Informative

The story of Nitish Kumar and Bihar: Everything you need to know

The most noteworthy consequence of JD(U) parting ways with the NDA has been a clear shift in the perception of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar amidst the masses. Where he was an honest, hard-working and humble man before, he is now seen as a power-hungry, ambitious and arrogant schemer.

I will not try to defend Mr. Kumar against the allegations, neither will I justify the reasons for his departure. I won’t draw any parallels to any other leader or state, but I will only try to give you an insight into the work Mr. Kumar has been doing all these years. I am attributing the achievements to Mr. Kumar solely, because a leader is responsible for both the failures as well as the successes of a team. It is his job to promote imagination and integrity in his team. If the team does well, he has every right to be given the credit.

If after reading everything below, you still think him to be an evil man striving for the “Iron Throne”, it is your wish.

As Union Minister of Railways:

So, although Mr. Kumar’s political career starts with the JP Movement in 1974, he really shot to fame after quitting Lalu Prasad Yadav’s side in 1994, and aligning hands with the BJP. Soon, he was a cabinet minister for a second time, this time under A.B.Vajpayee.

  • In 1999, after Gaisal train disaster, Mr. Kumar did not hesitate to submit his resignation, taking moral responsibility for the failure of railways. (I hope that gives you some insight into the kind of man he is.) He says, “After visiting the site, the images did not leave me for days. There was no way I could work after that.”
  • During his time as rail minister, he introduced several visionary steps, such as opening a record number of booking centres in the country, introduction of e-ticketing, and the revolutionary tatkal scheme.
  • According to some reports, the ‘Garib Rath’ idea was from his period, which Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav went on to implement and derive credit from.

Anyway, the real story starts in 2005, when Nitish Kumar was selected to lead the state of Bihar. To truly appreciate his contribution, we must go back to the prevalent scenario at that time. In those days, kids from the biggest private schools were being kidnapped, men would be shot to death for fun in the playground next to your colony, and not even grown men would dare to go out of their houses after 8-9pm, let alone women/children. The state was well and truly failing.

Reestablishing law and order:

So, Mr. Kumar’s first step was to reestablish the authority of the state.

  • Fast track courts were set up, and speedy trials were held to put the criminals behind bars.
  • In the first five years, there were 47,000 convictions of 10 year imprisonments and more.
  • Around 5,000 people were handed out death sentences by these courts during the period.
  • As of 2013, the figure of convictions stands at 83,000. Tell me that it is not astonishing! Needless to say, the impact was felt in reduced crime rates.

Human Development: Education, Health, Women

The second step as Mr. Kumar puts, was to focus on human development. According to him, growth cannot be gauged by GDP numbers alone. He says human development indices are the prime scales for measurement. “What good is an increasing GDP if it means the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? Unless the laggards come up to the national average, there is no point of these numbers.”  (By the way, Bihar registered around 11% increase in GDP in the first four years, and total 8.4% since 2005.)

Hence, the focus of the Bihar Government quickly moved onto education sector.

  • A record number of recruitments in excess of one lakh teachers for government schools was undertaken.
  • At the beginning of his term, 12.8% of kids were not attending any form of primary education. Currently, the number stands around 3%.
  • The “poshak yojna” and the “cycle yojna” aimed for the girls in the middle school and the secondary school (which were quite revolutionary programmes to be honest) helped boost the number of girls in 9th standard from 1,80,000 to 6,50,000.
  •  As of now, 14 lakh cycles are being given out every year to the girls in this age bracket. The state decided against tenders to private companies in order to not compromise on the quality of cycles.
  • Currently, Bihar spends 18% of its revenue on education. The only state which spends more, among the ten biggest states by area, is Maharashtra at 21%.

Mr. Kumar says, “Cycle is not just a mode of transport. It is a motivation, an inspiration for the female community that they are on equal footing with the men. It gives them hope to dream again.” I could not agree more.

  • But, that is not all. The scheme of providing Rs. 10,000 as incentive for passing 10th Bihar board with first division to SC/ST/Backward Classes has helped boost the number of students passing with first division from mere 2300 to around 26,000.
  • Patna now also has IIT, AIIMS in the education sector. NIT, Chandragupta Institute of Management, Patna (CIMP) are other important institutes on the rise. Mr. Kumar, meanwhile has been haranguing the Centre to pass the papers for an IIM too in the city.
  • The Nalanda University, which is widely known to be one of the first universities to pop-up in the world is being reconstructed. The new batch is scheduled to start in 2014.

The health sector too saw massive improvement:

  • When his term began, the number of patients in one public hospital on an average in a month stood at 39. That means 1 or maximum 2 patients a day.
  • After the doctors were lured back to the hospitals with a combination of incentives and administration, this number swelled within one year to around 4000. It currently stands in the range of 8000.
  • A revolutionary scheme in this field was the “free medicine” scheme for the needy.
  • The mid-day meal scheme has been a success despite an unfortunate accident putting a dent on it.

Other fields such as employment have not been ignored either:

  • Loan schemes for farmers were improved by involving national banks. Bihar refused to use genetically modified crops to increase productivity as there may have been potential health risks. 5 farmers from the state broke the productivity record of China in growing paddy.
  • Bihar developed an electronic version of the RTI, named as Jankari Scheme.
  • E-Shakti NREGS program which provides employment information by phone to rural people was another innovative idea.
  • Also, Mr. Kumar has held Janta Darbars every week since assuming office to address the grievances of the common public.

And finally, the topic of women empowerment! The bicycle scheme was discussed earlier. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Bihar is the first state to provide 50% reservation to women in Panchayat Raj and Urban Local Bodies.
  • 50% reservation in teacher recruitment, and 35% reservation in Police forces.
  • Again, Bihar is the first state to introduce a revolutionary idea of “women auto drivers”, incentivizing the idea by providing tax relief.

Needless to say, women have been an integral part of the development of Bihar and have been somewhat able to reclaim the rights they deserve.

Infrastructure and industries:

According to Mr. Kumar, the third step for development is the work in the field of infrastructure and industries. He says for the development of the state, it is important to bring investors to the city.

  • The numbers for construction work in Bihar far exceeded the national average, creating a record.
  • Building of long-delayed bridges, relaying roads that ceased to exist, construction of monuments that reflect the state’s history have been very actively pursued and the results are there for everyone to see.
  • There has been an increase of 70% in the per capita units of electricity available in the state, in the same period that there has been an increase of 15% in the national per capita units of electricity. Yes, the state’s per capita value is still just 15% of the national value, but the rise is there for everyone to see.
  • According to a survey in 2009, Patna was ranked as the second safest city to open a new industry after Delhi.
  • The reason Bihar is fighting for the “special status state” is to reduce the central tax on new industries. The state has subsidized its own taxes, but it cannot control the centre’s share.

I can go on and on, but I think you get the point. All I want to say is that Mr. Nitish Kumar is a visionary, and his focus has always been on development, more specifically “inclusive development”. His idea is to take everyone in the quest for development without an inkling of bias or discrimination. He does not believe in hype or advertisements about his achievements and likes to lead a very simple, peaceful life. He is a total abstainer, and values Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a source of inspiration.

If you want to understand him as a person, just sit through some of his interviews, and it will be evident to you that he has no air about him, no sense of self-righteousness. He has reiterated on many occasions that being in office is out of his control, and that the only way he can get back there is by focusing on development. He is just trying to do his bit, and he really does not deserve the flak directed at him.

The biggest achievement of Mr. Nitish Kumar is that he has been able to change the word “Bihari” from an expletive to a compliment within eight years! Anyone who does not understand or appreciate this fact is in sheer denial.

Disclaimer: The numbers presented above have been compiled from various sources, not all of which have infallible credibility. They are true to the best of this author’s knowledge, however.

The Psyche of a Rapist!

At a time when the country continues to reel with the after-effects of the brutal Delhi Gangrape case, there is an overwhelming feeling of connection with the word ‘rape’. While women associate themselves with the victim for the fear that it could actually have been them instead, men find themselves condemning it for the fear that the victim may have been someone they actually knew.

The potential rapist, on the other hand, silently sits in his home sipping his tea, surfing through the newspaper. He reads numerous reports of rape in the country with a straight face, but what exactly is going inside his mind? Does he take it as a challenge to assert his dominance over the weaker sex? Or, is the thought of getting away with it in a flawed system such as ours too exhilarating for him to not pursue? Is the rapist simply a brute, who just happened to be in the wrong situation, and a moment of craziness overpowered him? Maybe, he is just a pervert. Maybe, he is not. Maybe, his primal urges have taken control of him. Perhaps, he is trying to be cool, or perhaps, a screw inside his head has gone awry. It’s quite a question to mull upon- Who exactly is a rapist?

Murder, child labour, women abuse - biggest headaches for the Government. Is India's Doomsday approaching too? Or is it already here?

Murder, child labour, women abuse – biggest headaches for the Government. Is India’s Doomsday approaching too? Or is it already here?

Dwelling upon this question might seem insignificant right now, but this is what will eventually give us the solution to this menace. You just have to take up the newspaper and surf through the pages, and after looking at so many reports of rape, the common man simply gets tired of reading it, deciding that he/she should look after his/her own friends and family rather than trying to fight for the justice of so many victims. Is the Police incapable of doing its job? Or, have these incidents simply affected the minds of such potential rapists more adversely than the common man? Maybe, rape is viewed by these men not as a taboo or a crime anymore, but as an adventure sport, one that has a lot of thrill and adrenaline rush. To put things into context, a potential rapist does not really see rape as a crime or a moral dilemma, it has become simply like a banned drug – illegal and punishable, but an exotic experience that must be tried. Neither is he afraid of the law, nor does he in his own mind recognize sexual harassment as a wrongdoing. He thinks that whatever he wants, he can get it by force, a symbolic representation of his masculinity. Women are simply the accessory to his salvation, the ultimate sin, the pinnacle of his sexual moksha! This rapist psyche, deranged as it may sound, is an infectious disease, which is spreading through the entire country like an epidemic. It makes one wonder that are we inadvertently sensationalizing rape by letting it run rampant in a country with a billion people. Is our inability to control the menace going to have far longer reaching consequences than we can envisage? Are we heading towards a failed state, where our famed culture and ethics are nowhere to be found?

So, how exactly do we bring this change in mentality of a billion people? No, anger is not the solution, not at the rapist, nor the Government. One must take up the responsibility of affecting the mentality of those around him/her to reinforce the status of rape as a diabolical crime. We must identify those around us that might seem vulnerable to fall to the whims of this plague. We must try to cure them, we must try to help them, by teaching them to find it within themselves to overpower the primal urges of testosterone. Man has shown himself capable of change in the past, and nothing can affect the mentality of a person like the kind of people he/she hangs out with. Like Gandhi has said over and over again, if you see some darkness in someone, don’t run away. Try to mould their minds to see the ill-fate that befalls such a man. I reiterate, help these potential rapists get back on the right track. At least until they have actually gone ahead and done the unthinkable!

Faith in Bollywood: RESTORED

‘Barfi’, an unconventional name to begin with for a movie, is an even more unconventional movie by Bollywood standards. It is funny, has a pretty decent plot, and simply transcends the cinematography level that is currently on offer in the country. It redefines the very definition of a movie, demonstrating to Indian filmmakers, just how to make a film.

It has no item-numbers, no larger-than-life melodramatic dialogues, no gravity-defying action stunts, none of those. What it does have on the other hand is a couple of very talented actors in Ranbeer Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra alongside the very beautiful Ileana D’Cruz, a director with a vivid imagination, Anurag Basu, and a scintillating background score that is quite simply its soul. Make no mistake, this is an art movie, depicting each and every scene with such creativity that it will leave you simply enchanted at the end. And yet, there lies not a dull moment in this magnum opus; it will have you in splits for the better part of the two and a half hours. It’s a drama that will make you laugh more than the comedies these days.

Acting? Simply out of this world. The actors have portrayed their characters, which it must be said, are very extraordinarily written as well, with such finesse that it is simply impossible to find a fault. Priyanka Chopra as Jhilmil is charming if not, for the lack of a better word, so damn cute. She plays the character with innocence, reminiscent of Rani Mukherjee’s performance in Black. Ileane is suave in her role and seems befitting for the character. However, it’s Ranbir Kapoor, who simply steals away the show from beneath the feet of the two ladies. He delivers an uncanny performance, that is natural, sincere and full of energy. He has wonderful comic timing, a great screen presence. In fact, without even saying a word throughout the movie, he leaves a far greater impression than the leading actors of the industry ever do. Stand up and take a bow, man!

If you haven’t seen it, stop reading, pick up your car, and go see this movie now!

Vision 2020: A dream

It was a casual day at the college, and we had just finished with our quota of lectures for the day (9 am to 5 pm with just an hour’s break). I jabbed at my good friend, Maddy (I always tell him that this hipster nickname doesn’t really do justice with Madhusudan), and asked him if he would be joining us for football later in the day. His response? Nahi, aaj se padhane jaana hai. Naturally, I responded with ‘Accha kitne paise de rahe hain?‘ I had never anticipated what he was about to say to me next, ‘No money, social service’.

There are those in the world who work to make their lives better, rarely will you find those who work to make the world a better place for the lives of a billion others. Often he tells me that to clean the drain, you must get your hands dirty first. So every single day, he wakes up at 8, reaches class before me, attends more lectures than I ever could, sits on the first bench and listens to the professors till 5. And after all that toil and effort, he dashes off at six to a slum nearby, gathers the children around him and starts teaching them the nous of Mathematics and Science. Not just that, he takes the responsibility of enrolling the kids in government schools. Of course, he is not alone in his venture, as Mahaveer and Jaswinder support him very ably, while others have come and gone.

Do you know how they teach the kids there? On a whiteboard, which is actually a white chart paper, covered with plastic, in an empty discarded room nearby. These guys, they buy copies, books, pencils and erasers from their own pockets for these kids who cannot afford them. And, without fail, they teach them two hours every single day. Such is the dedication of these shining knights. They call it very aptly the Vision 2020, they have no connections to any NGOs, no funding from the college, no certificates to gain from this enterprise, nothing. My good friend Maddy in fact chooses not to eat at a Dominos or a McDonald’s for the simple reason that the money can be used to buy books for kids instead. If that does not deserve a salute, I do not know what does.

When I see men capable of such sacrifice, possessing such noble intentions, I just know for a fact that India’s youth has infinite potential. I hope that our leaders can take inspiration from actual leaders such as these guys, and the youth can spend less time ogling at women or pretending to be cricketers/rock-stars, and more time doing something real for the education and poverty.

I am convinced that if he continues with the same dedication and passion, someday, my very own Maddy will be known in the world as Father Teresa! Or maybe something better.