an outcaste and known for all wrong reasons has suddenly found a magical turnaround in perception about it.

Today it is being looked at with wonderment and admiration. All thanks to the mindset reforms infused brilliantly by Nitish Kumar in past five years.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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"Being called a Bihari will be a matter of maan (pride) and not apmaan (insult)," he famously wrote in his blog ahead of the 2010 elections, and rightly so.

The last five years have seen a metamorphosis of sorts -- governance and government are visible, legislators realise they can no longer call up a police station and ask for release of a vagabond, women feel safe, schools and colleges run better than before, roads look better, girls ride bicycles, poor feel they are empowered, migrant Biharis think the state of affairs in their state is improving . . .

There has been a huge mindset reform in the last five years and it was desperately needed for the common people of Bihar, who had started to suspect their own abilities. Kudos to Nitish Kumar for this. But is that enough?

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Photographs: Reuters
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What next?

As we move ahead into the second term of the Janata Dal (U) regime, people will begin to ask if only the 'feel-good factor' be enough? Questions on industry, modernisation, electricity, water supply, human development index, food security, PDS reform, infrastructure in schools and colleges, and many such worries will begin to surface in people's mind.

It is time the Nitish Kumar government shifted gears and showed to the world that what it has done so far -- creating a conducive environment largely triggered by mindset reforms -- was essential to go to the next level of hardcore reforms, be it in agriculture, industry, education or infrastructure.

And things are moving as well. For instance, in a welcome development, the Bihar government has recently approved the new industrial policy which is seeking big ticket investments.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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The government is seeking investments on a priority basis in sectors like food processing, agro-based industries, tourism, super-specialty hospitals, higher and technical education, IT, textiles, energy and renewable energy.

The features are progressive -- for instance, if a unit appoints 100 persons in a given fiscal on the basis of the government's reservation policy, the entire employee pension fund (EPF) contribution borne by the company for that year would be fully reimbursed, and so on.

Under the policy, the state government has proposed incentives for pre-production, post-production, taxes, etc during the establishment of a unit.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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Question marks arise over pulling these policies out of the bureaucracy baskets and putting them to practice. Some people, for instance, wonder how will industry survive in a state where people starve for electricity?

Sound policies must accompany bright examples, and Bihar struggles poorly on this count, unlike many other states which have made remarkable industrial progress post-Independence.

In the last five years, at least, the basics like electricity and water supply should have been streamlined, many argue.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Bihar booms, but more needs to be done!

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Embrace new ideas

Along with policy announcements -- and they come thick and fast -- the government must showcase some projects rolling on the ground. So far one has seen little.

Some people also question the excessive emphasis on some sectors at the neglect of others, often under the myopic influence of lobbyists. Despite its inherent demerits, for instance, organic farming is being propagated vehemently and one wonders if that is the answer to Bihar's agriculture worries.

Similarly, even as primary teachers are being recruited in lakhs (hundreds of thousands), many wonder why the government is not embracing some new ideas which will provide immediate solutions to many problems.

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Photographs: Reuters
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For instance, Biharis fare well in the English language, so why can't Patna become another hub for the outsourcing industry -- it will instantly provide employment to thousands of aspiring young girls and boys. We have seen how a small country like the Philippines, in no time, challenged India's hegemony in outsourcing industry.

Interestingly, other than the metro Manila, many tier-II Filipino cities like Cebu, Baguio, Clark, Davao, Bacolod, and Damaguete have emerged as attractive outsourcing destinations for the world. Patna, Muzaffarpur, Purnea, and Hajipur could be nursing similar potential.

Bihar has also elicited global interest and little surprise some of its recent visitors included Microsoft founder Bill Gates and World Bank President Robert B Zoellick.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Several multinational corporations are eyeing Bihar to do business in, but they privately admit the rule books are not too compliant for them. Politicisation of businesses is another fear that multinationals nurture, given the complex socio-political nature of Bihar's society.

The Bihar government must exhibit its intent through hardcore reforms and by walking the talk. Like many other progressive chief ministers in the country, including Gujarat's Narendra Modi, Chhattisgarh's Raman Singh, Delhi's Sheila Dikshit, and Haryana's Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Nitish Kumar too must give considerable attention to the nuances of modern industry. . . and this doesn't get sold on rhetoric alone!

Narendra Modi could pull Nano to Gujarat despite many other states drooling over it because he has exhibited through hardcore action that his state is intent on industrialisation and will go the extra mile to accommodate industry.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The Gujarat government takes minute care to address concerns of national and global businesses thus creating a conciliatory atmosphere.

A large number of aspiring Biharis today pin their hopes on Nitish Kumar, who has lent them a huge dose of optimism. They are anxious about seeing things on the ground; they want to join the white collar workforce by remaining in Bihar; they want to carry business cards of MNCs with their offices in Patna and Bhagalpur; they want to be at the forefront in scripting the destiny of a new Bihar; they want to be the new Bihar themselves.

They want to move ahead of the softer mindset reforms only, else they may slip fast into the past, a past full of chaos and crudity!

Navneet Anand is a freelance journalist and a blogger.


Photographs: Reuters
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