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Cool Bihari: August 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ET Business Reformer - Nitish Kumar

Another accolade for Nitish Kumar for setting Bihar’s development wheels in motion on a fast track mode. Earlier also Nitish has been felicitated for the special effort of his government , he is now the Economic Times Business reformer of the year 2008-09.

The jury members were unanimous in their choice, giving Nitish performance higher rating than any other chief Minister.The national calamity in Bihar following the Kosi river changing its course highlights the state of affairs in Bihar, once rated as the best in administration. Since taking over as the state chief minister, Nitish Kumar has been trying to rebuild the system of governance that has virtually broken down. Bihar being primarily an agricultural state, Mr Kumar has been stressing on agro-based industries.

He believes this will help in keeping land acquisition to a minimum. The chief minister has gone to the extent of saying that he does not want SEZs in the state and his government has identified agro-processing, handloom and textiles, handicrafts, pharmaceuticals and leather as areas with comparative advantage.

The other areas where he has made a good start are employment generation and infrastructure development. He beat other states to put in place an employment-guarantee programme for agricultural labourers, which promises 80 days of work, in addition to the 100 days mandated by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme.

Mr Kumar has also identified promotion of investment opportunities as equally important. With poor infrastructure and the absence of long-term policies hindering private investment, he has kickstarted a series of legislative and administrative reforms. A new industrial policy was put in place in 2006, as was the Bihar Infrastructure Development Enabling Act. A new policy for the sugar processing sector — an important crop in the state — was also brought in.

The new industrial policy makes land available at concessional rates and promises reimbursement of 80% of VAT deposited. And these initiatives seem to have paid off, with the government receiving proposals from a number of big sugar manufacturers. An industrial complex with sugar mills, ethanol and power generation plants has been cleared. Measures to revive the textile industry have also been pushed through. With the state relying almost entirely on the Centre for its power needs, Bihar plans to put up new thermal and hydel power plants.

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