By Aditi Saraswat:
News, articles and write ups on Bihar and it’s state of governance, law and order, economic progress, growth rate, investment in public utilities etc. were very congratulatory and encouraging until this April.
Bihar’s growth rate was 14.48% in 2012-2013, against a national of 5. Even while the per capita income lagged behind the national, hope had been instilled in the people, for the road map to development was in place. Statistics showed that owing to encouraging schemes like mid day meals and others, more girls were in school that boys, with 19.29 million children attending classes.
Then, as Modi began to climb yet higher on the rungs of the national popularity ladder in NDA, uncomfortable tossing within the Nitish Kumar- Sharad Yadav’s JD(U) was very discernible, and so was a shift in media’s take.
Nitish announced split from the NDA after 17 years of ‘an alliance of convenience’ and 7 years of partnership in the state government. Suddenly, the flood of news pieces were centered around the breach and imminent socio- economic downturn. BJP left no stone unturned to show that as soon as they exited, law and order flew out of the window (Sushil Kumar Modi : “life in Bihar suddenly seems to be full of risks and dangers”).
Open fire by the police on the villagers of Bagaha, the mid day meal fiasco which claimed 23 innocent young lives, the ten serial blasts at Bodh Gaya temple or the killing of a Mahadalit and injuring several others allegedly by 500 upper caste Hindus in Baddi village among many others, are very troubling incidents. Two dozen communal clashes have occurred since the split.
Why did the administration not take security measures despite repeated alerts flagged by the Intelligence Bureau? Is the Mahadalit agitation and repression being manipulated so that Kumar can safely alienate himself from the politics of upper castes, which is the domain of the ‘non – secular’ BJP? Polarization of votes, while very inevitable, is also contentious as the Pasmanda Muslims, Mahadalit and other non upper caste votes are shared between JD(U), RJD and Congress.
Regrettable is the fact that amidst all this, the people of Bihar are forgotten. Bandhs called by the political parties are a huge blow to the state revenue and the livelihoods of the laborers, business class and by extension everybody. Forced closures of shops, small factories and vehicles cripple everyday life. By fueling of sentiments of hatred through their very polarizing stances, both uttered and otherwise, parties are widening the gaps between communities and groups. Suddenly, the agenda on the table is not development of a people, but their caste.
In Nawada, communal riots broke out on 11th August, where at least two died followed by a 52 hour curfew. While it was lifted later, the impact is lasting. Investment in industries and employment creation is a pressing need, for the countless laborers who have migrated to other states to come back. Service sector and the judicial framework has to be strengthened. Focus must shift towards keeping the children in school, and not merely ushering them in to fulfill official figures. Poverty statistics have to be pulled down, and roads and other public works expanded.
More importantly than mere promises and churning of policy, implementation must be enforced. Even if the alliance broke for reasons personal to JD(U) and some other coalition formula comes to power in the upcoming state election, development must not take a backseat. Bihar must not get eclipsed, for hope is a difficult thing to rekindle repeatedly.