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Cool Bihari: December 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Manoj works for his native village

Actor Manoj Bajpai has been silently working out ways to develop his native village in Bihar while he spends time there away from the glamour of Bollywood. Bajpai, of Satya fame, arrived in West Chaparan district's Belwa village, 300 km from here, a few days ago to spend time with his family and friends but has been busy chalking out a development strategy for the backward area.

The actor has joined hands with his friend Gayandeo Mani Tripathi, who plans to set up an organisation for rural development."I decided to work with my friend Tripathi as he is setting up an organisation for development in rural areas, so I suggested that he open it in my village," said Bajpai.

Photo Link here.

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Vision for Growth In Bihar

For the first time, the state government has come out with an approach paper to the 11th Five Year Plan of Bihar. Projecting an investment of 16,6,593 crore, the paper talks of the what the government intends to do by way of policies and target for attaining inclusive growth, besides visualising growth rate of 8.5%.

While releasing the approach paper, chief minister Nitish Kumar said even the approach paper prepared by the Planning Commission and circulated among the states talks of inclusive growth. But the reference of inclusive growth will at best remain a beautiful slogan if the concerns of a backward state like Bihar were not addressed. The five year plan should also focus on programmes, which will ameliorate the lot of people deprived from the benefits of development, he added.

Emphasising the need of according special status to Bihar, Mr Kumar said this is an old demand and the Centre must consider it sympathetically. “I raised several such issues in the National Development Council meeting held in New Delhi. Bihar being a landlocked state, a dedicated port becomes necessary. After the division of the state, Bihar should also be entitled to the natural resources of Jharkhand. Otherwise, the slogan of inclusive growth will lose its meaning,” Mr Kumar said adding that the interlinking of rivers in Bihar will be one of the projects of the plan.

The 123-page document titled as ‘Vision for Accelerated Inclusive Growth' was released here on Monday by CM Nitish Kumar after it was approved by the cabinet. It visualises a growth rate of 8.5 per cent of GDP compared to an average of 5.6 per cent growth in 2001-02 to 2004-05.

An 8.5 per cent GDP growth would entail a proposed public outlay of Rs 58,310 crore with private outlays at Rs 1,08,283 crore, indicating a total Plan outlay of Rs 1,66,593 crore.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Right to Information in Bihar

This report talks about the new initiative on Right to Information act in Bihar.

Right to Information (RTI) has moved one step forward in Bihar with the state government setting up a call centre so that RTI applicants can call to ask for details and information. The call centre will then apply to the department concerned and pass the information back to the applicant. And thanks to the new software, callers will now be able to use several languages including Hindi, Maithili and Bhojpuri.

“This call centre will speed up the process. We want the use of modern technology to get the work done properly. And the most important point is that the process should be followed in the right manner,” a very meticulous Nitish Kumar explains.

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Amiitava Kumar's new Novel-Home Products

Amitava kumar talks about his new forthcoming novel “ Home Products” in Business Standard .

Tell us something about Home Products.

Okay. This is the first time I’m doing a synopsis, so let me take a deep breath.

A Bihari journalist is asked to write a story about a small-time poetess who’s been killed by her politician lover. Instead, the journo narrates the story of his cousin who is in prison for running an Internet porn parlour but who is dreaming of making a film when he comes out. The actor who will star in that film is his old school-friend from Bettiah, a man who is now big in Bollywood

What are you working on now?

Twenty years ago I stepped into a plane for the first time and travelled to America to study. I have written a bit about the experience in Bombay-London-New York. But there is so much else to write about a more marginal experience, about being a Bihari in a place like New York or Los Angeles.

A superficial part of that is dreaming of snow, and white women, and cream puffs. But there is a more profound side to it. The part about working through newness, nostalgia, grief, age, model minority status, even those things that in bad Bollywood productions get called “Indian soul, American dream”.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Bihar -So far so good

The year end seems to be culminating on some great positive notes for Bihar. Now that the Union human resource development ministry has given the approval, the path has been cleared for the setting up of three more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) — in Rajasthan, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

So after proposal to have an IIM and NIFT campus, we now have the IIT’s finding a place in the map of Bihar. These steps were long overdue and these institutions have had prestigious alumnus from the state over the years and its time the merit and caliber of Bihari students in recognized by having centers of these institutions in Bihar.On Cool Bihari I have been trying to highlight the achievements of Biharis and Bihar’s untapped potential over the years it gives us immense pleasure and a deep consolation to see our dreams shaping up of having a Bihar which will relive the glory of its past and will also herald a new awakening. Check more here.

Also it was interesting to see the development on Phase Three of the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP III) where seven new road projects are to be included for Bihar, taking the length of roads in the state under NHDP III from 113 km to 890 km. In fact, Bihar will have the largest increase in the total length under this programme — up by 777 km.

In one of the earlier post, T V Sinha had highlighted the step motherly treatment given to Bihar in the various central development plans. Well, looks like our prayers have been answered and we could not have asked for a better New Year gift for Bihar.

We have another instance of a person of Bihari origin settled in some other part of the world and coming back to Bihar to find his roots back, to his ancestors place. Girija Singh said he was associated with former South African president Nelson Mandela during the fight against apartheid and was in prison for 11 years from 1963 to 1974.

According to him, his grandfather migrated from a village in Bihar in 1910 to South Africa and worked as a labourer in a sugar factory. He later settled in Durban.'I have little information about the name of my grandfather's village and its location. But it is in Bihar,' Girija Singh said.He has approached government officials who have assured him necessary cooperation in his mission.

In another development “The Japanese Bank of International Co-operation will fund the conversion project of the existing 320 km of bumpy roads into a smooth four-lane highway in Bihar's Buddhist circuit zone.
The Buddhist circuit includes the famous Bodh Gaya, Rajgrih, Nalanda and Vaishali. 'The Japanese bank has agreed in principle to fund the project in the Buddhist circuit. The state government will submit a feasibility report to the bank by February,' said R.K. Singh, secretary, road construction department Saturday.

Interesting thing here is the fact that be it Japan or South Africa Bihar’s legacy has some old connections in different parts of the world and I am sure our Bihari Diaspora settled in various parts of the world will also share the joy and would come forward to contribute for the cause of the state and partner in various projects.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Scientific Foresight 2006 - Day 1

While a majority of world population is busy celebrating Christmas,a lot of young technology enthusiast had a chance to witness one of the most valuable scientific event of the year at Patna. Here is the highlights of Day 1 of Scientific Foresight 2006:

-We had more than 700 participants on Day 1 of the Event.
-The event was Inaugurated by Dr Anil Kumar S & T minister, Govt of Bihar.
-Function started Right on scheduled Time at 10.00AM
-Good contribution on presentation.
-The participants were enthusiastic about the event and this was evident from the presentations and the response it got from the audience.
-Total Submission exceeded 200 out of which 40 best presentations were selected for the event. Quite a few of them made it today and rest will be presented tomorrow.

There were a number of really outstanding presentations made by the eminent guests and the participants today and equally relevant presentations are slated to be presented tomorrow.

We would publish the details about these presentations as soon as we receive them from the 'The scientific fortnight' team.

We would like to congratulate all the people associated with this wonderful initiative and wish them all the best for tomorrow.

Have a good and safe holiday season.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NIFT Centre in Patna

After a branch of BIT, Mesra, and a National Law Institute, Bihar is getting ready for a centre of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). After the Centre's proposal for a branch of NIFT in Patna, the union textile ministry has sought 10 acres of land and a sum of Rs 29 crore from the Bihar government. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar readily agreed to the Centre's decision and the state government has earmarked 10 acres of prime land in the Mithapur agricultural farm for the project.

Informing members of the Bihar Legislative Council, the chief minister said he had conveyed the decision to the Union textile minister and urged him to start work for the project at the earliest. The NIFT centre is coming up in the area earmarked recently by the Nitish Kumar government as a new institutional area.

Besides, the newly-opened Chanakya National Law University (giving a five-year integrated degree course in Law), the state government proposes to set up other institutions of repute like NIFT and a branch of the Indian Institute of Management in the area. During his recent visit to IIM, Ahmedabad, the Bihar CM had proposed that a branch of the IIM be set up in Patna as well.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bihar in UN list of states for Development

The United Nations has included Bihar in its select list of seven Indian states where it plans to introduce a slew of welfare and developmental programmes during its four-year plan. A total of 200 districts across the seven states will be benefited under the scheme.

UN Resident Coordinator Dr Maxine Olson told TOI on Saturday that the UN System in India was in the process of formulating its next UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the programme cycle 2008-12. "The mission of this four-year plan is to promote social, economic and political inclusion of the most disadvantaged, particularly women and girls," said Olson, who is also the UNDP Resident Representative in India.

She further said that the UNDAF programme has been harmonised substantially in terms of its time frame with India’s 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12). Olson was here in connection with a programme of the Bihar Legislative Forum on HIV/AIDS held in the assembly annexe on Saturday. The programmes to be taken up in Bihar in close collaboration with the state government include quality education, coordinated HIV/AIDS and STD response through awareness, capacity building of Panchayati Raj institutions and environmental management, she said.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

E-Governance Initiative in Bihar

A new e-governance initiative by Drishtee- a network orchestrator delivering fee-based services to the rural population through ICT kiosks for e-governance will surely give a big boost to the development initiatives in the state.The E-governance project is estimated to be $3,000.

Drishtee will set up kiosk cooperatives in villages to help villagers communicate with respective health centers. The centers will be equipped with mobile phones and computers that will be connected to hospital computers via internet. Doctors will send reports via the internet and will prescribe medicines accordingly. These kiosks will also place orders for medicines as per the prescriptions. The centers will also store reports of blood pressure, ECG and pulse rates or regular patients.

The company has tied up with Bangalore-based Nerosynaptics and local NGO, Janani, for the project. The former will provide systems at the kiosk centers. Drishtee has also tied up with a pharma company, but refused more comment saying that an official announcement would follow at a later date.

Currently, its initiatives include e-governance, computer education, health, photo studio, insurance, communication and local services, village to business e-com, BPO for villagers, agriculture, rural finance, retailing for FMCG and consumer goods.

Its network covers over 1020 kiosks and Vistaar dealers for sales and services in 46 districts in nine states. "In March 2006, we commenced a Tele-Sales Centre (TSC), which enabled the entrepreneurs in villages to use GPRS enabled mobile phone, (using proprietary software developed by the organisation) to enquire and order products and services. We are now planning to use technology for WAP services, agri-queries and an education package for the kiosks," said Satyan Mishra, MD, Drishtee.

The organization had initially introduced a rural e-commerce, Drishtee Haat, to provide a marketing platform for rural artisans. Drishtee has been selected as a visionary firm among 47 firms worldwide by the World Economic Forum as Technology Pioneers 2007 for its life-changing innovations.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Life in Bihar

One of the strange perceptions which people outside Bihar continue to have about the state is the perpetual threat and fear factor about being in Bihar .However things are changing fast and now people feel that Patna is just like any other city where its citizens lead a normal city life.

A visit to the capital of Bihar - where a new government came to power last year - helps change the erstwhile perception about the safety of its people. With an improved law and order situation, women are now seen venturing out alone, driving cars and even taking children to favourite evening hangouts, which were unimaginable until a couple of years ago.

'Earlier, we were so petrified that in spite of being financially well-off, we couldn't enjoy our lives. But now things have changed. We have started living a normal life. There is a marked improvement in law and order,' Anjani, a housewife.’One of the most significant changes seen in the last one year is the city's business community fearlessly investing money in new projects. Earlier, people dreaded showing off their earnings.'

Apart from the mushrooming of new shopping malls and an increase in cars plying on roads, what has come as a relief is that people have started enjoying their lives.'Patna is like any other city. I don't understand why people fear so much. We also go out with friends and freak out,' retorted Priya, a student of Patna Women's College.

Similar thoughts have been echoed by Sankarshan Thakur on the working style of Nitish kumar and his govt. also.

No bluster, no baloney, no trick of charisma or charm, both of which Nitish Kumar summarily lacks. But listen to what he has been saying. Listen and discern the difference. Here is a chief minister talking governance — kilometres of roads built and the mileage left, the acreage under irrigation, the number of schools without teachers and buildings, the number and kind of drugs flowing into government health centres for free distribution, the availability or the lack of funds for this project or that. Bihar should probably thank its luck it has a chief minister who is talking in the manner he is, gives you the sense the state has a minder. It is easy to be lackadaisical in Bihar and get away with it.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mauritius and the Bihar Connection

Former Mauritius Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam's native village Saran in Bihar will get a facelift as part of a plan to develop and strengthen roots of Indian origin people of Mauritius.

Mauritius High Commissioner to India Mookkhswur Choonee said during a visit here: "It will develop the village as a historical place." He stressed on the need to strengthen the cultural roots of Indian origin people in Mauritius.

He said it was a known fact that "our great grandfathers had sailed form India to Mauritius and had made important contribution to socio-economic development of the country". Choonee said that people of Indian origin in Mauritius have kept the Indian values and traditions high despite living far off from their native lands. "We are proud of the land of our ancestors," he added.

In his address to Bihar legislators early this year, President A P J Abdul Kalam had mentioned how the Indian origin people of Mauritius are proud of their Bihari roots and culture.

A large number of people from Bihar, known as the Girmitiya labourers, travelled to various parts of the world, including Mauritius, in the 19th century to serve as indentured labourers in sugarcane and rubber plantations. Most of these people were from districts like Chapra, Gopalganj and East and West Champaran.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Green Teens from Patna

BBC reports on the good work done by a group of youngsters committed to preserving the environment under the Taru Mitra organization in Patna.

A 10-acre farm has been converted into the city's only bio-reserve, by children. They belong to Taru Mitra (Friends of Trees), a group of youngsters committed to preserving the environment. The dense reserve is dotted with some 50 varieties of trees, environment-friendly buildings with bamboo and waste paper roofs, ponds, a solar energy-powered office, and a compost making unit.

All of this is the labour of love of a few thousand children from a little more than 100 schools in a city where lawlessness is rife and children have been kidnapped in the past for ransom. Abhishek Bharadwaj, 15, Achala Parmar, 14, and Wartika Pande, 13, are among the school children who have been planting trees and greening a city where, by one estimate, there is only one tree for every 2,000 people.

This reminds me of my days in school when we use to volunteer for the Taru Mitra activities in various social and cultural events like Book Fair and other events. Good to see the passion and commitment of the students and people from Taru Mitra who have kept the spirit alive despite the odds faced in the last few years.

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Another Bihari Girl in News

Another girl of Bihari origin has recently been in news after being appointed judge of the District Circuit Court of Massachusetts last month.

Sabita Singh has become an icon for the people of Mureka in Saran district, about 300 km from the state capital. She is the first South Asian woman to become an American district judge."She is a new star for the old and the young here. After all, becoming a judge even in India for a woman is not easy, and she has become one in America," Komal Kumar, a village resident, said with visible pride.

Mureka is a sleepy hamlet with 80 households. Singh went to the US as a child with her family."I was raised in rural Pennsylvania, went to Pennsylvania State University where I got my Bachelor's Degree in the Administration of Justice," she had told a website catering to the Indian community in New England a couple of years back.

She got her degree from Boston University School of Law and then did a clerkship with the Massachusetts Superior Court.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Scientific Foresight 2006

A group of people representing Academia and Industry in India and USA, have come together to organize a symposium called “Scientific Foresight 2006” on 23rd and 24th of December 2006 at “Indira Gandhi Science Complex – Planetarium” in Patna. More information can be found at

With support from One-Bihar group (A conglomerate of like minded individuals interested in development of Bihar), this is an effort to provide an impetus to the scientific research and development activities in the state and to bring in a focus towards academic excellence. This will also provide an awareness of career options available in India and abroad to the participating students. Electronics, Computer and Information technology are the major focus areas.

This event would present a platform to the scientific community of the state, particularly senior science and technology students to put forth their ideas and innovations, who can rightly be assessed and guided by a battery of qualified and established professionals. The event calls up on scientists, academicians, researchers, and students to participate in:

Research Paper Presentations,
Project Demonstrations,
Poster Presentations,
Panel Discussions.

This event will be a landmark event and the forum will play a vital role in development of electronics, computer and Information technology related activities, and awareness among students, academia and the government.

People from outside India will be participating in presentations and question-answer sessions through real time video conferencing. The entire proceedings will be available online through Internet web casting.

The event aims at sending out a clear message about Biharis being at par with the technology know-how and its applications. The idea is to show case the capital of qualified human resources Bihar has. This aims towards generating more awareness among the academic bodies and student communities about technology domains and opportunity areas. At the same time it will be a confidence-building step for industry and investors.

People from almost all engineering and major science colleges in Bihar and Jharkhand, having Electronics or Computer science in curriculum are participating in the event.

The event has support from Hindustan Himes as media associate. IEEE and NASSCOM are likely to be joining.

Support Needed:

We need more popular participations, and right people to come forward for presentations. Please suggest popular and influential profiles in business and technology domain to be invited for talks and discussions.

We need sponsors and representatives from industry. People working in various organizations can also come in their individual capacities. This will work in inspiring faculty members and students, and help them in getting right information and approach.

We need to make it more popular so that it reaches to the right people in industry and government corridors. This will also help in improving the image of our beloved state, Bihar.

Contact: Please forward your valuable feedbacks to or

Let us join hands and make it a great success.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Bihar- A Land of Irony or victim of Apathy and Neglect

Bihar and Central Infrastructure (or the Lack of it)

The four ills of casteism, corruption, criminalisation of politics and inequitable land distribution have been repeated ad infinitum as reasons for Bihar's backwardness and accepted as conventional wisdom. But is that the truth? Let's look at how Bihar fares in some key Centre created infrastructure.

Bihar & Jharkhand and the new highways

Have a look at a map of the new highways being built by NHAI:

http://www.nhai. org/nhdpmain_ english.htm

Inevitably, a good portion of these passes through Bihar and Jharkhand. The alignment will not serve most Bihar and Jharkhand towns: Patna, Ranchi, Gaya, Ara, Chhapra, Bhagalpur, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Dhanbad or Jamshedpur!

Muzaffarpur is the sole exception to prove the rule. The up country cousins from "backward" states are considered unfit to be served by such modern wonders! Or maybe we should call them the Bihar bypass!!!

Is this plain incompetence, deliberate mischief or the inherited imperial mindset of Delhi planners? Either way, the visible outcome is that none has thought to make these locally useful.

See the tortuous turns these highways take in other states. Look at UP where most towns with a population over 5 lakhs are connected. Being land locked, Bihar can't have ports. Highways are the only means of transportation. If these highways do not serve the population centres, why build them?

Bihar became self sufficient in food in 2004 – fabulous example of a green revolution without Centre's investment in irrigation or any others. Bihar is expected to become food surplus in a couple of years. Properly aligned roads are a must to transport the produce to the markets for adequate returns. But we wait to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to demoralise the farmers!

Bridges over Ganga

Another example are the bridges over Ganga. The river divides truncated Bihar into two roughly equal halves and inadequate communication across the river has hampered economic growth for centuries. The length of Ganga in UP is 1170 km and Bihar is 445 km. Bihar has more population density along Ganga and therefore the bridges would serve more people. Let's ignore the population and just go by the river length. UP should have a maximum of three times the number in Bihar. But what is the reality?

There are just three bridges in Bihar: at Bhagalpur, Mokama and Patna. There is another one at Buxar which starts in Bihar and ends in UP. That makes it three and a half. And the number in UP? Over fifteen! Delhi, divided by Yamuna, has a mind-boggling 8 for a river length of maybe 50 km!! Indeed some are born with a silver spoon. This cannot but leave one numb at the extent of discrimination.

Surprisingly, there has been no informed debate about these at any level. A mention of these has been conspicuous in any media: press or television - by its absence. Let the readers draw their own conclusions about the underdevelopment of Bihar.

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First hand experience of Nitish Kumar at IIM A

Mayank Krishna and I had a first hand experience of the new govt of Bihar in action during the interaction of Nitish Kumar with IIM students. We were invited there, courtesy a Prof at IIM A and we had the privilege to listen to the CM during his address to the students. Subsequently, there was a more close interaction with the students (about 40). The students during the close interaction were not necessarily from Bihar, but rather those who are interested in Bihar.

Nitish Kumar was present along with senior officials of the Govt like the Chief Secretary, Agri Prod Commissioner, and other representatives of the Govt of Bihar. I must say I came out quite impressed from the whole program.

Punctuality and time management was impeccable. The program started on time and ended on time. Nitish Kumar spoke in Hindi. His speech was direct and succinct. His humility was touching. He did not make any grandiose promises or indulged in unnecessary verbiage. One got the impression that he is well aware of the problems and is working hard to solve them.

He has a heart that beats for the poor and the dispossessed. However, he also knows the importance of development. Tourism, Agriculture, Agri based industry and Education are his priorities. He is extremely concerned that the infrastructure in Bihar is very weak and is particularly concerned about the power situation.

He also came across as a man who is willing to listen to new ideas. He is justifiably proud of the innovations that his government is bringing about, for example the Special Auxiliary Police (SAP) which is likely to be replicated by the other states.

Among the plans presented by the students, those concerning poor people and those related to agri business caught his attention. He has invited people from various walks of life to contribute to the development of Bihar.

We also had the privilege to interact with Prof Raghuraman of IIM A, a tranportation and logistics expert., I could not help but ask why the new age highways like the golden quadrilateral and the East West corridor, thoguh passing through Bihar donot touch the population centres either in Bihar or in Jharkhand. Also, why are there so few bridges over Ganga in Bihar when there are so many in UP or Delhi?

His answer was direct and very honest. He said that because nobody has thought any better.

Perhaps the lesson for us is to keep our effort in highlighting such issues so that they get the deserved attention and hopefully get addressed appropriately.

And yes, the Jan event of non resident bihari meet could be a big event. Govt of Bihar is certainly behind it.

Warm regards

T V Sinha

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