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Home > Business > Columnists > Guest Column > Nitish Kumar

Bihar CM on how to tackle poverty

February 12, 2007

There should be transparent national standards and parameters to decide who the poor are, what their number is and how many below poverty line families there are in India. Some years ago, the Planning Commission had entrusted the task of enumerating BPL families and setting the cut-off point with the state governments.

Accordingly, in 2002-03, in line with a Union government initiative, the state government had conducted house-to-house surveys all over in Bihar and had made a list of BPL families. But then, the Union Government decided to use NSSO samples to define BPL families. This is an impractical way of doing it.

This is not the only problem. The Union Ministry of Rural Development and the Union Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies have different sets of BPL figures. They need to work in tandem on this. After several rounds of discussions with the rural development ministry, 65 lakh (6.5 million) families in Bihar have been declared BPL.

But the food and civil supplies ministry has just 50 lakh (5 million) BPL families on its list and has made arrangements to supply foodgrains accordingly. Because there is no agreement on figures, 35 lakh (3.5 million) desperately poor families in Bihar have been deprived of BPL status and the concurrent benefits. I know this because a majority of the cases coming to the Janata Durbar are petitions of families begging to be included in the BPL list.

The Union government's standards for deciding the poor and their enumeration is faulty. In Bihar the poverty threshold is much lower. As a result lakhs of families fall through the cracks. This is not a matter of trading charges, accusations or arguments. There has to be a practical way of addressing poverty.

The Opposition has suggested we rename Patna as Azeemabad. Such constructive suggestions should have been addressed earlier by those who have been in power for 15 years in the state. Such demands are not serious and we don't think they have anything to do with the priorities of the state: poverty removal, progress, industrialisation, and the concerns of ordinary people.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing Madhesi movement in Nepal. We share an open border with Nepal. We have social relations with the people. We are emotionally linked to them. Those living in the border areas should exercise patience and restraint.

The Government of Nepal is capable of sorting out its internal problems. As these are international matters, it is the provenance of the Government of India which is better placed to take an initiative on this matter.

I understand Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has sought the intervention of the religious leader of the Tibetans, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to get the sacred remains of Lord Buddha to Vaishali. This is a religious matter and should not be politicised. When the Rashtriya Janata Dal was in power in the state, why were the remains not brought to Vaishali?

Today I have heard complaints from Mrs Kanti Devi, the mukhiya of Kidamrai, Arwal, that panchayat members do what they like and ride roughshod over the panchayat, even in the matter of appointing anganwadi workers. I have directed the district authorities in Arwal to make enquiries and send me a report.

Shradha Devi from village Akalganj, Nalanda district has told me that her husband was kidnapped and murdered, and his body thrown in the sugarcane field. Those who did this are roaming around freely. I have seen the papers and issued directions that the accused be arrested immediately.

I have asked the District Magistrate to take immediate action.I will be monitoring these cases personally. About 2500 people came to this Janata Durbar. I thank them for having faith.

Translated from HindiĀ  (Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, addressing reporters at the conclusion of the Janata Durbar held by his government on 5 February 07).

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