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Cool Bihari: July 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

NRI Cell for Bihar Proposed

Bihar is planning to invite non-resident Indians (NRIs) for a meeting here aimed at attracting investments in the state.

Sources in Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi's office said a proposal to hold the meet in December or early next year was under consideration.'It is aimed at facilitating development and changing the face of the state,' Health Minister Chandra Mohan Rai said Saturday.Rai, who returned from Britain Friday, said he had invited NRI doctors, especially those from Bihar, for the proposed meet.
Last month, Modi, who made a trip to Britain, Italy and Canada to market Bihar as a favourable investment destination, proposed to form an NRI cell to invite and facilitate investments.The cell will provide right information to NRIs and help speed up passage of investment proposals through a 'single-window clearance system'.The government also plans to set up a corpus fund with contributions from NRIs for development. 'The idea of a corpus fund was mooted by NRIs, who asked me to create it at the earliest so that they could contribute to it,' said Modi.
Bihar is keen to attract foreign investment in agriculture, health, IT, tourism and infrastructure sectors.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bhojpuri Movies all the way

India FM makes an interesting observation about the slow but steady rise in popularity of Bhojpuri Regional Movies over the last few years.She talks some of the Big Bollywood names who joined the Bhojpuri bandwagon .

Gone are the days when only those who failed to make it in Bollywood shifted to regional cinema. It is no longer ‘degrading’ to be a part of regional cinema as far as our Bollywood stars are concerned. Regional cinema, and specifically Bhojpuri cinema is big today and everyone wants to be a part of it. The market is huge and only expanding by the day.

Amitabh Bachchan made big news when he agreed to be a part of Ganga, a Bhojpuri film. That’s not all. The film even has Hema Malini playing his wife. The film is being directed by Deepak Sawant, Bachchan’s make-up man. Good relations take one a long way in the film industry. And it was probably Bachchan’s long association with Sawant that made him give the green signal for the project. This is also the film which saw Nagma playing a significant role.

Ajay Devgan did a movie named Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke along with Bhojpuri superstar, Manoj Tiwari. This movie also starred Rani Mukherjee’s cousin, Sharbani Mukherjee. For Sharbani, this choice came after a spate of unsuccessful Bollywood films like Mitti, Ansh, Aanch, etc. Actor-director Sachin Pilgaonkar who off lately impressed all with his dancing moves in Nach Baliye, too had featured in a hugely successful Bhojpuri film Nadiya Ke Paar way back in 1982. The Hindi remake of this film went out to be a blockbuster hit which we know as Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.

Nagma sure seems to have found her calling in Bhojpuri cinema after experimenting with Hindi and South Indian films. She also featured in a film named Ab To Ban Ja Sajanwa Hamaar, along with Ravi Kissen, one of Bihar’s biggest stars. That’s not the only Bollywood connection that this film had. It was produced by the legendary Dilip Kumar and wife, Saira Banu.

With such stalwarts turning to Bhojpuri cinema, it must have surely opened doors for the others.

The original disco dancer of Bollywood, Mithun Chakraborthy, too tried his hand in this cinema. It was a film named Coolie which also starred Meghna Naidu, apart from Mithun. Not too many know that Ravi Kissen himself had started his acting career in Bollywood. Roles in films like Army, Kudrat and Udhar Ki Zindagi didn’t exactly get him anywhere in Bollywood. However, after a very successful stint in Bhojpuri films, he was once again seen in the Bollywood flick, Phir Hera Pheri.

Over the past couple of years, the Bhojpuri film industry has grown by leaps and bounds. People are realizing the importance of this industry today. As Jackie Shroff rightfully said, “When Bhojpuri films run in Bihar, no one even looks at Bollywood!” Need we say more?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From IIM's to Harvard...

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad will be a subject at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, for his "street-smart attitude" and "corporate perspective" that helped in scripting the success story of Indian Railways.

Management students at Harvard University learnt in June of the changes in railway operations brought about by Lalu Prasad,resulting in greater profits for the ministry in the last one year.IIM-A professor G Raghuraman, a keen researcher of the Indian rail network, made his presentation at Harvard.Now his case study is being given final touches before being introduced at IIM-A.

Raghuraman says that Lalu Prasad had given a "pleasantly surprising" boost to enhancing the income and capacity of Indian Railways."Lalu has given a fresh air to the railway department. The minister and his officer on special duty have brought in a corporate perspective to the highly departmentalised set-up," Raghuraman said.

The expert is all praise for the fast-paced initiatives and innovative ideas of the minister and his aide to utilise optimally the assets of the railways."The increase in net profit was brought about by implementing changes in freight, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of total business," he said.

Raghuraman, known as "Rail Raghu" among students, has been studying Indian Railways and transportation for three decades."The minister's street-smart attitude has resulted in this benefit," he said. "Nobody in the history of the department has initiated changes in such fast pace."

But what will the management trainees learn?

"Obviously this is not something new for them. But this study of mine is the first holistic one. I plan to present the case before them," said Raghuraman.

The students are expected to raise questions and seek answers regarding the plans implemented and changes initiated by the Railway Ministry.While stressing that Indian Railways still needs several changes to become more efficient, Raghuraman is not very optimistic of the progress continuing once the duo of Lalu Prasad and aide Sudheer Kumar move out.

Why is Lalu Prasad, otherwise known for his 15-year mismanagement of Bihar, so keen to improve the railways?"I think he must have taken the present task as an opportunity to prove his abilities and improve his image," mused the professor.

I just hope that Professors thoughts holds true when it comes to the issue of Bihar’s Governance.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Another Cool Bihari...

Dr. Ravi Ranjan, a researcher at the Health Science Center at San Antonia, Texas, has been honored with Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award for his outstanding research in the field of brain molecular changes that reduces one's ability to learn and remember as one ages.

Patna Daily reports that Dr. Ranjan, Ph.D., recipient of a $200,000 grant, is one of the only three Texas scientists to receive the New Scholar Award.Hailing from Babhanbigha, a small village in Sheikhpura district in Bihar, Dr. Ranjan did his high schooling from his village and then moved to T.N.B College, Bhagalpur, for his undergraduate.

After completing his Masters from Bhagalpur University, the native Bihari joined Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, for his Ph.D.Determined to further contribute to the cause of humanity, Dr. Ranjan joined University of Pennsylvania, USA, and later moved to Harvard Medical School for his post-graduate training. Currently he is associated with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Dept. of Pharmacology, Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, as an Assistant Professor.

Cool Bihari would like to wish the very best to Dr. Ravi Ranjan in his noble effort to serve humanity. We truly admire and appreciate his achievements.

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Career Fair in Patna

We have been talking about this over the years but now that the Deputy Chief Minister is himself saying I’m sure it will make people think.

Taking cue from Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory, deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi on Friday said there was no dearth of jobs for students armed with professional degrees. Inaugurating the Employment Counselling Fair, 2006, organised by the directorate of employment and training, at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir here, Modi exhorted students stepping out of universities to either look for jobs in the private sector or opt for self-employment as the number of government jobs was on the decline. Modi said he had requested urban development minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey to locate land in Patna where one lakh kiosks could be set up. Such kiosks would be allotted to unemployed matriculate youths, he added.

The deputy CM also exhorted students from Bihar to be IT-savvy, which, he claimed, would help them in getting jobs in abroad as well. In future, students with conventional degrees like BSc, BCom and BA will find it difficult to secure good jobs, he added.To encourage vocational and professional degree courses in the state, Modi announced to set up over two dozen institutions in the state. He claimed that half a dozen of such institutions would start functioning within a year's time.

Modi further said that thousands of students from Bihar migrate to other states every year to pursue higher studies. This leads to loss of revenue in crores, he said and added that with the setting up of professional degree colleges in the state, quality education would be available for students at their doorstep.

Inviting private participation in setting up of such institutions, Modi called for organising such fairs in the rural areas as well so that students could be made aware of the job prospects. Commissioner and secretary of the labour employment and training department Shakeel Ahmad said that all the employment exchanges in the state would hold similar fairs in future.Several companies and IT firms had set up their stalls at the venue to offer tips to students on a variety of jobs.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

New Industrial Policy for Bihar

Finally the industrial policy of Bihar was unveiled which offers more fiscal sops than ever to attract domestic and overseas investment.

The thrust of the new policy is to be industry and investments friendly towards industry and investments and create an environment conducive for businesses so that industrialisation and employment can be speeded up, officials said.

The policy - effective April 1 this year - gives reimbursement of tax paid under value-added tax regime, fiscal benefits at both pre- and post-production stages of manufacturing products and sops for setting up captive power units.

According to the new policy, the state government will set up a special economic zone (SEZ) to push growth, and encourage the establishment of agro export zones, food parks and a jute park to promote its cultivation in flood prone areas.

The policy proposes a one-time 100 percent rebate in stamp and registration duty for land in industrial areas as also for units that are being set up outside the earmarked industrial estates.

It also allows reimbursement for the amount paid under value added tax of up to 80 percent for 10 years for all the new units.

Industrial units would also get a capital subsidy of 50 percent for setting up a captive power plant.A proposal has also been made for a fund to be established for reviving sick industrial units in the state.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Industry Initiative for Affirmative action

We have often lamented about the lack of growth engines for our marginalized sections of our society. To ensure that the have not’s of the society get equal opportunities the CII-Assocham task force on affirmative action has spelt out a draft code for companies. It will progressively come into action from September 2006.

According to the code, every company will have a written policy statement on affirmative action in the workplace and a policy to maintain records of such action. There will be a senior executive accountable to the CEO to oversee and promote its affirmative action policies and programmes and also present a biannual report to the board of the company.

To encourage applications from socially disadvantaged sections of society, the draft code directs companies to post their employment policies in the public domain and place employment opportunities on their websites. In its bid to scale up education and employability among the backward sections of the society, the draft asks companies to partner educational institutions and support students from socially disadvantaged sections. It also directs companies to make efforts for up-skilling and continual training of employees from the socially disadvantaged sections in order to enhance their capabilities and competitive skills.

In order to prevent discrimination in any form, the draft says the company’s selection of business partners should not be based on any consideration other than normal business parameters. In case of equal business offers, the draft specifies, the company will select a business partner from a socially disadvantaged section.

To further propagate that inclusive growth is a component of development, the draft says the companies should make available their “learning and experience as a good corporate citizen in affirmative action to other companies desiring to incorporate such policies in their own business.” The initiatives, voluntary and self-regulated, will be compiled annually as success stories and innovative business models in affirmative action.

Meanwhile, the CII and Assocham have spelt out the steps that they will take independently for inclusive development. Whereas the CII would increase partnership with Bhartiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) and encourage BYST’s entrepreneurship development programme for youth from targeted community and
also encourage developmental programmes such as Rural Business Hubs, Young Indians, Bihar Project and others to include more representatives from targeted communities, Assocham would train entrepreneurs from targeted communities at district industry centres in association with local industries.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

EnglishMan in NewYork

I don't drink coffee, I take tea my dear

I like my toast done on the side

And you can hear it in my accent when I talk

I'm an Englishman in New YorkSee me walking down Fifth Avenue

A walking cane here at my side I take it everywhere I walk

I'm an Englishman in New York: Sting

I was reminded of this song when i found out this interesting article which appeared in BBC today . It had the piquant story of Owen Tomkinson who was a British soldier who died of cholera in the northern Indian state of Bihar in 1906. If you think that the story is about Mr Owen the you are mistaken as it we are talking about his ghost here.

Believe it or not but people of Ekbalnagar in Gaya town where Mr Tomkinson is buried, believe that his ghost stops residents and passers-by and demands tea and cake.

So much so that to placate the dead soldier's ghost, they offer tea, biscuits and home-baked cakes at Mr Owen's grave at a two-acre burial ground, where he lies buried with hundreds of other Britons who died in the area. Most of the graves are of children, aged between three months to eight years, and who died between 1833 and 1877.

Mr Tomkinson was among the last people to have been buried here - 'In loving memory of Owen, The dearly loved husband of Annie Tomkinson who died at Gaya (sic) on 19 September 1906, aged at 47 years', reads the epitaph.

Gaya is rife with stories about how Mr Tomkinson's ghost "stops people" and "asks for tea and cakes". "When darkness falls, the English ghost appears. He is dressed in a very English suit and boots. He stands in the middle of the road demanding tea and biscuit," says local school teacher Mohammad Zamiuddin.

Mehmood Ali, caretaker of the 'European' graveyard where the Englishman lies buried, is not sure of Mr Tomkinson's ghost, but says there is a "ghost in the area who likes tea and biscuits" . "I have never met the English ghost. But I believe there must be some restless soul roaming around the area with his penchant of tea and biscuit," he says.

Sexagenarian Mohammad Basir says he had an encounter with the ghost some five years ago early one morning. "He stopped me but after shaking my hand became invisible," says Mohammed Basir, a small time businessman.

There are even stories of how the ghost was "tamed" by a local resident few years ago by "chaining" it to a pillar in the graveyard. "He tied him with some divine chains and fixed him to iron pillars near the grave," says resident Mohammed Zamiuddin.

But Mr Tomkinson's spirit was free again after the chain was stolen from the graveyard, says caretaker, Mohammed Ali. The oldest English resident of Gaya town, Arthur Wakefield, is appalled by the ghost stories surrounding Mr Tomkinson. "This story about his ghost demanding tea and biscuits is just hogwash and part of the local superstition," he says.

But residents of Ekbalnagar - the most backward neighbourhood in Gaya town - still keep queuing up at Mr Tomkinson's grave to offer tea and cakes. Faiyaz Ahmed, a local resident, says it is a small price to pay to keep the Englishman's ghost happy.

"He is quite unlike other ghosts. He is harmless. Even if you do not serve tea and biscuit, he leaves you if you promise to get it any other day," he says.

Well it appears that the English Gentleman’s Ghost is pretty well behaved and doesn’t bother folks much even they promise him Tea Biscuit some other day.

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Shotgun Proposes Film City for Patna

Shotgun has sought 100 acres of land in or around the Bihar capital for setting up a film city on the lines of the Ramoji film city in Hyderabad.

BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, popularly known as ‘Bihari Babu’, has evinced interest in investing in Bihar and setting up a huge film city, which would be the first of its kind in the state.Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the government has forwarded Sinha’s proposal to the state industrial promotion Board (SIPB). ‘Sinha’s proposal will be studied by the SIPB, which will ask him to formally present the project proposal,’ said Modi, a senior BJP leader considered close to Sinha.

Sinha, in his proposal submitted earlier this month, has sought 100 acres of land for setting up the film city, said an official on the condition of anonymity. The government will have to search for such a big plot of land, because it may draw the ire of farmers and the opposition,’ the official told IANS.

Meanwhile, Sinha too confirmed his Bihar film city plans. His proposed film city will have latest TV and film studios, state-of-the-art technical facilities including song recording, editing, animation, sound mixing. It will also have a preview theatre and an acting school. He also plans a luxurious hotel to accommodate film stars and crew.Sinha, who hails from Patna, reportedly said that his proposed film city will check large-scale migration of labourers to other states as it would provide employment to thousands of Biharis.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Life at Patna University

Ever wondered why students from Bihar flock to other states for admissions in +2 and Gradutaion courses?

Well if you thought that it’s because of the quality of education which other Universities provide, then think again?

As per this report In Patna University (PU), the academic life of general students passing class X examination either from Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or Indian Certificate of School Examination (ICSE) would begin at 92 this year. Students securing less than 92 per cent are unlikely to be admitted to ISc class in any college of PU.

According to the cut-off marks announced by different PU colleges for admission to ISc (mathematics and biology groups) class, the minimum marks required for admission in mathematics group for CBSE/ICSE pass-outs are 92 per cent in Patna Women's College (PWC). In Patna Science College (PSC) and Magadha Mahila College (MMC), the cut-off marks are 93 and 92.75 per cent, respectively. The cut-off marks in B N College are expected to be above 92 per cent.

In biology group, the cut-off marks declared for admission of general category students are 91 (PSC), 90.28 (PWC) and 88 (MMC). The cut-off marks for candidates belonging to reserved categories (BC-I, BC-II, SC and ST) for CBSE/ICSE pass-outs are somewhat lower (around 85 per cent).

Going by this one can easily assume that admissions to any PU college in Bihar is tougher than getting into any other school, college in the country.

Can we assume that only those who fail to get admission into Patna University Colleges actually migrate to other states?

Well not really but one thing is for sure that Patna University still attract some of the best talents in the state .If the results in the various national level competitions are any indicator, one can actually assume that we our Institutions are attracting best of talent and we just need to improve the quality of infrastructure to change the face of our good old Universities.

Read my previous posts on Patna Univeristy here and here

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Our New Role Models

For the society to prosper and set great examples for other to emulate I’ve always believed that we need Hero’s who inspire others for no extra-ordinary dare devil deeds but add a touch of excellence, passion and commitment in what they do.

We heard a lot about the success of the students who come from humble background and their stupendous success at IIT-JEE exams. Now these Hero’s are setting examples for thousands other who migrate to others parts of the country for better educational opportunities.

Not only they have done our state proud by securing ranks in the IIT-JEE exams but they are now setting exemplary benchmarks for others on how individuals can make difference to the lives of others.

The four IIT students Jainesh Sinha, Harsh Pallav, Saurav Kumar, and Roshan Kumar have identified six children from the streets of Patna for future training for IIT-JEE exams.

They say this is their way of fulfilling a “give back to Bihar” promise they made their gurus at the institution.

“This group of IIT students was in the state during the summer vacation. I gave them the task of hunting for 5-6 talented children forced by poverty to work as child labourers,” says Abhayanand. “And they have done an excellent job.” Now, he says, it is for “the government and respected members of society” to come forward to sponsor the studies of these children.

The six children are to be presented before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as well as prominent citizens at a show where they will display their talents. Said Jainesh Sinha, who was part of the search team and is now preparing them for the show, “They are gems. They need our help and support and I am sure they will blossom into geniuses.”

Sinha and his friends say they went around on a rigorous scouting trip, visiting street children, those living on railway platforms and others in remand homes.

Said Abhayanand, “We help talented poor students to crack the IIT entrance. But there are talents who will never be able to reach our institute as they don’t get an opportunity to study. We want society to ensure these talents study, otherwise it will be a national loss.”
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Journey of Chutney Music

One of the common themes which unite people from all over the world is Music .Some will claim that Sports like Soccer truly represent the enthusiasm and mood of the global youth community. Well it’s true that Soccer does has wide fan following but essentially you have teams on the basis of nationalitywhich means healthy rivalry of one or other kind. I think Music is the only medium which truly unites mankind and has touches the soul of each individual.

It’s mankind’s quest for finding themes for bonding that has Beatles stars in 60’s using tabla and Dholak and legendary Indian artists like Pandit Ravi Shankar playing sitar in Wood stock festivals.

Wikipedia says”One of the most interesting themes of music Chutney music is a form of music indigenous to the southern Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname) which derives elements from soca and Hindi film songs. The chutney artist writes lyrics in either Hindi, Bhojpuri or English and then lays it on top of beats that come from soca and Hindi film songs.

Chutney music is mostly popular among the East Indian community in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and also the West Indian diaspora communities in Toronto, Canada, The Netherlands and in the New York metropolitan area.

First, this kind of music has a religious background. This is one of the only sources that suggest sacred origins. Secondly, it is a popular music, which utilizes folk acoustic instruments. This is important to note since many modern popular genres in Trinidad exclude the use of acoustic (or non-electrified) musical instruments. Lastly, the definition gives the impression that the music has been integrated into other world music styles. This is one of the most important features of this musicand one that ties it to other Indian diasporic music such as bhangra.

Then came the fourth phase, the final ingredient as it were, with the addition of Khimta (Chutney) into the already douglarised (bastardized) soca. Chutney is the music and song (and now dance) composed and sung by Indian women originally behind closed doors and now in the competitive arena for male and female...No doubt the Chutney Soca has become the "beat" of the late 80's, and is heading into the 90's with astonishing vigour even delving into the area of chutney soca parang(Constance 1991, 66).

The identification of another, possibly Indian, term for chutney-- Khimta -- is an important step in further defining the genre. Constance (1991) claims chutney as the former domain of women, since the instruments used in chutney, such as the dholak, were some of the few acceptable for performance by female musicians. Another important feature is the fact that this genre has been coopted into other Trinidadian musical styles of soca and parang. Hence, syncretism has been an acknowledged characteristic of chutney's history.

The Chutney form is music reminds me of the typical Gali Songs which is sung during the marriage ceremonies in Bihar ,Jharkhanda ,UP and Bengal.You can read more about the popular artist and cultural history here and here.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Plans to develop greater Patna seem to be taking some shape .

As per Patna Daily “The Delhi-based Infrastructure Professional Enterprise (IPE) has submitted its Rs. 695 crore plan to turn the dream of having a Greater Patna into a reality. The ambitious plan drawn on the pattern of Greater Delhi is expected to take five years to complete covering the areas between Fatuha and Maner on the east-west end and Hajipur-Sonepur on the northern end.
While the central government will foot the fifty percent of the Rs. 695 crore plan, the state government will pony up 20%, or Rs. 149.3 crore and the remainder Rs. 198.3 crore will be realized from the Patna Municipal Corporation, sources in Patna said on Saturday.The plan includes a 4-6 lane 60 kilometer Ring Road covering Fatuha, Deedarganj, Ashok Rajpath, Danapur, Khagaul completing the oval shape near New Bypass Road.
Several areas including Khagaul, Sabajpura, Badalpur, Saidpura, and Pataliputra Housing Colony that are currently not within the jurisdiction of town limit will become part of the Greater Patna. Covering an area of 234 Square Kilometers, the plan seeks to include over 200 villagers currently in Danapur, outer Patna, Maner, Fatuha, Phulwarisharif, Sonepur, and Hajipur.
According to the report, the plan for Greater Patna includes improvement in sewerage and sanitation at the cost of Rs. 184 crore; road network and transportation (Rs. 106 crore), Water Supply (Rs. 111.5 crore); slums and low-income housing (Rs. 111 crore); urban governance (Rs. 102 crore); drainage maintenance (RS. 28 crore); solid waste management (Rs. 26 crore); city environment (Rs. 17 crore); and Heritage and Conservation (Rs. 8 crore) thus bringing the grand total to Rs. 695 crore.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bihar as Role Model

The Union minister, who had a meeting with the CM, ministers and senior officials here after his four-day tour of Bihar at the state secretariat on Friday, said the state can be a role model for other states as its working has been transparent and it has adopted well-planned strategies in the implementation of different projects like the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana, Sampurna Swachchhata Abhiyan, Rashtriya Gramin Swasthya Mission, Jawaharlal Nehru Sahri Vikas Mission and Million Shallow Tubewell Yojana.

Addressing the meeting, CM Nitish Kumar said the state government has focused its attention these days on all-round development of Bihar, especially those who are poor and destitute, and started different projects on a large scale. The annual plan outlay of the state was increased from Rs 5,400 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 8,250 crore in 2006-07, he added.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Heroes of our Times

Thanks to Madhukar I came across these two amazing real life Heroes of our times who displayed exemplary human courage and determination to break the shibboleths and strive to create a difference around.

It took Kamleshwari Singh all of seven years to dig one in his village, 80 km from Patna. Being too weak and too old to use a spade, he used a trowel.People dismissed him as “demented” and children laughed and called him talabi baba.

But now that the 62-year-old has actually dug the pond single-handed, people are streaming into the village to take a look at his handiwork.An impressed sub-divisional magistrate of Barh, Vandana Preyasi, said: “We will soon felicitate him and recommend his name for a state government award.”

Public health and engineering minister Prem Kumar said: “I will write to the Patna district magistrate to extend all possible help.”

Dashrath Manjhi's whose claim to fame has been the herculean task of single-handedly carving a 360-ft long, 25-ft high and 30-ft wide road by cutting a mountain for 22 years. But, today for this native of gehlor (near Gaya in Bihar), there is a more daunting task at hand as he strives to get for his community, the Musahars, a respectable place in the society.
Considered as social outcasts, Musahars are traditionally associated with various social stigmas such as eating rats and the belief that they are very liberal with drinking liquor. They are identified as people who survive on grains gathered from hideouts of field rats.
With a slender frame of a man in his late seventies, diminutive and dressed in simple white kurta and dhoti, Dashrath Manjhi hardly fits the stereotyped image of a superhuman. Agonized at the suffering of his wife, who broke her earthen pot and hurt herself while crossing the narrow pathway round the mountain, Manjhi started working on the road that reduced the distance between Atri and Vazirganj subdivisions from 50 kms to 10 kms.He is today considered as a living legend by his community.
But for Dashrath Manjhi it was more than a daredevil action or an act of eccentricity. Ashe initiates another struggle to emancipate his people, Manjhi derives strength from his long, solitary life of 22 years that he spent in making the road.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bihar's Untapped Potential

Highlighting the potential of Bihar to move up the value chain from a raw material center to a finished leather goods hub, the Council for Leather Exports will be submitting a comprehensive report to the commerce ministry soon.

Despite having a commendable share of 5% of the country’s total leather output, Bihar still languishes as a raw material market mainly due to lack of facilities for finished leather.

Talking to FE, CLE Executive Director K Elangovan said if Bihar aspires to become a big leather industry hub, it has to take a wholistic step by designating large areas for leather development and also set up a common effluent treatment plant (CETP). Since tanneries are extremely polluting, the state government has to ensure an ultra-modern CETP which will ensure that this aspect is taken care of, Elangovan said.

He said the employment potential that the leather industry has in the state was huge and would be in millions. If Bihar graduates to being a finished leather centre, then a single shoe factory with a production capacity of 1,000 pairs per day would be employing 5,000 people, he added. Besides, not only is there is abundant labour supply in Bihar, but also the sector is not a power—intensive one. Both the factors suit Bihar to the tee, he said.

According to the 2003 figures for the production of hide/skin, out of a total production of 23 million pieces of cattle skins, 1.32 million was from Bihar which was 5.74% of the total. And out of the 28 million pieces of buffalo skins, 1.32 million was from the state which was around 4.7%.

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Big Boost for Bihar

Government has bowed to pressure from Bihar heavyweights by extending the Rs 3,500-crore Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) to 50 more districts to include 13 from Bihar, and 37 others, that were left out of the ambit. The multi-crore fund was drafted to boost infrastructure in backward districts. A Group of Ministers (GoM) on Tuesday gave its nod to the proposal to expand BRGF to 250 districts from the chosen 200 after the Planning Commission proposed it as the way out of the deadlock over the beneficiary districts.

While the number of beneficiary districts has gone up to 250, the GoM has decided against raising the fund allocation of Rs 3,500 crore, thereby bringing down the money per district substantially. Each district was to be allocated an average sum of Rs 17.75 crore annually. As per the fresh draft, sources said, 242 districts will be allocated Rs 10 crore per year, while the remaining Rs 1,080 crore will be distributed among districts in proportion to their area and population. Bihar has emerged a major gainer in the process.

The government has decided to retain the annual special package of Rs 1,000 crore for the 11th Plan period while including all but one of its 38 districts in the ambit of the BRGF 13 districts falling in the list of the newly-added 50 districts. Thus, the state while getting the lion's share of mega-crore BRGF will also get Rs 5,000 crore during the 11th Plan.

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  • I'm Ajit Chouhan
  • From Houston, TX, United States
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