Also read this article at Indimag
(The idea to pen a futuristic story about Bihar came when my parents called me up to know if I would be home for Holi. Watching the Delhites here enjoy the festivals with their near and dear ones makes me jealous. Why didn’t we stay back in Bihar? Because bihar would have given very few to no opportunities for growth. So the Bihar of the future would be one where the people are able to get all opportunities for growth, education, and a good life in their own state. The achievements may be quite a feat for Bihar today, still we can always dream and focus in the direction. The article may not be factually correct.)
Laxman Sharan was taking his evening stroll in the newly built Gulabi Bagh in nearby Patna when a group of kids catch up with him and start pressing him to talk of the time when a few bandits attacked Gaya town. Laxman Sharan, in his 70s and baba to the kids here, has narrated the story so many times; yet the excitement of the kids here shows no exhaustion.
A group of badits attacked Gaya town and held the town administration to ransom for a complete night. He was a kid then. Hiding in his mother’s lap, he didn’t know how to react. Later as he grew up, he learnt that they were Naxallites who attacked that fateful night, taking away the lives of some 25 police personnel. Also a few civilians were injured.
With fading memories of that black night, Sharan baba usually gets very excited while recounting the events. It’s heartening to see the new Bihar, free from its various flaws, for which Bihar and Biharis were forever cursed. Today Bihar has the second largest per capita income in the country. Also its share in the country’s GDP is increasing year on year. Agriculture, still a major employer, is an example to the country. Focussing on organic farming, farmers are now selling to the World. The top companies have set base here. Several giant SEZs have come up at places as Danapur, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Mujaffarpur, Darbhanga, Singhbhum, etc. The changes are cheering.
If Sharan Baba is to be believed, it all started with the efforts of Pritish Kumar, nephew of Nitish Kumar, Ex-Chief minister of Bihar. Once he came to hold the office of chief minister, he ensured that the state and it’s people benefited from the policies and processes. As against his predecessors, he ensured that there was little to no corruption in usage of the funds. The funds reached the people for who they were destined. First things first- the young Chief Minister often used to say. And starting off with agriculture and then industry, basically sunrise sector, he brought about this transition to Bihar.
Though Pritish Kumar cannot surely miss the credit for heralding Bihar into a new future (he was a good man and bihar forever needed a visionary as him), it was also the desire in Biharis to rise above the mess that bihar was in then that actually helped Bihar to its present state.
Due to lack of employment opportunities in their own state, the people from Bihar ventured into other states to earn livelihood. For want of higher education facilities, students had to travel thousands of miles away from their homes and finally settle there after completing their studies. But poor as they were and belonged to one of the BIMARU states (it was once told that India could have easily become a world superpower, had it not been for the underdevelopment of Bihar and UP), Biharis were forever chided. While the word ‘Bihari’ became an addition to the slang dictionary, the educated Biharis would hide any connection with the state.
But the fuel in fire was the widespread demand for ouster of Biharis from states where these people were seeking livelihood. Poor auto and taxi drivers were beaten up in public. The state and its people was accused of polluting the culture of the state. Quite a large number of people had to return back to their villages because of the rampant violence.
Pritish Kumar took the reins of Bihar immediately thereafter. Rising above petty politics, he sensed the mood of Biharis then. Pride in Bihar – he wooed the hearts of people with this slogan. And as if people were waiting for the torch to be lighted, they followed the Chief Minister to revolutionise Bihar.
There was no lack of example. India was already shining and Bihar was very far. So much had to be done. Improving the infrastructure, reviving the almost dead agriculture, reorganising the state machinery, fighting against corruption, setting up new industries, strengthening the educational system, and above all taking pride in ones culture.
Even though there was support for this revolution from people, the process was not at all easy. To wake Bihar from the centuries old slumber was not an easy task. Politics had almost left Bihar hollow. Being one of the largest contributors to the parliament in terms of count of MPs, most political parties dreaded the newfound conscious among Biharis.
A majority of the Bihari talent had travelled outside. The second important challenge was to bring these talent back. It was a dilemma. The state wanted its talent to return to engineer the revolution. But until the state could offer them better opportunities, the people who had left long back to search for greener pastures feared the return.
Security was an important concern. The Maoists movement was ripe then. A few first industrialists were warned of dire consequences if they didn’t move out.
However, many challenges won, Bihar rose. And the new Bihar today is one of the top grossers for india. Very few Biharis venture to other states now seeking livelihood. in fact there is quite a large amont of influx of people from outside states as well.
The rewards of the growth has been fairly distributed. Take sharan baba for instance. Now he celebrates Chath Pooja and Dussehra with his sons, daughters, their own spouses and children in his flat in the posh Nathnagar locality of Patna. He has recently shifted here and is liking it here because of its proximity to the Gulabi Bagh and a Walmart shopping mall closeby. His parents were not as fortunate then. Their sons, being thousands of miles away from them, were seldom able to be together for the celebrations. But his sons can stay along and closer – thanks to the New Bihar.