Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bihar: One of India's many unending nightmares

It's not often that one particular region of a nation stands as an epitome of all the problems that a nation is facing or coping with. Bihar,a state in the north of India, is one such example.

Sunday's attack by 1000 odd Maoist naxals on a jail in Bihar really puts in perspective the extent to which lawlessness has penetrated the system in this state. The insurgents staged such a meticulous and well planned attack wherein the police of the town had to simply look from the sidelines as mute spectators without acting in anyway;this itself clearly shows the inadequacies of the administrative system there . It's almost like the coordinated attack on a Russian town by rebels a couple of weeks ago. This coordinated attack on a jail, that too during an ongoing state election is shocking and outrageous to say the least. Even to the standards of Bihar,where 14 murders, at an average, are committed every day and one kidnapping every four hours, according to a recent newspaper report, it is quite distressing. It simply symbolizes the total failure of the system as a whole from top to bottom.

For decades now, feudalism and authoritarianism dominated the politics and thus the governance in Bihar, making mockery of democracy,freedon and justice. Once this part of India, called the kingdom of nalanda, was known for it's glorious cultural, educational and historical heritage. It used to be the center for academic,poetic and theatrical excellence in the 11th and 12th centuries. In fact, it used to be the home of one of the world's oldest university-The Nalanda University.
Bihar now stands as the anti-thesis of what it used be.About 100 gangs are active in kidnapping and extortion in Bihar today. Of these, 21 operate in the capital Patna alone.
Failure of successive governments to introduce and promote land reforms, promote literacy coupled with colossal problems like poverty,large scale corruption,awful basic infrastructure,political patronage of outlaws and criminals have taken a heavy toll on the society and the way society works in Bihar today. And above all these issues...the caste of an individual.... has become the root of all the troubles that stem out in Bihar. To a large extent this holds true for the whole of India, but states like Bihar,UP,TN,Haryana specially stand out in this regard. Everything in these states is centered around the politics of caste.

And during all these years the center, and for that matter the rest of India, stood on the sidelines and watched as the rule of law and the order in Bihar broke down to what it is right now. The center's role in this regard may be partly attributed to it's larger role to look after the whole country. However, that doesn't mean that it should stand aside when one government after the other in Bihar fails to fulfill or even guard the basic dreams and aspirations of its people.

The time has come for the central government in India to take a strong stand against the lawlessness and lack of order in Bihar. The center has to take concrete steps in restoring order and faith in people towards the administrative system.

Using the skills and services of the district collectors is a way that government should seriously consider, 'cause they are the only real hope for making constructive progress in a troubled state like Bihar. Being from the IAS cadre is good enough to entrust them with such a gigantic task, that would test their ability to full extent.

It is also time to crack down heavily on the growing and menacing problem of Maoist naxalism in India and send a message to anti-social elements like these that they will not be tolerated anymore now. The once noble ideology that was associated with them and identified with by the people has long been gone and they have become the problem itself not the solution that they proclaimed to be.

But it, as always is, comes down to the people of the state itself to find the solution for there problems. They have an invaluable weapon in their hands, the right to vote/political franchise , that can be a great defence and solution to all of their problems. They have to realize that caste politics may help them in their short term needs but it is like slow poison that will engulf the whole system finally.

(Photo: Relatives of a victim of the jail attack grieving outside the jail, Reuters)

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