Winds of change blowing over poll-bound Magadh

Ramesh Dhudy used to drive an old Maruti 800 car. An affluent paper merchant, he could afford a bigger car but the fear of criminals forced him to suppress his desire for a full 15 years. But that is now history.

Gaya: Ramesh Dhudy used to drive an old
Maruti 800 car. An affluent paper merchant, he could afford a
bigger car but the fear of criminals forced him to suppress his
desire for a full 15 years. But that is now history. Dhudy is
now a proud owner of a swanky Honda car.

This is not only a change of vehicle but that of a
mindset that is pervading in Magadh region of Bihar, where
earlier caste violence marred life in rural areas and criminal
activities in the cities.

The changes are all the more striking in Gaya, the
divisional headquarters of the region spread across three more
districts including Jehanbad, Nawada and Aurangabad.

15 of the 35 constituencies going to polls in the
fifth phase on November 9 fall in Magadh division while 11
seats from the region go to polls on November 20 when the
sixth phase of polls is held in 26 assembly segments.

Out of these, 10 seats fall in Gaya districts, where
Lalu Prasad`s RJD despite a strong anti-Lalu wave managed to
bag four seats. JD-U had won three, Congress, BJP and LJP one

All the four districts in Magadh division had
witnessed bloodbath with private armies of upper castes and
Naxal organisations engaging in a fierce battle of supremacy.
However, the situation has changed a lot now.

"Crime and extortion were at its peak and I could not
dare to buy a new car. It has changed now. I can drive safely
in the city in any car and wear any amount of gold if I have
money. Earlier only politicians or crime lords drove big cars.
Now I can also do it. It is a big change.

"The ripple effects are there to see. Everybody is now
willing to take out their hard cash from banks and buy things
or invest in market. That will make the difference as money is
moving and making lives move instead of rotting in a corner,"
Dhudy said.

Smoke billowing from the industrial area on
Dobhi-Naili road affirm his hopes. The area once a graveyard
of industries is limping back to business.

A total of 129 vehicles including 100 for personal use
were sold off in Gaya town during a three-day car mela
organized by State Bank of India last week. The bank did a
business of Rs 8 crore in three days.

"Money is finally coming out of the closet," remarked
a car seller in the city.

People still remember how Chandra Brothers’ showroom
of Maruti-Suzuki cars at Gaya-Bodhgaya road was closed down
following threats by criminals.

It was a period when businessmen started migrating
out of Bihar as apart from extortion abductions also became a
routine affair.

Patna based Karlo Motors has now opened a showroom and
is doing brisk business at the same place where Chandra
Brothers had to close shop.

Tata Motors` Pareena showroom on the same road is also
flourishing and the company plans local manufacturing of
bodies of some of its vehicles here. Hyundai has already
opened a shop and the buzz is that Mahindra and Ford are also
coming up.

Former Chairman of District Chambers and Commerce Anup
Kedia explains the development as the outcome of increase in
purchasing capacity and the newly-acquired confidence.

"Earlier even those, who had the financial capacity
hesitated to come fore. There has been rise in economic
activities resulting in the increase of purchasing capacity
and with law and order improving people are willing to spend
publicly. In a period of optimism, people are keen to spend
and invest even beyond their capacity and sensing growth banks
are not hesitant to provide loans," Kedia says.

Vastu Vihar group has started a huge resort Sambodhi
in Bakrour village of Bodhgaya, while Gaya city has got is
first diamond showroom Radha Rani.

Taxila International School has opened a branch near
Mastpura in Bodhgaya.

Multi-storeyed banquet halls have come up in various
localities and recently hosted a star-studded dandia night.

"Recently, two Bhojpuri films were shot in the city.
That`s a new beginning," says Rahul Singh, who has featured in
over 100 albums.

Kaushalenda Pratap Singh, who once headed the District
Chamber of Commerce says "though big industries have not come
as they require developed infrastructure like roads and
electricity, there has been an upsurge in small businesses.

Apart from the automobile boom, branded apparel
showrooms have opened in the city.

Top private banks have opened their branches and there
is a new-found enthusiasm to invest in education, health and
real state sectors.

However, employmnet is still a problem in the region.

Youths are found playing cards and whiling away their
time outside Budhgere village of Wajirganj assembly segment in
the day.

Asked for the reason, one of them says, "What to do.
There is no job".

Hundreds of youths from the Mushar community at
Gehlore Valley go to Surat and Mumbai to work on brick kilns.

"You won`t find youths from October to June here,"
says Bhagirath Manjhi at Dashrath Nagar in Atari assembly