The Rediff Special/B G Verghese
Why Should Bihar Remain Backward?
For most Indians, Bihar is a scourge, a state trapped in the dark ages, a place where time has stood still.
Little, in fact, has changed in Bihar for many years. Despite the state's rich mineral resources, most of its people live in some of the worst conditions imaginable on earth.
Why should Bihar remain so backward? Why should its people be so poor? Why should its people be constantly terrorised by feudalism and the burden of the past? Why should politics and byzantine intrigue take precedence over development and progress?
B G Verghese, the celebrated journalist, tries to answer some of those questions in this fine article.
Since I am here, I make a bold claim to a long-standing Bihar connection.
I spent part of my childhood in Hazaribagh. I can still recall
the 1934 Bihar earthquake, my first sight of the majestic Ganga
and the Sonepur Fair. I was very briefly at school in Ranchi.
Some years later I came back to Bihar with a batch of students
for Kosi flood relief in the winter of 1944.
As a young newspaper
reporter I travelled around the country writing on the progress
of planned development. I reported on the construction of the
DVC, visited Sindri, the Kosi project, the coalfields, the Ranchi
HEC complex, the Agriculture University at Pusa and much else
I was with the Government of India when I took leave
in 1967 to spend time with the Bihar Relief Committee and Jayaprakash
Narayan. That experience was recorded in Beyond The Famine.
A stint with the Gandhi Peace Foundation and Association of Voluntary
Agencies for Rural Development from 1977 to 1982 brought
me in close touch with Gandhian groups and other voluntary agencies
in Bihar, leading on to involvement in agrarian reform and adult
literacy in the state.
My more recent work at the Centre for Policy
Research in Delhi has been on the optimal development of the land
and water resources of the eastern Himalayan rivers which has
repeatedly brought me back to Bihar both physically and intellectually.
I have warm recollections of and an abiding faith in Bihar. And
this is why I propose to speak to you today with brutal frankness.
Mr Verghese's comments form part of the Kedar Nath Singh Memorial
Lecture which he delivered in Chhapra, Bihar, recently.
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