Politics

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.

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A Common Man’s letter to First Lady of India

Dear Mrs. Gandhi,

My name is Ramesh, and I am just a common man, a term you are clearly unfamiliar with. Now, let me tell you a story, in fact the story of my life.

I have three daughters. All of them are girls! (I have heard you are slow, just like your son, so I am spelling everything out.) Anyway, so I have a salary of Rs. 30,000 a month at a government job, which by-the-way I hate, but it pays nonetheless. With this meager amount, I have to pay for my daughters’ education, the food in the house, the house rent, electricity rent, etc etc etc. I will someday have to pay exorbitant dowry (read: inflation) for my daughters to gutless and spineless men. So, all in all, I have to pay a lot. Now, the question comes: How in the name of God am I going to pay 75 Rupees for a litre of petrol amidst all this? Of the top of my head, I can only think of robbing, stealing, or becoming a terrorist. Those are the jobs that pay well, not these crappy government or private jobs that are considered honorable.

Do you have the weirdest idea what 7.5 Rs means to the average Indian? Of course not. I will tell you, it means a lot. It’s exactly the amount a person at the poverty line can afford to pay for one meal (assuming he has four meals a day, not that he can).  But, you should know that, right? Because, I remember you were visiting all those poor people in the elections of 2006, and they were flashing your face all across the news over and over again. Now, I have no idea about economics, no idea how inflation and market value works, and the more qualified people have been saying this price rise was unavoidable. So, I will skip that and just ask you something very simple. We pay taxes, don’t we? Yeah, that’s right. To your very own government. Now, I have been thinking a lot, I simply cannot figure out where this sum goes! Defence? No way. Rural development? You have got to be kidding me. Global markets? Yeah, right.

You cannot answer that question now, can you? I know where. It goes to a mythical land of Switzerland, buried deep below the Earth’s crust, where no man living or dead can find it. Oh, was I too metaphorical? I am talking of course, about the Swiss Bank. On one hand, you have assets worth hundreds of crores, from your “Government jobs”, that pay no more than mine. And yet, on the other hand, you claim you are crippled by the global economy. What exactly do you do to deserve all that money? You know what, you are no better than the Englishmen who once ruled us. At least, they had the audacity to rob us in broad daylight, not the cowardice to stab us in our backs. They say your aide, a certain Mr. Singh, was a commendable Finance Minister once upon a time. Clearly, his powers have waned now. Or maybe, he was just in the right place at the right time (like he was in 2006). I have little doubt that I could do a better job at managing the finance and administration of the country than you incompetent fools. At least, I would not eat into my own people.

As for my own troubles, I have finally found my calling. I now understand. I’ve given up everything, and I am now going on a quest round the world to search for oil wells. And once I find them, I will be able to carry on the rest of my daughters’ education, pay my rents etc etc, but mark my words I will not pay your f***ing taxes!

I have heard Italy is a very exotic land. So, why don’t you get the f*** out of our country, back to your own and leave us with our miseries? Yes, we are bloody hospitable, but clearly, you have overstayed your welcome. Go away now, Shoo!

Sincerely,

A common man

If this article was a little too damn serious, check out this other article I wrote on the issue of petrol price hike. Here: Engineering student invents car that runs on politician’s bullshit!

What if we had a Matriarchal Society?

Imagine there’s no heaven. Imagine there’s no country. And the world will live as one. ~ John Lennon

We, today, live in a patriarchal society, and clearly, it is not working. It’s worth pondering what were to happen if we lived in a matriarchal society instead. First, what is a matriarchal society? It’s a society where the females are the dominant sex, mainly because of their overwhelming population, enjoying the support of the leaders. So, what would happen?

1. Women will take control of politics: Sonia Gandhi will become PM with no opposition, and will be seen at every important event accompanied by personal secretary, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Rabri Devi will be the leader of RJD, while Lalu will be relegated to mowing the lawns and milking the cows. Mayawati will, well, continue to erect statues.

2. Parents would fear having boys for kids: “Another boy? Such a shame, Sharma Ji! How would you manage the dowry for three boys in this modern world, with such measly income?” Such statements will become prevalent in day-to-day life, as will the ‘male infanticide’.

In an alternate reality…

3. Men cook dinner, women go to office: “Kids, dinner is ready. Come down now, your mom’s home.” or “Don’t forget to take your lunch to work, sweety pie.” These will be the common voices inside the house. Men will go for grocery shopping, take care of the cleaning business of the house, while women would pit their brains on the share market, or find solutions to global recession.

4. Girls checking out boys instead of the other way around: Now, that would be something, wouldn’t it? Buoyed by their dominance and influence in the society, women will be the one doing the stalking. The ‘checking out’ may be of a different kind though. “Look that guy has no fashion sense, look at those boots, total disaster!”, “Eww, does he not have a shower at home?” For this fear of being insulted, men would say to their wives, “Nahi jaanu, raat ho gayi hai, aaloo-pyaaz tum hi le aao, please.” 

5. The rape convicts will, for a change, be dealt with very severely: Because of the physical advantage men would still have and also the desires they possess, there may still be rape cases, although significantly reduced (by up to 80-90% perhaps). The lawyers will try to defend their clients against unmoving female judges, who shall ensure the harshest punishments for the offenders.

6. The story of love will be forever twisted: Women will spend their time trying to woo men, and men will keep on searching for that elusive soul-mate, who will complete them. Millions of songs and poems will be written everyday for the male community. On Valentine’s Day, women will be locked up in jails for hitting on the passing-by single men.

7. Reservation, empowerment and upliftment: Men activists will rise to the occasion and set up ‘Men Rights Associations’, arguing for the place of men in the society, while the leaders will incorporate thirty percent reservation for men in technical institutes, to absolutely little or no effect.

8. More car accidents, more gibber-gabber phone conversations, perpetually-being-late disorder: Well, I better not elaborate on these, or I will lose the small group of readers for this post. But, you know what I am talking about. I just couldn’t resist. I just couldn’t. Maybe next time, the other side of the coin!

Men surely had the better deal in this current version, which is why they don’t object to the conditions. And hence, I have conceived this scenario, to put you into the shoes of the female community and implore you to think. “Would that be a fair deal? No, of course not. Then, why should this be?”

First published here.

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.

Demise of Humanity: A Mark Antony-esque speech

The modern age of Westernisation has heralded a new era of presumptuous critics, when what the country actually needs is dynamic leaders!

Friends, foes, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury humanity, not to praise it.
A reminder to all, of its untimely demise,
Truth be heard, that mankind has no soul.

The noble leaders had told you humanity was still alive:
If it were so, it was a heinous lie,
And blindly had you accepted it.
Here, under the leadership of your leaders—
For, Sibal is an honourable man. So is Manmohan. And, so is Advani.
So are they all, all honourable men, along one honourable woman.—
Come I to speak in humanity’s funeral.

It was my inspiration, only mine. My will to live, only mine.
For, there was still hope, there was still time.
But, our leaders say humanity was misguided, it had to be beheaded;
And, our leaders are honourable men.

Alas, my words fail me,
To boast of a nation with no honour,
Gandhi the surname, corruption the manner,
Politics the battlefield, thugs the warriors;
Like fools you all did see that in May of ’04,
We (alas!) presented her a kingly crown,
Which she did (alas!) refuse: was this sacrifice?
Yet our leaders say it was sacrifice;
And, sure, our leaders are honourable men.
Manmohan her pawn, her son yet unborn,
One said to be the PM, the other the one to be,
All at the Centre with their crook, our money they all took,
But, our leaders have decided that so be the order;
And, our leaders are honourable men.

My heart beckons me to say,
Women are but objects of desire,
Howsoever well they choose their daily attire;
Yet, the perpetrators live as they see fit,
For, our leaders say everyone except the innocent, deserves a second, third, or hundredth chance;
And, our leaders are honourable men.

In a country of such rich ancestry,
A child does the work of a dozen men,
And, women beg for a crumb of bread;
While over the skies some mansions spread,
And Mallyas sail in their kingdom of wine!
But, none has the valour to stand up,
For, our leaders believe Ambani a farmer, Mallya a saint,
And our leaders are honourable men.

The world around me lies in shambles,
Out for money, with hands of blood,
None worthy of trust, nor one with the will to trust;
Where Love isn’t but a word,
Where Hate drives men and women forward;
There lies no hope on the horizon,
For our leaders think the country needs it not,
And as we know, they are all honourable men.

What does it take to stand up and see for yourself,
That all is not well?
That the world we see is not what it must be?
That humanity is dead once and for all?
That our leaders are not honourable men?

I look up into the skies, searching for all my whys.
Why fight the wars?
Why be led by thugs and thieves?
Wherein lies the freedom?
Where to find peace?
Alas, where is the love? Where is the honour?

P.S.: And, of course, Why this Kolaveri Di?

The author has decided to skip on the archaic grammatical technicalities, in order to reach the audience in a more comprehensible way. Thank you, Shakespeare, for providing the template for this sad obituary.

With some inputs from good friend Tanay SukumarFirst published at News That Matters Not.

A Tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee ~ Take a clue, Dr. Manmohan Singh

Our generation has had certain privileges over the current generation, like having our childhood icon as the legendary Harry Potter and not an Edward Cullen or a Bella Swann. We grew up watching Hindi movies when they still used to be original, we have had the chance of holding the classic 80 gig iPod with our very own bare hands, Tom and Jerry used to be our favorite cartoon and Friends used to be our favorite TV show! But, amongst other things, we had the opportunity to be led by a vociferous and dynamic leader as our Prime Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee, not the incumbent ‘silent-mode’ Manmohan Singh.

Atal Bihai Vajpayee- a man of honour, honesty, and integrity. In other words, everything Manmohan Singh could only dream of

What is it that you seek of a leader? Integrity? Dynamism? Ability to take Action? Oratory skills? Neither of these lie on the resume of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi or our very own Mr. Manmohan Singh (not even integrity)! But, Mr. Vajpayee, who just turned 87, had it all figured out. He was a true man of honour, an idealist at heart, and a true leader on the outside. He truly envisaged a better and a brighter India, and he made sure that he did everything within his power to the effect. He showed us that politics needn’t always be dirty, that there was always a right way to shut your opponents up, you needn’t put bullets in their heads. It was the side of politics that is beyond the understanding of the world. It’s a real shame that we let some Italian woman conquer our land and defeat our very own nationalist hero to the throne! These days you cannot associate the word ‘hero’ with a politician, for the best adjective that can be given nowadays is ‘not corrupt like the rest!’

As for Atal Bihari, words truly fall short for a tribute. In the period he was at the helm, he struggled just as much with the dissents of his own corrupt ministers, as he struggled to clean up the mess of the vision-challenged men before him. And yet, he rose to the occasion like a phoenix. He led India to the pedestal of world recognition; he made sure India had the power to defend itself from nuclear attacks and had the power to retaliate in kind; apart from countless other contributions. But, his actual contribution far exceeds those achievements- for he showed us that India still has hope, that mankind still has hope. He showed us that men who decide to work for the greater good have a destiny far greater than the others. I salute the man who chose to be a harbinger of change for the Indians, even if it meant making sacrifices bigger than what people couldn’t even dream of. If only if he were still in his prime today, if only he were! From a sincere fan of honesty, honour and integrity, in other words, everything that he imbibed, Sir Atal Bihari Vajpayee!


This article was selected for Blogadda’s Tangy Tuesday Picks, dated 27th December 2011. Find it here.