As someone who has grown up in Bihar and observed the interplay between society and politics closely, I can assert that for the first time in the last three decades, elections have become a moment for a constructive conversation around issues that matter for Bihar and its citizens. It is a remarkable achievement and the credit for this must be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose noteworthy achievements on multiple socio-economic indicators and transformative leadership during the pandemic has compelled politicians from across the spectrum to speak about jobs, status of women, law and order and development.
As a child of the Nineties, I categorically remember my grandmother reprimanding me for stepping outside the four walls of our house and used to frighten me with a strange character roaming around the streets called Lakadsungha. I later realised that this was not just a figment of her imagination — it represented criminals and kidnappers roaming freely around the streets of Patna. Last I checked, the data on the website of Bihar Police indicated that cases related to kidnapping children for ransom have gone down to 18 in 2020 from 385 in 2001, during a period when the state has witnessed an almost 20 per cent decadal growth in the population. Data have their own life and they do not lie.
The story of Bihar in the last three decades is linked to my personal story. Due to a lack of opportunities for upward mobility for members of middle-class families, I along with million others from my generation, had to leave Bihar in search of avenues for better education. Coming back was probably not an option beyond Holi and Chhath festivities. As I pen this down, I see IITs, AIIMS, NIFT, management institutes, the National Law University and other institutions of higher learning where students from the state can pursue their aspirations and are no longer required to leave their families. Nalanda International University in the ancient city of Rajgir now offers courses on ecology, peace studies, Buddhist studies, etc. and attracts students from Europe and a number of South East Asian countries.
As a student in far-off National Law University in Bhopal, I remember travelling for more than 30 hours by train to reach Darbhanga. With the opening of an airport in Darbhanga, the distance will be covered in a matter of hours. Connectivity is an important yardstick to determine the growth and development of a state. Patna, with a web of modern flyovers, will become unrecognisable to someone visiting the city after 15 years.
Along with thousands of other postgraduates, I also applied for the position of assistant professor in the state universities and after my selection by the Bihar Public Service Commission, I have been teaching at the historic Patna Law College since 2018. State civil services examinations, like for the judicial service, have now become an annual affair. Previously, it was possible that after the recruitment of the father, the next set of appointments would have taken place once his son would have become eligible to apply for the same examination.
Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, once said: “For me, a better democracy is a democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected.” It was only after 2005 that the elections for the panchayat and other local bodies started to happen at regular intervals, after a gap of more than two decades. Through the Bihar Panchayati Raj act, 2006, the state has led the reforms for women’s representation in panchayats in the country.
Bihar has more than quadrupled the gross state domestic product from Rs 76,466 crore in 2005-06 FY to Rs 4,14,977 crore in 2019-20. The rate of growth has been phenomenal in the last couple of decades. “With an average of over 10 per cent growth, Bihar has registered higher growth than the growth rate of India in the last three years”, said the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi while presenting the 14th Economic Survey of India 2019-20 report. Jagdish Bhagwati, noted economist and professor at Columbia University, has highlighted the role of economic growth in creating social infrastructures. Growth cannot be discounted for the sake of rhetoric as is being done by a section of the opposition when they are promising the impossible to the people of Bihar.
In a couple of weeks, Bihar will again reelect the government that will put it on the path of progress, development and a newfound confidence in the comity of states.
The writer is an Assistant Professor at Patna University and the National Spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janta Party
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