Monday, March 7, 2011

Launching a war on development in Bihar


Emboldened by the resounding success in assembly elections, Nitish plans a total recast of strategies

Kumari Chitra / Patna

A war against corruption, better health, education and electricity along with keeping up the good work on roads and law and order is the new development mantra for the Bihar government in its second tenure.

War against graft

The state cabinet has scrapped the annual Rs one crore Local Area Development Fund given to each of 243 MLAs and MLCs. It was believed that the fund was an honest way to stay corrupt. Now a planning body, comprising of top bureaucrats, would approve plans. Only time will tell whether a small group will run the show or it is the best method to check corruption by MLAs and babus alike.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also got Bihar Special Courts Act 2009 to try its public servants facing corruption charges. In this, the state government will seek permission of trial courts to confiscate property of an accused so that ill-gotten money is not used to influence witnesses. If an accused is acquitted, the government will return the property with compound interest.

A Special Court recently gave first such order in which property worth Rs 44 lakh, owned by a motor vehicle inspector, accused of graft, was confiscated. CM Kumar announced that a school would be opened in the building owned by the corruption accused. Six special courts were set up for speedy trial of corruption cases and seven cases against bureaucrats, including a former DGP have been registered under the Act.

Other important measures taken by Nitish-II to rein in corruption include government making it mandatory to declare assets of everyone – right from CM to the lowly clerks and proposal to bring Right to Services Bill ensuring time-bound service to citizens from the government end. GAD principal secretary Deepak Kumar said no exception will be made to this order and by April, a 500 GB space will have all assets declared online.

Women Empowerment

The election result showed that there was a 10 per cent jump in woman voters most of whom voted for the incumbent government. Kumar has shown initiative and showcased his Kanya Suraksha Yojana (see box). The scheme was a deft attempt to discourage child marriage and even female infanticide. Nitish government has also decided to open a women police station each in all 40 police districts during the financial year to deal with women-related cases with special focus on women atrocities. At present, there is no woman police station in state. “Let us put in place provisions to have district headquarters-based police station in all districts to effectively deal with cases such as rape, eve-teasing and other forms of women atrocities”, Kumar said.

Road to success

If Digvijay Singh had lost 2003 Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh because of poor roads, Nitish won because of better roads in 2010 in Bihar. After having constructed/ repaired or elevated 25,000 odd km roads, Nitish is now taking help of technology to monitor road inspection. Can one believe that now Android (latest mobile operating system supporting all Google applications including GPS) mobiles will check road progress right from state and district headquarters. Bihar State Road Development Corporation (BSRTDC) under Road Construction Department (RCD) introduced latest mobile operating system – Android, for central monitoring of road construction by executive engineers from district headquarters and RCD secretary from the state capital. Bihar will be the first state in the country to use this technology. Earlier, Bihar State Bridge Construction Corporation successfully used mobile inspectors to track engineers on duty by providing them GPS-enabled phones.

It will work in two ways. First, assistant or executive engineers will have to visit the construction site every two days to take pictures of constructed road for uploading on RCD site. And to ensure double compliance of work done, RCD secretary will use the latest technology using Google map to see progress of work, reported by executive engineers concerned.

RCD secretary and BSRDC managing director Pratyay Amrit said: “In the first phase, we have provided Android-enabled phones to eight executive engineers in charge of road construction at state highways – 68, 69 and 70 in Naxal-hit Gaya and Aurangabad”. Amrit said once the government found satisfactory progress with help of new technology, all 200 engineers in-charge of road projects under RCD would be given new technology-enabled phones.


Getting all out of school children back to formal education is on top of agenda now. Now all school children from class one to eight will get free uniforms and boys and girls bicycles in Class nine. A recent report by Asian Development Research Centre and Pratichi, yet to be released, says that now only 5.9 lakh children between six and four years of age are out of schools. This number stood at 25 lakh in 2005-06. Students’ enrolment has jumped to 92.7 per cent in 2009 against 32 per cent in class six, seven and eight in last three years. Now every one lakh population in state has 114.3 schools against just 60 three years earlier.

Ensuring food security for 1.4 crore BPL families is another agenda of Nitish-II. On electricity front, there are problems galore as despite several MoUs, power sufficiency will take some time. Bihar still has to settle coal linkages issues with Centre.

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