Nitish Kumar
Pradip Bhandari
Bihar: Hope Diminishing By The Day

Economic growth is not possible if the state cannot guarantee a stable rule of law and order. Can Nitish Kumar save Bihar from descending into a state of lawlessness?

After the results of the Bihar election were out, I was waiting eagerly for the Mahagathbandhan to take office in the irrational hope that the alliance will work out an arrangement to deliver good governance to the people. Although I had serious doubts, and my earlier writings tried to make a case for giving the BJP-led-NDA a chance to govern the state, I restored my faith in the legitimately elected representatives.

Unfortunately, my irrational optimism took a backseat as I started flipping newspapers of the past two months. To my surprise, newspaper headlines were populated with incidents of abduction, kidnapping and murder.

The new government took charge on November 20, 2015.  Since then, there have been more than 23 cases of kidnapping, with a higher number in December compared to November. The new year, rather than being a beacon of hope, turned out to be a continuity of gloom for Bihar. Bihar welcomed the new year with the news of a couple being killed in Kanakpur village, arrests being made in Chhapra, and theft committed in Gaya. This was a continuum to the existing situation last year.

2015 had ended with the news of a kidnapped engineering student, who was traced after four days of search. These incidents should not be seen in isolation but in the context of the change in government, where the divided loyalties of ruling establishment is a contributing catalyst towards deteriorating law and order problem.

What Did Bihar Vote For?

The electorate had entrusted the current chief minister to take Bihar forward on the development path. Any development can only be achieved once a state of security is a norm in the society. The Chief Minister might have the intention to take the state ahead, but is it possible for him to reign in the “non-fringe” elements whose survival is contingent on keeping law and order in a relatively volatile position?

Today, Bihar is  eagerly seeking investment in power, roads, and industry. Capital investment – public and private, is critical for making Bihar the melting pot of economic activity especially in agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. However, even if the state spends from its limited kitty to increase gross state capital/GDP ratio, crowding in of private investment can only happen after the incumbent law and order situation is improved. Private investment is needed to improve the balance sheet of the power distribution company in the state.

report of National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) titled “Energy Sources for Indian Households for Cooking and Lighting” showed that about seven out of ten rural households in the country had electricity. However, in Bihar, only about two houses and a half out of ten rural households have electricity. Moreover, it has the highest number of urban households without connection to electricity. The World Bank, in its recent report (February 2015), claimed that two out of three people in Bihar do not have access to electricity. This sorry state of affairs has made an impact on the availability of education, health and employment opportunities in the state. Moreover, with the announcement of the latest UDAY scheme by the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, initial revival corpus would be provided by the central Power Ministry but ultimately the burden to revamp the unacceptable state of power distribution and availability will fall on the state exchequer.

Rajesh Chakrabarti in his book Bihar Breakthrough: the turnaround of a beleaguered state points out the achievements of the current chief minister, when he was in a coalition with the BJP-led-NDA. It is time the Chief Minister puts his foot down. The question is: can he, when he is presiding over a partnership born out of differing ideologies and goals coming together for survival?

Pradip Bhandari is a founder of Jan ki baat, the digital media start-up. He works for global village foundation, a public policy think tank working with Government of Haryana. He is also the recipient of young leader award, 1st  Model youth parliament in 2014.