Situated on the Gandak river, a portion of Sattarghat bridge collapsed in Gopalganj district of Bihar after the water flow increased in the river due to heavy rainfall. Ironically, the bridge was inaugurated on June 16 by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and exactly after a month, it came crushing down. This has affected the connectivity of Gopalganj with many districts of North Bihar as the administration has been trying to take stock of the situation in Gopalganj after the findings of a 2017 inter-ministerial committee were totally sidelined and sidestepped.
As the opposition heavily lashed at Nitish Kumar for giving priority to incompetent contractors who by their close proximity to the administrators and bureaucrats scored the opportunity for plundering and looting the resources of the state. A bridge construction project whose work started in 2012 and by all standards was nearing its completion suddenly getting washed away does merit many questions for the Nitish Kumar government. Why has the Bihar government under Nitish Kumar become so lethargic, inept and highly irresponsive towards the woes and worries of a common Bihari, presenting us with a glaring gap in policy action and implementation.
I sincerely believe that being unaccountable and unresponsive to the aspirations and objectives of the people in Bihar has become the hallmark of Nitish Kumar if not for maintaining and managing his alliance partners viz RJD and BJP. This is reflected in his political tone and language of walking the talk with his initiatives like prohibition of alcohol sale and consumption, providing 35% reservation to the women in jobs at all levels in the state, coupled with the provisions for safeguarding the interests of the vulnerable and poor through which he has been able to build and craft himself as a development icon and a mascot of the destitute and the poor.
As the assembly elections are drawing nearer in Bihar, there seems to be a discontent in Lok Janshakti Party, an important NDA ally against the leadership and chief ministership of Nitish Kumar. Ramvilas Paswan has raised some pertinent questions on the perpetual state of law and order along with governance in the state. Although late last year, Amit Shah had made it clear that NDA will contest the assembly election in Bihar under the direction and guidance of Nitish Kumar in the state, so why is there a growing disgruntlement against Nitish now?
For the BJP, having Nitish on board will sufficiently ensure a palpable chunk of lower SCs and OBCs vote, accordingly enhancing its bargaining and negotiating claims with Nitish Kumar as with a divided opposition—RJD and Congress. The possibility of an electoral fortune seems bleak as for now. Nitish Kumar, who prides himself as ‘a son of the soil’, a people’s worker, earnestly establishing a personal connect with the state people, has been highly dismissive and ignorant of the people’s question.
Known as “Sushasan babu” for his governance and policy track record, Nitish is widely admired and adored by the people of the state as elaborated in his reluctant alliance with the RJD in the October 2015 state assembly elections where many had seconded his political prospects. But the point is how his electoral victories have in any way bettered the lives of the ordinary people who continue to be deprived and discounted on account of their social and economic milieu. Many migrants who returned to Bihar in the lockdown period were greeted with a lack of basic minimum quarantine facilities in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Accomodations were made for these migrants as initially the government kept itself in denial with the exact number of data and figures of these migrants.
Intertwined with a lack of testing and care facilities, the coronavirus has began wrecking havoc on the state with people falling prey to this virus while the state administration looks ill-equipped to tackle the glaring challenge. Simply extending the lockdown till July 31 wouldn’t be beneficial in the absence of strategy to cope up with the coronavirus menace? Secondly when rising floods become the perennial future of our state, then why the government and administration has gone into hiding? Why do they fail in coordinating and commanding their efforts on boosting the physical and civic infrastructure in the state? Why again and again the bridge-building contract is provided to the contractor whose credentials are always to be doubted, and for what reasons?
Shouldn’t the state government be revisiting and reworking on a strategy to overcome this situation? Instead, lessons remain unlearned as in my belief and understanding, apart from Nitish, no government has ever shown the zeal and enthusiasm to enter into engagements with people when ever it comes to providing an alternative road map and blueprint to the people when it comes to floods. The low-lying areas of Kosi region in North Bihar are worst affected with many diseases plaguing the people as they end up malnourished, owing to their hierarchical social and economic strata.
But if we look at states like Rajasthan and Kerala, then we will realize the importance of the above articulated statement as people’s support and strength does play its role in overcoming any crisis-like situations. Through ensuring enough testing and contact tracings of the corona-affected people, these states set a prime example in the country for other states to emulate. Thus, Bihar can effect a change in this direction by its ability and action approach proving to be a fundamental in repairing the people’s trust and belief, which along with the Gopalganj bridge, has also ruptured and collapsed as the onus lies on the Chief Minister in showing us the way forward. At least by being sensitive if not more.