Sunday, May 13, 2012

Man of ideas draws flak, praise in equal measure

Manoj Chaurasia / The Statesman 

PATNA: In the past six years that Nitish Kumar has been in power in Bihar, his National Democratic Alliance government has floated idea after idea, some innovative and others bizarre. And it’s not only the national but even the international media that has shown a keen interest in Bihar from where, after decades, stories not centring around caste conflict, crime, poverty and insurgency have found play. In a line: Enter, the chief minister as idea-smith.

“The moot question is how much these ideas have helped the masses. Have they created employment opportunities? Attracted big-ticket investment? Improved health care facilities? Enhanced academic platforms fore students? I'm sorry to say that the answer is a big No,” said Professor Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, of the economics department at Patna University. According to him, many of these ideas are just “publicity stunts” that officials have come up with in order to be in the news.

“The government’s own report said agriculture has shown negative growth in the last four years. A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry study said actual investment is zero over the past three years. An Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India report said the environment for investment in Bihar is lacking. Higher education has collapsed and corruption is on an upward spiral. This is the reality in Bihar today,” he said. 

Even more bitterer was the reaction of Right to Information activist Shivprakash Rai who alleged corruption had overshadowed crime in Bihar.“Till 2005, it was Jungle Raj in Bihar; today it is corruption that has taken over the state... The criminals have turned contractors,” alleged Mr Rai. 

Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, alleged no previous government in the state had frittered away so much public money on "image-building" as the present regime.

On the other hand, Saibal Gupta, member-secretary of the NGO Asian Development Research Institute NGO, asserted that the success of the "idea-smith" chief minister has brought the state into international focus for all the right reasons after a long time. 

“Bihar has scripted a success story today and all credit goes to Mr Nitish Kumar,” said Mr Gupta, who is also the Director of the state-funded Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance. “To attain a growth rate of 14.8 per cent in 2010-11, which was the highest in the country, is a magnificent achievement and the most pro-people statistic there is,” he added. 

Mr Gupta, who has worked on various research and innovation projects with leading organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, World Bank and the London School of Economics said it was because of the ideas being generated in Bihar that the state had got an image makeover.

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