Before I start to come to the points about the book-THE NEW BIHAR: REKINLING GOVERNANCE AND DEVELOPMENT-, authored by N K Singh, retired IAS official and Rajya Sabha Member from Bihar, and his co-author Lord Nicholas Stern, an IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics, I want to put some of my old reminiscences of 1980s about Bihar when everybody in India has ruled out the state because of its growing backwardness and no sign of development. Some of them used to comment, " Bihar has withered away." I was in Delhi in late 1980s. Just out of curiosity, I went to meet an acquainted senior IAS official of Bihar cadre that time posted on senior slot in the Union Home Ministry (UHM). In course of talks of over half-an -hour, I usually asked him when he is returning to Bihar to his parent cadre. Just after that senior official first gazed the ceiling of his well-decorated office chamber in the magnificent North Block, which houses UHM and thereafter he started looking towards adjacent India Gate from across the room through big window. After after half a minute, he told me ," who bothers for your Bihar......, which have been ruled out because of misgoverning and no-sign of development........." I was not amazed but simply I smiled ! The senior IAS official was no other but N K Singh. Now after the long gap of over 24 years, the same IAS official, now retired, after holding important position in union government, is Janata Dal (U) MP from Bihar, has penned the book, arising new hopes and aspirations to the people of Bihar with regards to all round development of Bihar, which was in moribund stage over nine years back !
Apart from the NOTES THE PREFACE AND, THE INTRODUCTIONS by authors and co-author, the book is by and large compilations of essays on Bihar's economy and its tempo in all round development in recent years written by eminent economists, writers, analysts, commentators etc Mr N K Singh and Nicholas Stern have introduced the subject about Bihar's development in very lucid style. Other essayists including Nobel Prize winner in Economics Amartya Sen have also traced the facts very aptly about Bihar, its culture, glory, economy, education, society, health etc since ancient and medieval period . The Authors and essayists have simply argued the hopes of desired development of Bihar------"like as straw man lies dead, what is ignored is the development in the room..." Author and his co-author as well as essayists have failed to mention about lack of land reforms measures, the bane of poverty in the state. However here and there there are just passing references. Although the essayists and author and his co-author have heaped praise on the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar for bringing the backward state on the development path, there are many discernible factors about backwardness and recent tempo of developments in Bihar, which have rarely found place in the book-that is , in my opinion, percolating of the fruits of development at grass-root level for major sections of society in social indicator during the so called sharp rise in GDP. of Bihar in comparision to other developed states of India. Many 'metaphors' like free market paradigm that economic growth in Bihar during Nitish regime has brought wide-ranging development. Whether Bihar developed at desired level or not but essayists have tried to rewrite the history of Bihar, which continues to languish on almost all parameters of development and social indicators. No doubt, both the authors and essayists of the book have been gifted with sense of history but lack in experimenting the economy of Bihar, which is primarily agriculture based..
After reading the book, exactly I remember the announcements of Nitish Kumar after assuming chief minister ship of the state about eight years back, that his topmost priority will be improving of education and health sectors besides land reforms. But in all the cases, probably Nitish Kumar has failed to achieve desired result. Education and health are most important parameters of development-of course a number of measures have been taken by Bihar government but results are hardly 20 to 25 percent on the surface.All these failures of Bihar government and hammering of the subjects by the essayists for their success , remind me Rabindranath Tagore, who had once said, " In my view the imposing tower of misery which today rests on the heart of India has its sole foundation in the absence of education."
At least in one aspect, the author and his co-author have admitted that Bihar has long history of backwardness. even as historically, Bihar has glorious past. They have also made honest appraisal of facts in the book that Bihar has lowest electrification rates in the country with only 16 percent of the households having access to electricity much lower than the national average of 67 percent. Forty percent of electricity is consumed only in the.one city-Patna, the state capital, which also does not have constant power supply; the authors point out and add, "that it is surely extraordinary that having reached the nadir Bihar rejuvenated itself in less than a decade to become fastest growing state even as India's own growth gathered momentum. Many have attributed this rapid turn-around to Nitishnomics, meaning improved governance and a more inclusive growth strategy. There are many facetes of Nitishonomics. But the picture appears some thing different.There are many glaring mention of facts in the book , one can imagine how the Bihar is
developing ? There are many instances that it is not Nitishonomics but the so called turn around in Bihar "Nitishohypocracy" !Deprived majority are still languishing because of faulty implementation of welfare measures and large scale corruption, which have become greatest menace during Nitish regime in Bihar. The book does give a clean scenario of what is happenings in Bihar under democratic fabrics of India. Elites and neo-rich class , closure to corridor of power, are cornering all benefits , meant for poor in Bihar.
When I look such painful pathetic picture of human condition in rural areas in Bihar, it reminds the well-known Mahamta Gandhi's Talisman of 1948 when Gandhi had said , " I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when your self becomes too much with you, apply the following test,, Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man and woman, whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him (her). will he (she) gain anything by it ? will it restore him (her) to a control over his (her) own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj (freedom0 for the hungry and spiritually starving millions ? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away." If these things do not reflect the minds of ruling elite in Bihar, then we must call them thieves and looteras of public funds Nitish Kumar does behave like a feudal ruler. of Bihar, which hardly finds place in the book. Nitish Kumar held Janata Darwars at his official residence once in a week After attending the so called darwar for registering their complaints, people returned disappointed and call the janta darwar a feudal darwar like of British Raj and landlords during pre-independence days ! A recent essay on the website of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (http:\\carnegieendowment,org) has compared Nitish Kumar no less autocrat than Narendra Modi. Both have autocratic tendencies Nitish has developed a worrying reputation for leveraging his state government'd hefty advertisement budget to punish media outlets who dare publish negative stories about his administration. Not only that Nitish Kumar has given free hands to officials and other government staff to carry his programmes and policies without caring even the ruling class politicians, resulting into wide-spread corruption in government machinery. Virtually there is no democracy in Bihar but bureaucracy is prevailing-even ministers are not allowed to speak about officials , thanks to the autocratic style of Nitish Kumar!These are some hard facts which should have found mention in the books either by essayists or authors themselves . Is the book one -side about Nitish's dream Bihar? At one place in the book, one essayist Pawan Kumar Verma has virtually, while praising Nitish Kumar like a sycophant number one , has heaped abuses -like words on Biharis and its culture, prior to what was happenings in Bihar. Were Bihar and Biharis before Nitish Kumar rule have had gone uncultured and forgotten the unique culture of Bihar ? Shame to Pawan Kumar Verma for such remarks in N K Singh's book !
No doubt Bihar is developing during Nitish regime in the wake of allround economic turn around in India, it does not mean that it is because of Nitishnomics but to some extent streamlining of governance in Bihar, which had lacked during Laloo-Rabri regime as well as new economic policy being implemented in India as a whole and massive funds of centrally-sponsored programmes, Backwardness of Bihar is also contribution successive Congress governments in Bihar. But during Laloo Prasad regime, the poor , the dalits, the adivasis and downtrodden got their voices and Laloo was instrumental for that-but during Nitish regime dalits are being tortured by upper caste people . There are many instances of such atrocities in Bihar during Nitish regime. Both economically and politically, dalits are being deprived of their rights by land-owing classes and neo-rich classes , cropped during Nitish regime One essayist Meghnad Desai, an eminent economist and professor of Economics at the London School of Economics has rightly commented in his writings, " The collapse of the Congress hegemony at the national level in 1989 and the emergence of the Mandal reforms brought about the first profound change in Bihar.....This was assertion of power by the other backward class (OBC)..........The Janata Dal, which later became Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) during its 15 years tenure (1990-2005) concentrated on what one may call the 'respect' agenda. This was to give dignity and respect to the previously downtrodden social groups and challenge the upper caste hegemony with the help of state power. It was acknowledged by the leaders of the RJD that development was not his priority but the righting of the old oppression was It is correct to say that in the respect agenda the RJD was successful. As Jeffrey Witsoe says in his article in the Lall and Gupta volume: While Lalu systematically destabilised the institution of governance and state directed development, i suggest that this was catalysed a meaningful although partial empowerment of lower caste' A [popular RJD slogan was "vikas nahi samman chahiye"........." But what happened to empowerment of dalits and backwards during Nitish regime, the agenda was not cared and today atrocity on them is continuing as reflected ion the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).
.The importance of the N K Singh's book would have comparatively lesser impact about the development of Bihar with the recent blasting of Bihar government and its chief minister Nitish Kumar by the well known development economist Jean Dreze, a co-author of the book, written by Amartya Sen-AN UNCERTAIN GLORY: INDIA AND ITS CONTRADICTIONS while delivering a lecture on the food security at Patna. Dreze has said, " Bihar is capital of corruption and exploitation in the world. The living condition of the people in some of Bihar villages is more grim and horrifying than at most places in the world. In fact in terms of scheme implementation, corruption is at its zenith. Bihar is sitting on the hotbeds of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and could be potentially the biggest beneficiary of the National Food Security Act, 2013. Eighty -five percent of rural population and 62 percent of urban residents in Bihar have calorie deficiency during 2009-10 as per reports of the National Sample Survey office. In Fact Bihar ranked 74th in global hunger index of 88 countries, according to Survey of India State Hunger Index -2008. In the same survey Jharkhand ranked 76th, Odisha 67th and UP 61st all in the alarming zone."
However N K Singh and Lord Nicholas Stern's book has rekindled the hopes and aspiration among Biharis and if the measures to develop the state are taken in right direction till next 15 years , Bihar will regain its lost glory of development once again. For the first time in many years, a book on Bihar has pictured the ways and means for the real development of the State, The book is definitely a good reading in lucidity, style and detailed facts !