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Rediff.com  » News » 'Nitish Kumar acts like a dictator'

'Nitish Kumar acts like a dictator'

By M I KHAN
February 27, 2024 10:39 IST
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'Nitish Kumar is fooling the people of Bihar.'
'He will not probe anything because if he does so, he will be trapped himself.'

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar offers flowers to Goddess Saraswati on the occasion of Basant Panchami in Patna. Photograph: ANI Photo

Soft spoken Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA and Bihar's former agriculture minister Sudhakar Singh is one of the few Opposition leaders in the state who questioned Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's policies even when the Janata Dal-United leader was part of the Mahagathbandan of which the RJD was a part till last month.

Singh, who is a known champion of the farmers' cause in Bihar, has alleged corruption in the state agriculture department and demanded an investigation into the agriculture road maps, a Nitish Kumar brainchild.

The Nitish Kumar government launched Bihar's fourth agriculture road map in 2023. The first was launched in 2008, the second in 2012 and the third in 2017.

Singh, who is state RJD president Jagdanand Singh's son, was removed from the state cabinet weeks after the RJD formed the Mahagathbandan government with the JD-U.

Soon after being appointed agriculture minister in August 2022, Sudhakar Singh -- a first-term MLA from Ramgarh in Bihar's Kaimur district -- repeatedly targeted Nitish Kumar and alleged corruption in the agriculture department.

"If Nitish Kumar can order an investigation into the files of some departments of the Mahagatgbandhan government, why can't he order a high level or third party investigation into the first three agriculture road maps?," Sudhakar Singh asks Rediff.com Senior Contributor M I Khan.

 

You raised the issue of alleged corruption in the state agriculture department soon after Nitish Kumar ordered an investigation into three departments headed by RJD ministers in the previous Mahagathbandhan government.

This is not true. There is nothing new, I have been raising the issue of rampant corruption in the agriculture department and have demanded a third party probe into the first, second and third agriculture road maps.

Even when I was a minister in 2022, I had raised the same issue.

I had written a letter on September 17, 2022 to the CM about corruption in the agriculture department. It is written evidence of what I said then.

This is not the first time that I am saying so. I have repeatedly raised it, but it has been deliberately ignored by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar because he knew his involvement will be revealed if a third party probe take place.

If Nitish Kumar can order an investigation into the files of some departments of the Mahagatgbandhan government, why can't he order a high level or third party investigation into the first three agriculture road maps?

What is stopping him in doing so? Why he is reluctant to do so.

What is wrong if Nitish Kumar has ordered an investigation into alleged corruption in some departments?

Nitish Kumar is fooling the people of Bihar. He will not probe anything because if he does so, he will be trapped himself.

There is no guarantee in what Nitish Kumar says. If he is really serious about an investigation, he should issue the order letter.

Only a written notification for an investigation matters, not a verbal one.

IMAGE: Nitish Kumar with Deputy Chief Ministers Vijay Kumar Sinha, right, and Samrat Choudhary, left, inaugurates roads and bridges via remote, February 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Why are you demanding a third party investigation?

Soon after I became agriculture minister in August 2022, I had publicly told Nitish Kumar that some officials of the agriculture department are thieves.

It shocked many and I was criticised for what I said then. But I stand by my words still.

How can the government investigate its own irregularities or corruption? Only a third party can investigate it.

A third-party assessment or evaluation of the last three agriculture road maps is a must.

The government should give it to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai or set up a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge to look into the matter.

The infamous Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case came to light only through a third party investigation.

It was Nitish Kumar who ordered a third party investigation by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, that brought the case into the public domain.

The TISS report said that sexual abuse, varying in forms and degrees of intensity, was prevalent in almost all shelter homes in Bihar.

The state government commissioned an audit by TISS in 2017; the report was submitted to the social welfare department in April 2018 and pointed a finger at the Muzaffarpur shelter home run by Brajesh Thakur, the main accused in this case.

Though Thakur was jailed and Bihar's then social welfare minister, Manju Verma, was forced to resign, some big fish were protected and escaped the law. Only small fish were caught.

Why are you blaming Nitish Kumar for the alleged corruption in the Bihar agriculture road maps?

Reviews of the functioning of different departments have been chaired by Nitish Kumar since 2005.

No ministers were invited to the review meetings. Nitish Kumar ordered the departments what to do or not to do.

If Nitish Kumar can take credit for all the success of different departments, what about failures?

Who will take responsibility for the corruption and financial bungling?

I know Nitish Kumar will never order a third party investigation into my demand.

You recently claimed on social media that you were forced to resign as agriculture minister two weeks after you sought a probe into the implementation of the agriculture road maps.

Yes, it is true. Soon after I raised the failures of the agriculture road maps I was forced to resign.

As minister I ordered an inquiry to review the implementation of the three agriculture road maps, which involved spending Rs 3.10 lakh crore on projects in the last 14 years.

The agriculture road maps was targeted by the government to double agriculture production.

The reality is that production declined by 100,000 tonnes during the period.

Why should there not be an enquiry into why production declined despite spending so much money?

It is in the public domain that total food production fell from 1.77 crore tonnes in 2011-2012 to 1.76 crore tonnes in 2021-2022.

Besides, as per the parliamentary committee's report tabled in Parliament on March 24, 2022, the income of farmers in Bihar remains the lowest, contrary to claim of the third agriculture road map's objective to increase farmers' income.

You want the mandi system to be restored in Bihar.

I have been fighting to restore the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act and the mandi system for farmers that was scrapped in 2006 by the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government.

Nitish Kumar is anti-farmers because soon after he came to power in 2005, he abolished the mandi system.

In 2003 during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Nitish Kumar unsuccessfully tried to introduce farmers Bills that Vajpayee turned down.

Last year I tried to introduce a private member's Bill in the state assembly in this connection, but I was not given an opportunity to introduce it.

I have been mobilising farmers and trying to make them aware about their rights and to stand against the state government's incorrect policies.

IMAGE: Nitish Kumar pays tribute to Karpoori Thakur on his death anniversary, February 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

How do you see the development and growth of Bihar under Nitish Kumar's 19-year rule?

What development and what growth?

In 2005 when RJD chief minister Rabri Devi's government was ousted from power, Bihar's share in the national GDP was 3.5. Now after 19 years of Nitish Kumar's government, Bihar's share in the national GDP is 3.40, which is .1 percent less.

Even the per capita income of Bihar is much lower than the national average. Bihar is at the bottom on other human development indicators like hunger, malnutrition.

For me, construction of roads and electricity are secondary development.

The main priority is human development indicators like health and education. Our focus should be manav-vikas.

But for many Nitish Kumar is Sushashan Babu, Vikas Purush.

In today's democracy, there is a powerful lobby of image building. Nitish Kumar has carefully designed it.

The fact is that Nitish Kumar behaves and acts like a tanashahi (dictator). He has proved it time and again. His model of government is not a good governance model at all.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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