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In the land of Nitish

By Himanshu Shekhar | Last Updated: Monday, February 23, 2009 - 17:09
Himanshu Shekhar
The Compulsive Pilgrim

Nothing the greatest can conceive

That every marble block doth not confine

Within itself: and only its design

The hand that follows intellect can achieve.

Ferrying milk from neighbouring villages of Matihani, Badalpura, is a routine that <i>Doodhwala</i> Hare Ram hardly ever misses. It’s an occupation which he inherited from his forefathers. But on Feb 10, 2009, Hare Ram had a sense of excitement about his routine job. He took extra care and caution in delivering over fifty litres of milk for those ‘neta ji log’ who were assembling in his village.

The gathering in Barbighi was tremendous. The village had never seen such an array of bureaucrats and leaders; apart from occasional trips of ‘<i>chutbhaiya netajis</i>’ (village leaders who surface only during elections).

Probably for the first time in modern history, a cabinet meeting was being held outside the confines of air conditioned rooms of a capital city, away from the very comforts for which some politicians fight elections. Though symbolic, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s move epitomizes the change sweeping through the state; which the people had lost hope of ever seeing.

Barbighi was the third spot in Nitish’s Vikas Yatra and the man leading the campaign left no stone unturned to "reach out to the common people". His act in a way symbolized those famous words of Muktibodh, where he says;

“<i>Ab abhiwyakti ke saare khatre uthane hi honge, todne honge gadh aur math…</i>”

(It’s time to take all those risks of expression, we have to break the forts and the temples)

The protagonist of Muktibodh ( Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh) wants to break free from cliches and red tapeism paralyzing civic institutions in the state.

It was indeed a big day for the common man not just in Barbighi, but Bihar. The government, which used to make him go round in circles, was at his door steps.

For those like me who believed in Muktiobodh’s progressivism, it is indeed a milestone of sorts as here was a man who promised a change or atleast offered that ray of hope to a state that had come to be known for everything but that.

But for true change to occur Bihar needs to rise above petty caste poiltics and fight against its own ‘Netas’ who would certainly resist any move to rid the state of cancerous casteism as it would deprive them of their vote banks. An honest effort should come from all those people, who love and care for the state and who take pride in calling themselves Biharis.

Since Kumar took over the Chief Ministership from Rabri Devi, Bihar has seen a considerable drop in naxalite attacks, as a result of the empowerment of police officers and restructuiring of the <i>‘thanas’ .</i> Take for example the district of Begusarai. Once notorious for its criminal records, it had shot to (in)fame for recording the first ever case of ‘booth capturing’. It has now recorded a significant dip in crime, and is making headlines for holding the world’s first ever cabinet meet under public eyes.

Colleges are being rewarded for completing their course on time and the Bihar State Public Service Commission has acted swiftly to finish its back log.

Nitish took Bihar’s top job in 2005 after the people overwhelmingly voted him to power. Many believed that there would be a series of cases against Lalu and his team but the CM ensured that this did not happen.

His efforts in mobilising an all party meet after Bihar was ravaged in the 2008 floods highlighted his abilty to bury differences when it came to development and welfare of the people. Talking to media, Nitish acknowledged that a majority of the complaints he receives are against government officials. But he is not giving up and has now taken the battle against corruption into his own hands.

“I've decided to wage a war on corruption once I complete my Yatra", he says. The cabinet meet in a village definitely sends out the message that the government is not sitting in an ivory tower.

The languishing health sector in the state has also got a new lease of life. An innovative tracking system has been put in place by the Chief Minister. Government doctors have been provided a mobile phone each which they must carry at all times even when not on duty. Each mobile can be tracked through a global positioning system. Doctors can no longer avoid their duty and continue their private practice, refusing aid to those who need it the most.

But often political leaders have raised hopes only to disappoint, falling in the web of greed and corruption. Hardly ever have leaders converted people’s trust into a success story. Bihar has no dearth of goblins and that’s what Nitish has to guard against. Only then can he win the trust of a common man like Hare Ram doodhwala who feels that his four children will get a school in the village after Mukhiyamantri Ji’s promises.

If that happens, Nitish’s name will be inscribed in golden letters in history.

First Published: Monday, February 23, 2009 - 17:09

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