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Cool Bihari: November 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bihar is the flavour of this season

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s visit to IIM is believed to be another good PR exercise in its effort to transform the image of Bihar in places of high academic credence like IIM. He appears to be keen to present a dynamic and vibrant face of Bihar to the world at large. It is believed that he gave a patient hearing to all the students and delegates who shared their plans and ideas on issues pertaining to Bihar’s development.
He also mooted the idea of having an IIM in Bihar by next year and the IIM director accepted Kumar's invitation and assured him all help from his team in establishing a management institute. A team of experts from the IIM-A would help the State Government in preparing the curriculum besides helping in developing the basic infrastructure. The CM assured the director that funds would not be a problem for developing the institute.

Bihar was also the flavor of the season in the India Economic Summit where delegates where keen to know the developments which have taken place in Bihar since the last govt. took over. The Bihar story was passionately articulated by Bihar’s very own N K Singh, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission for Bihar,who painted a bright picture for the 82 million people - the size of Germany's population -- who have been traditionally at the bottom of the UNDP human-development pyramid.

Besides producing 80 per cent of India's lychees and 60 per cent of India's mangoes -- and sending half of the 1.6 million patients who crowd the corridors of Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences each year -- Bihar also plans to spend Rs 18,000 crore on roads over the next three years. It has scrapped its Urban Land Ceiling Act, sharply slashed stamp duties, and attracted $6 billion in foreign investment. Half of that is in sugar, said Singh. Bihar is the only state in India where sugarcane grows on non-irrigated land. It has passed 30 pieces of investor-friendly legislation over the past year, and now has a single window for investors.

This begs the question -- if so much is changing so quickly, why did nobody do anything about the Wretched State all these years? Perhaps the Biharis, who NK Singh said could populate the new IT havens of the nation, have been listening to Wipro Chairman Azim Premji. "If we don't stay one stay ahead of the Chinese," he told the conference earlier, "they will have us for lunch."

I’m sure the achievements of the past one year have been credit worthy but the challenges seem to lie at various levels.So Nitish can plan to have another IIM’s at Patna but the bigger challenge lies in resurrecting the dilapidated and paralytic academic system prevailing in the rest of the institutions in Bihar. I think it’s easier to have an IIM’s in Bihar than weeding out the deep rooted malaise which plagues the university and even school education in Bihar.Nevertheless the focus has to be on both the tracks so that not only we revive the existing institutions and create an overall healthy academic environment rather than just having an IIM which becomes an island of prosperity for Bihar.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

New Initiatives and projects in Bihar

As expected the media has come out in full support of the Nitish govt and the one year regime of the present govt continues to hog limelight. However the beyond this political analysis some new stepes have also been taken to attract investment and give momentum to industries in Bihar.

On the first anniversary of the Nitish Kumar government, Bihar’s efforts to chalk out a path of industrial development got twin fillip with the announcement of setting up of Bihar Development and Investment Council (BDIC) and Bihar Foundation. While the first will act as a ‘think-tank’ towards creating an investment climate, the other will bring together — from across the world — prominent people who belong to the state for its development.
Kumar made these announcements after releasing the report card of his year-old government with the slogan: “Development with Justice”. He said the primary goal of his government was to cater to all sections of the society with justice.

He announced the setting up of a Bihar Foundation to involve Biharis settled elsewhere in India or abroad in the state's development. "The state government is setting up a Bihar Foundation to network with people originally from the state and now settled in different countries. The aim of the foundation would be to provide a platform for these people to begin a lively relation with the state," Nitish Kumar told reporters while releasing a report card of his government on the completion of one year in office.
To boost tourism government has come up with a host of schemes at the trade fair to attract tourists from within the country and abroad. The plan includes two heritage hotels at Patna, a 18-hole Golf Course at Bodh Gaya, 9-hole Golf Course at Rajgir and an international convention centre at Patna.

Tourism officials at the India International Trade Fair said on Tuesday that tourism is becoming a major industry in Bihar. “The stage is set for a massive growth,” said Bihar’s Resident Commissioner in Delhi C K Mishra. Tourism officials say the international convention centre will be built at an estimated Rs 50 lakh while the amusement park will come up at Rs 1 crore. The two heritage hotels at Rs 4 crore, golf course at Bodh Gaya at Rs 4.2 crore and the golf course at Rajgir at Rs 2.08 crore.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Optimism in Bihar

TOI reports on the new hopes which have shaped over the last one year in Bihar.The winds of change are to be felt and the results are also eveident.

The one year has been a year of happening, and a creative and positive atmosphere has been created," the CM boasted. Excited over the 'achievements', he has shining hopes to take the once dark state into an area of glittering light after a run of troublesome decades. "By 2015, Bihar will be standing side-by-side with other developed state," Nitish claimed.

It was a clear sign that the masses put aside their petty caste considerations for the sake of development, infrastructure growth and jobs. With people’s aspirations rising by each passing day, the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government has more responsibilities than the days it has left behind in the office.

The process has begun, they say, but the delivery system needs to be made pro-active so that people can see the visible changes in their blocks, villages, tolas and homes. The visitors should also see the roads without ditches and electric poles with wires and running energy.

Expectations of the business community from the new regime is also high. In its Industrial Policy, 2006, released in July this year, the state government has offered good relief to resuscitate the industries in Bihar. Though the result has not been visible by November-end when the Nitish Government completes one year in office, state the government has done much win the confidence of Bihari entrepreneurs who are now looking to tie-up with the big corporate houses like the Tata Group to set up industries in Bihar. Of course, marked improvement in the law and order scenario has come as a great relief to the industrialists.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bihar - A better tomorrow

So has Bihar changed in the last one year since the new govt, has come? This is a question being asked by everyone around .The answers are also obvious but the scars of yesterday years continue to raise few eyebrows and skepticism. I’m sure this is one debate which will see various assertions but to some extent one can sanguinely say that it’s not difficult answers this.

The other day Frank asked me for few inputs on changes that I have seen over the last one year in Bihar .A real simple question but I could not answer it in the same simple way he had asked. I suggested that the changes could be seen at two different levels: the tangibles and the intangibles, to which he said “are yaar tell me what changes a common man could see in Bihar”. Very true, it’s not important what I feel about Bihar but it's more important what a common man in Bihar feel's and experiences in his daily life. The tangible changes have already been expressed by the chief minister today in his interaction with press.

"There has been a paradigm shift in the attitude of investors, particularly those from outside, towards Bihar," he told PTI in an interview ahead of the first anniversary of his NDA government on November 24. The envoys of Japan and Britian and Vice-Foreign Minister of Singapore had evinced their countries' interest in investing in the Buddhist circuit in the state, he said .Top industrialists like Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra were also keen to invest in the state. To meet the huge task of allotting land to investors, the Bihar Government has decided to enact a 'land policy' soon to decide the quantum of compensation to people whose land would be acquired.

The cabinet had already cleared investment proposals worth over Rs 12000 crores and the state Investment Promotion Board has done so for another Rs 10,000 crores. The cabinet had also cleared Rs 1,000 crores on road construction projects alone.
I’m sure if you have been reading this space you’ll have enough reasons to celebrate and hope for more tangible changes to come. But the most important and more critical change which seems to have changes the perception about Bihar is the intangibles. So gone are the days when the name Bihar would conjure the image of a land of darkness and crime. Today any Non Bihari will ask you different questions about the developments in Bihar, no more Bihar symbolizes the land of fodder eaters and criminal politicians. For a change Bihar’s chief minister was rated as the best in the country and the state also saw champions for it cause from people outside Bihar.

Gone are the days when a Bihari outside would be heckled by queries on antics of Lalu, infact today the brand lalu has also changed. So it’s not just Bihar but Biharis also are seen as a potent to recokn with everywhere you go. No more do we hear only about new scams and kidnappings, nor do we face barrage of media reports on crime in Bihar. So what are things which has brought about these sea changes, is it just the govt. and its machinery which has been able to bring about this change.

Undoubtedly the govt has to be credited for the initiatives which it has taken but more than that I feel the people and citizens of Bihar needs to be applauded ,who have contributed in changing the realties in Bihar. The kind of spirit and collective effort which Biharis have made in the last year is also worth appreciating. The great resilience and courage shown by them after being deprecated over the years is also remarkable. It’s also pertinent to see the great pride and passion with which every Bihari feels and associates with. A collective effort from all corners has seen this revival and although a lot needs to done, we must keep the momentum. We all realize that what we have achieved in the last one year was the biggest hurdle to cross; we are now proud for being a Bihar and what Bihar is today. We have hope, courage and conviction in striving for a better Bihar.

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World Heritage Week in Bihar

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Patna circle, will celebrate the week-long World Heritage Week commencing from Saturday. This time, the ASI will celebrate it at Kocheswar Mahadev temple at Koch in Gaya district. P K Mishra, superintending archaeologist of ASI's Patna circle, said very soon an action plan for the development of this temple will be taken up. The temple is located about 27 km northwest of Gaya.
"The surrounding environment requires to be changed. It was a big temple complex and many important sculptures of 8th century are scattered all over the area," Mishra said. The Vishnu, Dasavatar, Uma-Maheshwar etc are the main sculptures lying in an area adjacent to this monument. These also include the ancient tank which speaks volume of its antiquity. The temple has been declared as a monument of national importance by the ASI since 1996 and it has been maintaining its authenticity by its periodical conservation programme on this site.
For the first time, the ASI's Patna circle is celebrating the World Heritage Week on the premises of the Kocheshwar temple by inviting students, scholars and common masses to create a sense of awareness about the rich cultural heritage.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Images from Bihar

This lazy Saturday afternoon I was too tired to read or key anything so i decided to take a look at some of the pics which from Bihar on Flickr, and trust me folks it was worth searching and seeing those beautiful and breathtaking images from different parts of Bihar.

So get ready for some visual fiesta and treat your eyes with some exquisite and exotic images from the land of Buddha.

Some pics from Steve here.

Images from streets of Bihar here.

From Patna and Gaya here , here and here

Srikanth's pics from Patna here. Also see Here , one of the best collection of pics on Bankipore and Buxur

And in case if you have missed out Chandan pic's do take a look again.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Career Aspirations of Bihari Students

We knew it was coming, the waves of liberalization have also shown the impact on the career moves of the students in Bihar. We always knew that Biharis have done exceedingly well and are amongst the top rankers when it comes to traditional career options like Civil Services and State administrative services.

But students of Bihar have kept pace with the changing times and they have changed the gear now. So what used to be a once upon most coveted career choice is no more considered as the best bet when it comes to career options. The potential and global charm of Management as a career option is also attracting the talent of Bihari students, as more and more students aspire for coveted seats in top management institutes on the country.

Here’s what IBN reports on the changing trends in career choices in Bihar.

"Almost 20-25 per cent of students in IIT are from Bihar. If you add those getting into IIMs, I think the number will be substantially high. Out of 1300 seats, in a conservative guess, almost 120-130 students would be from Bihar," says the manager of IMS Tutorials, Manish Kumar.The wind of change is blowing in smaller cities as well with the state witnessing a similar race towards corporate world.
We have seen a large no of bihari students opting for a alternative careers like media, fashion designing, social sector like NGO’s. This is a good tread as it will lead to a more diverse pool of talent and the state can hope that the talent which has migrated at some time will come back and contribute in developing untapped human resource potential of the state.

The trend for management studies was started in mid 90’s when people slowly realized the impact which the liberalization policy of 1991 on job opportunities in India. Slowly over a period of 4-5 years the no of aspirants for CAT, XAT started to swell exponentially and more and more students started opting for management as a career option.

There were times when students from Bihar could not do well in the interview and group discussions round of the selection test. They had to struggle to beat the confidence and panache of students from other states when it came to communication skills and assertiveness for scoring well in the GD & interview selection process.

However credit must be given to training institutes in Patna which helped student cope with this traditional disadvantage very well and now more and more students from Bihar are competing well with students from other states with great aplomb.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Efforts to Revive Tourism in Bihar

Bihar govt is keen to revive the tourism potential in the state and number of steps have been taken recently which definitely augurs well for the development of tourism and related industries like hospitality here.Patna is also likely to have an amusement park by Bihar State Housing Board (BSHB, spread over nearly 9 acre of land in Patna on 'Public-Private Partnership' basis for the benefit of the residents while hoping to generate substantial revenue for the city, BSHB officials said on Monday.

The BSHB has not only identified the location for the amusement park in bahadurpur area but has also almost completed the blue print for the plan, it was learnt.Pending a high-level meeting of the BSHB in coming days, the Board will issue a tender to invite companies for the construction of the amusement park, managing director of the Board Pradeep Kumar said. The park will feature the usual thrill rides including a roller coaster, fun houses, snack and ice cream shops, gift shops, a water park including facilities for boat rides, among many other attractions, Kumar said.

The Indian Govt is trying hard to attract foreign investment for tapping the immense tourism potential in the Buddhist circle. None other than President Kalam has been addressing global audience for the Revival of Old Nalanda University.

In a live videocast from New Delhi, Mr. Kalam told the participants of an international symposium here that another "mission" would be to "work towards building an inclusive society in a world free of violence, terror, war, and fear." Spelling out the global vision of the "fully autonomous academic body" proposed to be set up at the original site of the ancient Nalanda university, the President said its functional basis would be determined through a "process of discussion with hundred scholars drawn from different parts of the world." They "may include those who have been internationally recognized for their exemplary contribution to peace in the world."

Mr. Kalam explained how he came to envision the concept of "a unique institution in Nalanda in the context of current ambience in the world." This project, designed for a "unity of minds" in the 21st century, would draw "inspiration from the rich historical traditions of Nalanda, Bodhgaya, where Lord Buddha got enlightenment, and other spiritual centres in Bihar." Being planned as a multi-discipline university, it will have a sweeping focus from science and technology to spirituality.

Since security has been a pressing concern the state has decided to set a special force to ensure hassle free visits for the tourists.

The force, to be controlled by the superintendents of police of respective districts, would be deployed at various tourist spots like Rajgir, Nalanda, Bodh Gaya, Patna, Munger and other such places to promote tourism, official sources told.

"The recruits would be imparted training on tourist management and the orientation programme will be organised by the union ministry of tourism", they said. Besides, the state public works department would develop the eco-tourism project at Valmikinagar, they said, adding that an Austrian firm, Dopple Mayer, was preparing the ropeway project at the Pragbodhi hill, where Buddha meditated for five years before attaining enlightment.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gandhigiri in Bihar

Interesting article on rediff today which says that although Bihar lags behind the developed states but it has the potential to catch up fast.
The fact of the matter is that India is not a developing country, but a re- developing country, and the South is simply re-developing faster, because it has managed to retain just a fraction more of the traditional Indian-ness. This Indian work ethic (is what made India such a powerhouse in centuries past, and it is the unleashing of this entrepreneurial creativity that has enabled India to grow at 8 per cent. There is no reason that the rest of the country cannot catch up with the South, and I continue to be most bullish about Bihar and Orissa, the laggards of the day.

Perhaps some food for thoughts for us, as citizens what we need to learn from the developed states and also adopt the best practices and prepare better for the social upheavals which unbalanced growth brings in the society.

Undoubtedly, Bihar’s potential was never doubted, it’s just that the mix of inefficient and disenchanted bureaucracy and corrupt politicians never took the cause of the people with serious and collective effort. Although the whole country leaped ahead in the glory of open economy and liberalization but Bihar unfortunately plunged into a chasm. Times have changed and so has the approach of people towards things.

As responsible citizens we first need to reform ourselves, why do we need eunuchs in front of our houses if we pay our taxes regularly. In my limited experience I have seen some highly responsible people bending the rules as per their convenience. They are the first one to accuse other when it comes to the blame game. What’s surprising is that like our true Indian brothers we break rules only in our own backyard (Bihar).A Bihari living in other state will continue to do what an Indian does in other parts of world.

Be it paying taxes, electricity bills or even the traffic rule on streets, for change to have all round impact, these small but significant steps are critical. For any policy or action on part of govt. or developmental agencies to make its impact felt its citizenry must co-operate and be receptive to the actions being taken. Pressure groups and NGO’s must work with the state machinery to spread this message. If our developmental efforts have to bear long term fruits we also need to create a mass awareness on the rights and duties of each citizen.

As Munna Bhai would have rightly said"it’s time for Gandhigiri in Bihar”

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tale of Two Biharis

We have been hearing about the great success of Biharis in the field of engineering, medical, administrative services and banking jobs. Despite the social and political odds in the state, we have some solace in the fact that our talent has been able to make its mark felt in various parts of the world and in different fields. We always felt that talent migration may hurt the interest of the state in the short run but ultimately some of these successful people will come back to share their stories and expertise.

It’s a matter if great pleasure to see people like Vijay Shekhar Sharma who was something of a child prodigy because he finished school when he was just 14, was the youngest engineer to graduate out of the Delhi College of Engineering and he set up his business at 19.

This 28 year-old comes from a family of educators from Bihar but didn't want to do the same thing. His dream was bigger and he wanted to get there in a hurry. He wanted to be owning a billion dollar company by the time he was 30 years old, so he decided to get started early and that's how he began an internet services firm in college. The initial startup was sold to a New Jersey-based telecom software company.

Then came One 97 Communications. So, just what is One97 Communications all about? It's about what makes India abuzz these days - SMSs, funky ringtones and it's something that Sharma's company caught on to pretty fast. But the real break came to him with His company has been approximately valued at USD50 million and he's looking forward to an exciting time. His future could be moving towards video and as he puts it, "We've been actively working with video. We'll soon launch video SMSs, video portals, videogames and everything that will bring video on to your phone. You would see video ringbacks, video portals and you could have flicker-free video on-demand on your phone."

We also have people like Ravi Verma, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who hails from Katihar, around 350 km from Patna, is the CEO of Telecommand Software and Services in the Silicon Valley that maintains the Entrepreneur Resource Planning (ERP) systems of the state of California.

I am from Katihar. I invested some dollars here because I feel charity should begin at home. It was my childhood dream to do something for my native place," Verma, said. According to Verma, Telecommand provides IT consulting and support to both public and private sectors in Sacramento county and wider northern California areas.

Verma, who is in his 30's, said he was proud of running a successful software development centre in Katihar. "Not many thought it could actually happen. I chose Katihar to prove that one can make a difference." He started his business in this town in December 2005 and it was a profitable venture right from day one. "California is our premier customer and our Katihar team works hard to maintain its systems. Our team in Katihar works as though they are sitting in the US itself."

The biggest challenge for Verma was to motivate the people in Katihar. He hired software engineers belonging to the town who had gone to cities like Bangalore and Mumbai in search of work. Verma also set up the R.S College of Computer Science and Engineering in Katihar in July.

"I hope other NRIs also do something for their hometowns or home districts," said Verma, a graduate from IIT Kanpur who migrated to the US in 1994-95.

Way to go man…you guys have really set nice examples for generations of Biharis to come. Great to know that the emotional energy is being focused to bring about some concrete results.So now that this process has gained momentum once again it’s important that the state comes forward to facilitate such new ventures.Bihar has had some companies from US having its offshore operations in Patna in the past for several years. It had some success stories as well but ultimately due to some political intervention the companies had to make quiet exits due to other than business issues. It’s time to learn from our mistakes a put our best effort to make it happen.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bihar Musings

Two interesting posts on Patna/Bihar this week caught my attention, different perspective but great read for sure for a hardcore Patnaiya like me.

The first one has some historical perspective about how the city came to be named Patliputra and then Patna. MEHDI HASSAN from southasiabiz talks about the how the city has come a long way since the days when it was named Pataligram, Pataliputra, Kusumpur, Pushpapura, and Azimabad.

Once upon a time, there was a great king Putraka, who had a queen named “Patali” which means “Trumpet flower”. The king loved the queen so much that he created a city for her with a magic stroke and named the city “Pataligram.” Later, the king changed the city name to “Pataliputra” in honor of the queen’s first born. In Sanskrit, “Putra” means son. Well friends, the legend could be true or not but the place named Pataliputra still exists today as the capital of Bihar in India.

There are two explanations about the origin of the name Patan. According to one explanation, the name derived from the name of a Hindu Goddess. The second explanation is that Patna was a port city. Hence, it is called “Pattan.” In Sanskrit language “Pattan” means port.

Megasthenes, the famous Greek traveler and geographer, talked about the city named Pataliputra in his book. Patna’s recorded history can be traced back to 490 B.C. Ajatshatru; the King of Magadh, made the city his capital. Lord Buddha passed through this city and he prophesized about the future prosperity and ruination of this city.

The post gives complete overview about the historical places, educational institutions and commercial establishments in the city and has some useful info about Patna.

In a different post Naghma Masroor talks about the real Patna which most of the other people are seldom aware as media hardly highlight it. The common perception that Bihar is in shambles and abject poverty, lawlessness may not be what real Bihar is all about.

Its capital boasts of the best convent schools of the country, which have been churning out ICSE and ISC toppers every year. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the virus of Private tuitions or classes has not entered the 'necessary evil' category there, as in the other cities. Students have to study on their own. Patna, earlier known as Patliputra, is the oldest city of the country, and has witnessed the rise and fall of many an empire.

Its Gol Ghar, is the biggest granary in Asia. The Gandhi Setu arching over the Ganges, is Asia's longest and World's second longest bridge, connecting two cities. If promoted aptly, and with great marketing fervor, these places can bring in many more foreign currencies to our country.

The people, there are highly emotional and aggressive--both at the same time. The families there are closely-knit – where people have voluntarily surrendered their independence, to each other. It has to be so--after all, its a part of a bigger, more beautiful and enduring entity – India. And how do I know this? 5 years of my life in Patna, gave me an enriching experience, washing away all misconceptions about the place.

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Man on a Mission

Vishwanath Prasad Vishwakarma, a government schoolteacher in Nawada in Bihar, has made it a mission of life to take education to as many people as he can. Vishwakarma moves around extensively across his hometown Navada to reach out to illiterate children and adults who had to drop out of school because of economic and other reasons.

After his official duty hours, Vishwakarma ensures that he reaches out to all those who have been deprived of reading or writing skills. For his mission he has selected labourers' children that he finds at several quarries in Nawada area of Bihar. Besides stone quarries, Vishwanath frequents railway stations and trains to teach drop-outs, who work as railway hawkers.

"I want to make these children to be aware of their basic rights, which will happen only once they are educated. Till they are educated, they won't understand the implications of government programmes and schemes, and how they can benefit them. Once they are able to do that, they will be in a position to better their situation themselves," says Vishwanath.

Vishwanath's efforts have not gone unrecognised. He has got several awards from the State and Central governments, and a nomination for a top national civilian award for his contribution to education. The sight of hawkers with an assortment of fares- snacks, newspapers, apples and oranges- huddling around Vishwanath is amusing to commuters who crowd around the 'classroom.'

Vishwanath says that the success of his initiative would lie in his efforts sending across a message to others who might try replicating his model.

Certainly we have new role models in our society who go beyond the call of duty to create a better world. I’m sure the likes of Vishwanath Prasad and Anand Kumar will inspire the teaching community in Bihar to go extra mile in order to reach out to the underprivileged.

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It happens only in Bihar

Innovation seems to be the new mantra for officials in Bihar these days. Tired of the old ways of doing things they seem to have discovered the art of making news out of every mundane activity. So what used to be a rather regular chore for a tax collector from Patna Municipal Corporation turned out to be a crowd attracting event for public and media. How else do you explain the novel approach of collecting tax dues in Patna?

NDTV reports that the loss-making Patna Municipal Corporation has come up with a novel method to collect money, due from its citizens. On Wednesday the eunuchs forcefully entered houses and shops in the city with drums and loud music. Quite a few of those who had not paid their taxes were embarrassed into doing so.

TOI also reports “For, the eunuchs, as 'agents' of the government, were out on a mission -- to collect municipal corporation dues from shopkeepers. Needless to say, the mission was accomplished. They collected cheques and cash amounting to Rs 4.25 lakh from the defaulters in different localities on Wednesday alone.

In a flash, perhaps, they did what the army of tax collectors could not do in months. "Tax jama karo. Hum sarkar ki taraf se bol rahe hain. Ghar-darwaza neelam mat karao," Pooja was yelling at the shopkeepers as other eunuchs danced and clapped. One eunuch said, "Our leader Kali Hijra was approached by the government and she drafted us for the job."

Strange but true and highly effective too….

In another interesting move officials of Bihar Govt. say they want to train many of the state's estimated 100,000 vagrants to sing songs in trains and buses and beside busy roads, as well as enact street plays about the deadly virus.

"Beggars are great actors and very creative," Vijay Prakash, Bihar's welfare secretary said. "They always had the skills, but lacked direction which we are giving them and the experiments have so been very successful," he added.

Great idea of tapping human potential in spreading social awareness and a good indicator , how a unique approach towards doing regular things can generate public interest and get some momentum going.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Raghav Radio may be back in Bihar

If one goes by the reports in HT today, Raghav radio is back in news and likely to restart with the new change community radio policy.

The new community radio service policy allowing NGOs and bodies associated with farming activity may give new life to Raghav Radio. The policy recommending slashing the license fee by half would be considered by the Union Cabinet shortly.

For over three years, Raghav Mahto’s station, ‘Radio Raghav FM Mansoorpur 1 channel’, had been beaming popular programmes from Mansoorpur village in Vaishali district. The station aired music and local news and views to hundreds of people in and around the area. After the channel was closed, last year, people have collected money to support Mahto’s invention.The collected money may be enough to run the community radio as I&B ministry’s has proposed to charge only Rs 25,000 as license fee for a period of 10 years as compared to Rs 50,000 in the earlier regime.

The ministry seeks to widen the scope of community radio to nook and corner of the country and in it, Mansoorpur, may get its local radio channel back. “We will support local community channels which provide information and in interactive in nature,” a ministry official said.So far, only educational institutions are allowed to run community (campus) radio centres. Jamia Millia Islamia and Osmania University are some of the educational institutions that are running community radio.

The limitations of the present policy can be gauged from the fact that the ministry has issued only 17 licenses for community radio stations in the past two years whereas over 100 licenses for FM radio have been granted.Once the Cabinet approval comes, scope of community radio is expected to widen. “We want it to grow bigger than FM radio as it is community specific and can help in raising social issues. The NGOs will be the biggest beneficiary of the new policy,” an official said. Any trust or society can also apply for the license but it should not be political or religious in nature. However, all applications are mooted through the Union Home Ministry.In a bid to financial sustain the community radio channel; the ministry has proposed to allow advertisements to meet the running expenses. But, the revenue generated cannot be for commercial gains, he clarified.

A welcome move and I’m sure this will allow people to come forward and help raghav to make his dream come true and also inspire other to dare to dream.The radio service can also be used to create health awareness and other educational /developmental programs in the villages. You can read the previous posts on Raghav radio here and here.

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Campaign against child labour in Bihar

The Bihar Government on Monday launched an "integrated campaign" to enforce the revamped ban on child labour in non-hazardous occupations and the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

"We are embarking on a nine-day integrated campaign in which awareness will be created about the ban on child labour which warrants penal action under the modified sections of the Child Labourers (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 1986 which came into effect from October 10, 2006," Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi told reporters.

The campaign has been named 'Bachpan Ho Azad (let childhood be free)' and several NGOs, including UNICEF, Bachapan Bachao Andolan and Nidan would carry it out, Modi, who also holds the labour portfolio, said.

According to the 2001 census in Bihar, 5.4 lakh children were "main workers", who worked for over six months, while 5.8 lakh were "marginal workers", who worked for less than six months, he said.

Earlier, the employment of child labourers in hazardous jobs alone was prohibited, but as per the new amendments, employment of children below the age of 14 years as domestic help, in roadside eateries, resorts and entertainment centres has also been declared illegal. "Now there are provisions to slap a fine of Rs 20,000 or imprisonment for a year or both on those employers who violate the legislation," he said.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Medical Facilities in Bihar

The other day I posted about the opening of eight new private medical colleges in Bihar and it was hearting to hear the president of Bihar State Board of Religious Trust Acharya Kishore Kunal announcing that in next couple of years would construct ten new hospitals in a number of districts from the money received at temples and mutths.

Patna Daily reports that a cancer care center in Hajipur at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.2 crore, Vatsalya hospital in Sitamarhi, a heart hospital in Muzaffarpur, and a medical college in Begusarai are some of the projects that the Trust is currently working on, Kunal, a former IPS officer said.

Kunal earlier inaugurated the addition of a maternity ward, a waiting room, an optometry, and a reception room at the Mahavir Arogya Sansthan in the presence of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nitin Navin, former Vice Chancellor S. N. P. Sinha Sinha, Justice Prem Shankar Sahay, director S. C. Mishra, Dr. Jitendra Kumar Singh and a number of doctors and physicians.

I’m sure all this augurs well for the state as medical facilities continue to be in shambles in the state. Having seen the pathetic condition of the state run hospitals, which have their own issues of infrastructure, bureaucracy and red tapeism, one must say it’s a commendable move to have more hospitals in Bihar, which is starved of quality health facilities.

Bihar continues to be the biggest market for drugs in India, despite producing some of the best talent in the field of medical science the citizens of the state continue to seek quality medical help from other states. The state has produced legendary doctors but the spate of kidnappings and extortion threats in previous regimes have dealt a bloody blow to the quality of medical practitioners in the state. To be fair to the medical fraternity despite the will to serve the poor and needy of the state the law and order situation forced them to migrate to other place.

Mahavir Arogya Sansthan continues to be one of the hopes for the poor and needy of the state and has truly served the citizens of the state in facing the menace of Cancer. I’m sure moves like this will improve the health service and quality of life in the state.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sonepur Mela Begins

Asia’s biggest cattle fair Sonepur mela was inaugurated today by Bihar Chief minister Nisth Kumar. Stalls dealing with household goods, clothes, woolens and other daily items have come up at the venue. Theatres, where small-time artistes sing and dance on Bollywood numbers have also pitched their tents.

Several government departments and the Indian Railways have also set up their stalls to apprise the people about their projects.

The full moon day of the month of Kartik (November) is regarded as one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus. Sonepur situated on the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Gandak, has the reverence of a blessed ground and lasts for a fortnight. In ancient times the Royal Rajahs and Nawabs used to camp here. The Sonepue Fair has unique and historical importance.

A bath at the confluence and a visit to the Hariharnath temple here is the aim for thousands of devotees on the Kartika Purnima day

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Cool Bihari Musings...

Claude Renault is a Free-lance photographer who loves to shoot pics in India and he has exquisite collection of pictures which capture the mood and feel of India.I found this real cool pic of a bihari which was shoot by Claude in his India photo diary.

You can see his collection here.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Eight New Medicals College in Bihar

Decks have been cleared for opening eight new medical colleges in the private sector in Bihar with the State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) approving the proposals. The SIPB approved the proposals for setting up four medical colleges in the private sector in Patna, two at Bettiah and one each at Ara and Saharsa.

The SIPB also cleared a proposal for opening a dental college at Ara, official sources said.

Two American companies had submitted separate proposals for setting up the medical colleges in Patna and its adjoining areas. The board gave its nod to the proposal of the medical world4u, an American company owned by an Indian, for setting up a medical college and super-speciality hospital at Patna with an investment of Rs 148.87 crore.

Another such proposal put forth by the Indo-American Medical Foundation Director Purushottam Madhu too received the permission to run a medical college with an investment of Rs 100 crore within a radius of 30 kms from Patna.

Besides, the Hai Medical and Research Institute Private Limited, a nursing home here, also got clearance for running a minority medical college at Raza Bazaar in the state capital with an investment of Rs eight crore.

The SIPB also approved a proposal to open a medical college at Patna at a cost of Rs 300 crore with training facilities for the paramedical staff. At Bettiah, the Medicontrivers India Limited has proposed to set up a medical college and take up the modernisation of the MJK hospital there, while the Universal Empire Group of Kochi would set up another medical college in Bettiah, the sources said.

The Lord Budha Education Trust and the Ambedkar Medical and technical education trust would set up Medical College at Saharsa and Ara, respectively, they said.

Meanwhile, a 29-memer parliamentary committee team headed by Amar Singh, MP, would visit the Patna Medical College and Hospital here on November 8 and meet with principals and deans of the six government medical colleges and two private medical colleges of the state on the proposed amendment in the MCI Act, 1956.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Blogs on Bihar

Just chanced upon this new blog on Bihar and Biharis titled “Bihari Buddhi” and it was indeed a nice experience to go through the blog content. The flat world is really making its impact felt in different ways and power of internet and google are few such examples.

So news content which was the bastion and sacred domain for privileged few has now become accessible at key strokes, a reader can be a source of information too. There were times when we has little option but to read whatever the print media dished out in the morning newspaper and Doordarshan telecasted.

The new age of information means greater but sometimes irrelevant content, focus of creating sensation rather than an informed mass. I’m sure mediums like blogs have already democratized the sources of news content and has also made the traditional mediums like Television and print to package news and information for a new generation of which keeps itself informed through the virtual medium.Blogs from news channels and print mediums are few such examples. Blog like Chanakya's media watchdog have also made people review and appreciate the other side of the story.

It will be interesting to analyze how blogs actually impact public perception about a piece of information and also if at all the individual opinion of the blogger is perceived as neutral and bias free. One good thing about blogs is that in allows a reader to give an instant feedback to writers. So let a thousand bloggers on Bihar share their thoughts and views on different happenings from Bihar and also investigate and bring new content which will surely put mass (biased) media to shame.

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