Friday, November 09, 2007

Scientific Foresight 2007

Happy Deepawali and Chath to all of us

We are in the middle of finalizing sponsors,speakers for
Scientific Foresight 2007 . This event that will be used to showcase to the world that Bihar is not just India's Spiritual Capital. We are not just the heart, mind & soul of India etc. That we are not just the UMBILICAL CHORD of HUMAN CIVILIZATION as well from where ZERO, Yoga, Kamasutra were born as well. We are poised to reclaim our space as the fountainhead of World's Science & Technology as well (thanks Mayank for Umbilical Chord metaphor)

This event on the south of River " Ganga" from Dec22-Dec24 in ancient India's Capital (Patliputra) will have an Audience of 3000+ bright students, 200+ Professors and professionals Globally. It is happening in that much forgotten city of India where the next eBay or Skype or Google or Facebook or Cisco or or Collectivex WILL emerge within few years. Hate to say after the fact afte the event , "I told you so" .. so come join now or lose out on this opportunity.

Yes, you can also also celebrate X'mas after the event. However advisable to attend this event if you wanna be better informed about "creation", "life", "evolution" or more mundane things like future of "Nanotech","Biotech","Artificial Intelligence","Neural Networks","Open Source","Robotics","Genomics" etc etc

Also great opportunity to network,recruit,market and then celebrate Christmas after the event

If any of you want to be part of the organizing team then can join our SciFore 07 Intranet . We will also try to arrange a trip to world heritage sites like Patna Sahib, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda. Critics, Ideas, Comments, Suggestion, Proposal to help welcome . We can design something around your specific needs.

Best way to reach us would be via mail or skype or gtalk ( atultech ) or people marked in 'cc'

Don't wait. Act NOW or you will miss the event of the year as we plan to close International sponsorships, speaker slots etc within 2 weeks. After we will only try to focus on domestic participants and then only local participants who will get a very very special discounted rate.

We are also looking to partner with philanthropic trusts who want to leverage this occasion to spread their cause.

Some attendees
APJ Kalam might be chief guest
Liz Ryan from Business Week is coming
Marc Benioff of Salesforce
Mehmood Khan, Global Leader of Innovation for Unilever
Ron Somers of US India Business Council

We are trying to avoid politicians/filmstars since some of them distract a lot. However we are open to extending invitation to select names as "audience" if they promise not to come on stage or not use the mike except asking questions

International Media Coverage likely so far
Business Week, WSJ,Economist,
EBC Radio, BBC

Likely Corporate Sponsors or Participants
Google, GE,Genpact, DRL, Bristol Meyers, Ranbaxy, Alchem, Hutch, Tata, Jet, Kingfisher,Air India, SBI We haven't approached Cisco, Microsoft ,TCS, Infosys etc yet

Mehmood, Liz, Ron, Marc: forgive my taking your names without seeking formal permission
President Kalam : You are still the president of our hearts so have to accept this challenge of "inspiring 3000 young students"

Atul Kumar
Sponsorship,Media & PR
Scientific Foresight
+1 203 987 4452 USA
+44 20 8144 5289 UK
Tri-state(NY/NJ,CT), USA
Can Do, Will Do, Right Here Right NOW !

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The glue of culture

Culture is such a powerful and beautiful thing - it binds where there is nothing else to bind. How else can you explain the closeness one feels when one goes to an island in Africa from Bihar and feels that one has come home. Neither is the terrain similar, nor are the people related to you or are your old friends. Yet they feel like your own, someone calls you beta and your spouse beti - they open their home to you as if you are their long lost brother.

I am really thankful to Santosh for having shared the beautiful vacation at Mauritius where indentured labourers were taken from Bihar more than a hundred years ago. Amazing how they have preserved their culture and how they give you a welcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blogpost.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Personal Manifesto

This is a personal manifesto have prepared to share with friends, well wishers and skeptics. Will appreciate comments, errors and sources which need to be referred

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scientific Foresight at SK Memorial, Gandi Maidan, Patna

This TECH FEST is aimed to provide an opportunity to explore the hidden aptitude of the budding engineers & scientists. Participating students will be able to develop their interests and awareness about the contemporary industrial and research trends in science and technology. They will be able to make them up to date their technical knowhow

read more | digg story

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ad for Student Volunteer for Mission Possible

Some mavericks at work are trying to execute some very very ambitious projects but plan on using Open Source 2.0 / Wikinomics 2.0 model of setting up a non-profit or profit org at lightspeed with no overheads. If you wanna join please ping us or refer to friends ...Projects areBihar Society (WIP)IIM Society (WIP)India Society (long term)

read more | digg story

Letter to Members of Parliament in India

Bihar has got a very very "unfair" share from Govt of India in terms of investment for infrastructure, both hard & soft.Hard Infrastructure like : Energy, Water, RoadsSoft Infrastructure like : Education, Museums. Archeology, Art, Schools, Higher Educationtime to correct it and need to correct it very very fast if the raw energy locked in Bihar is to be tapped and unleased. Till we do that some of the anger will keep getting expressed in not so pleasant or productive ways

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 07, 2007

No offence meant

It is a tradition of some "intellectuals" Indians to make the most offensive comment, but add a wry ' no offence meant' and they expect to be absolved of any responsibility of hurting you. To me, it is worse than just making the offensive comment. The guy is aware of the offence his comment would cause, and yet chooses to make it. Latest in this tradition of obnoxious behaviour is this article in Churimuri, a so called forum of Kannadiga intellectuals.

Karnataka is going through nasty political turmoil. The only guy to hold the position of PM from that state has shown his lack of character by not honoring the public commitment of handing over power to the BJP. Any self respecting community would feel ashamed by it. But what do they do? Drag Bihar into it.

Bereft of self confidence, these are basically bullies who have to pull down something to hide their own inadequacies.

It is not the first time that people from Karnataka have shown their abhorrent attitude towards Bihar. MV Kamath, a journalist from there, had written an essay in The Illustrated Weekly of India saying Biharis are not fit to rule Bihar. He had thereby shown his anti democratic and racist character, besides showing his deep antipathy to Bihar. It is to the perpetual discredit of Karnataka people that this abominable character is hailed as a great intellectual of that land.

PS Appu, an IAS officer from Karnataka was the director of LBS academy at Mussorie when he chose to cut short the career of a young probationer from Bihar on allegations of misbehaviour. When the Deptt of Personnel insisted on an inquiry before initiating action, Appu publicly threatened to resign saying this is interference in his work. Newspapers of the day had a field day alleging Biharis are weak in character and hailing Appu as a shining example of integrity. The probationer was sacked summarily without any inquiry. Later, Supreme Court struck down the ruling of Appu and reinstated him into his job.

To the best of my knowledge, Appu never apologised for his hasty decision. Neither the newspapers ever apologised for their biased reporting or even gave prominence to the reinstatement news. Public perception continues to be of a wayward probationer from Bihar rather than the anti Bihari bias of an arrogant bureaucrat.

Last year, when Pratham did a survey of school kids in the various states of India, it was found that Bihar was way ahead of other states. Karnataka was one of the laggards. "Intellectuals" of Churimuri commented as if it is the divine right of the Karnataka kids to do better than Bihar. I had requested them to refrain from such thinking. It appears my words have fallen on deaf ears. These racists are bent on using Bihar to manage their inferiority.

What a shame that I have to share my nationality with these obnoxious characters.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Typical Elite Delhi Kid's view on Bihar

We often hear of many Indias within India. It is mainly used to differentiate between the rich India and the poor India. Sometimes, we also hear of the divide of the Vindhyas - the north and the south. That a chasm exists within North India itself is seldom visible to an outsider. But exist it does. Actually, it exists to a level that its ferocity would take anyone off guard.I

In this blog, the kid wishes to exhibit his sense of humour. And what does he do? He repudiates Bihar as nobody's business. It should come to nobody as a surprise if it is fouund that he has probably never set his foot in Bihar. He must have met a few labourers from Bihar, for Delhi cant move without the contribution of the hard working Bihari. He would probably have met a few Biharis who are toppers at DU / JNU / IIT or wherever this kid has studied from. But then in the society of these elites, Bihar has to perform a function, namely, to satisfy their sense of superiority by perpetually being worse than his society, and believe me, a place can only be worse than hell if it has to be worse than their society.So those toppers or for that matter any other Bihari who exhibits any agreeable trait does not register as a Bihari. Abominably, these chaps do not even hesistate to say on the face of a Bihari that he does not seem to be a Bihari if they wish to honour him. And they mean it as a compliment, not sarcasm!!!What does one say of this culture? What is the future going to hold for a Bihari kid in days to come if such arrogance is tolerated anymore?Indeed there is an all round lowering of standards, specially in Delhi of today. But Biharis have to survive, actually not just survive but flourish and thrive. So whatever be the depth to which the standard sinks, one will have to look after one's own interest in this big bad world.Has the time come for we Biharis to develop our own militant sub nationalism which gives these chaps back as hard as it gets?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Emerrging from the shadow

It has been fashionable to blame Bihar for anything that goes wrong for the last two decades at least. Wherever the fault may be, the blame is always put on Bihar. When I first heard about a decade back that BHEL has been less than honest in its supplies to the Kanti thermal, near Muzaffarpur, I also had felt that some guy at Bihar SEB was trying to externalise the problem. However, when one of the engineers explained to me the details - how components rejected at other projects have been supplied, how there is no seriousness in the project plan, I could sense something amiss.

Now comes the story of the ineptitude of BHEL and NTPC in Bihar. They have not been able to keep any of the commitment they made to Bihar Govt. For a change, one finds Bihar Govt doing a proper appraisal and putting the blame where it is rather than follow the tradition of blaming the hapless BSEB. In fact, the power minister of Bihar was so miffed that he wishes to discuss the option of scrapping the contract with BHEL and NTPC with the central power minister.

Such confidence should do a lot of good to the governance in Bihar.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Smart Brains, Smart Money and Bihar

I was commenting on a blog by Ranjan Rituraj, and couldn't resist pasting my comments here.

As usual very good "local contextual" knowledge and understanding from Ranjan. He makes a good case for why NRB (Non Resident Biharis) need to start coming up with micro investment projects in Bihar and we need not wait for the large corporate houses. They will take time and don't have the agility and speed of individual micro-investments.

My comments there:
And yes very good ideas. NRBs will have to come first and show some initiative. Just sending Money Order is not enough. Coming back with expertise,ideas,investments (micro is better than mega projects),networks etc are very important. Once Bihar reaches the "tipping point" then smart money will follow and that need not be Bihari. Even the big Private Equity, Venture Capital guys will come for sure. Industriats will also come.

Though smart money will take time since this lack of "contextual" and "local knowledge","local networks", "risk appetite" will be a hindrance

However smart brains will not wait that long. The APJ Kalam and likes will see the "historic opportunity" and surely "RUSH" to bihar.

What about you ?
YOU - I mean, you, who is reading this blog and comment.

Are you smart enough ?

If yes then do you have the "local networks","knowledge" etc. then forget the Silicon Valey or Wall Street or India-China opportunity. Here is an opportunity of lifetime.

Go grab it my friend. Need advice or have concerns then talk to Ranjan. He might help. Else drop a word on this blog. Someone here can help. Else drop a visit to Bihar Govt. At site you might find good links. But take some action, don't click out and resume your web-surfing.

ऐसा मौका जिन्दगी में बार बार नहीं आता है मेरे दोस्त ! अगर आप आईटी बूमं मिस कर गए और फिर ब्पो बूम भी और डॉट कॉम और फिर इन्दुस्त्रिअल बूम भी। गूर्गाओं और बैंगलोर और हैदराबाद बूम भी तब ये एक और मौका है

Monday, September 10, 2007

A very humane Chief Minister

Politicians in India have come to acquire a rather nasty image. In such a scenario, images of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar come out strikingly different.

Soon after his coming to power, the Patna West MLA and a close friend of Nitish Kumar, Naveen Kumar Sinha passed away. The pictures taken at the time showed a tearful Nitish as he attended his creamation. Nitish lost his wife a couple of months back due to pneumonia complications. People saw a grieving CM captured weeping inconsolably on TV as he took her for her last rites. Just a couple of days back, there was the sudden death of the Bihar Education Secretary on whom Nitish was relying very heavily to bring in reforms in the education system. Picutres of Nitish were published with visibly moist eyes as he went to pay his last respects.

Conditioned as we are by the culture of the modern Indian metros (and away from the rural culture of India), we may find such public display of emotion rather odd. The western culture even considers tears in the eyes of an adult male as a sign of wekaness. However, expression of such genuine human emotions can only come from a man deeply imbued in humanism. Only a person who is confident will not feel shy to show his emotions even under the glare of media. It feels great that even today, such a humanist is able to hold his own in rough and tumble of Indian politics. This certianly fills me with a lot of hope and optimism.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gauravshali Bihar e-book version

Bihar is renowned for its great historical legacy and rich cultural heritage. This great land of Ashoka and Buddha has been the motherland of some great legends of human civilization. To recognize these great legends and pay a small tribute to our motherland we came out with a book titled “Gauravshali Bihar” last year .You can read about the launch of this book here.

One Bihar team has decided to make this book free for circulation and now the book is available for free circulation in the e-book version. Please click here to download the free to circulate version. Do pass it to your friends and colleagues who are interested in reading about the legends of this great land which is know as the soul of India.

We will also be publishing the English version of this book shortly and it will be available for sale in the next few months. Thanks for reading and don't forget to give your valuable feedback and suggestion.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Days of one sided Bihar coverge is over

This had to happen. I am so glad it has finally happened. The realization that there is more to the barrage of negative news emanating from Bihar than a desire to expose wrong doings. Or even a neutral desire to report the happenings. Such news, inevitably accompanied by commentary like "the most lawless state", "the state where civilization has ended", "where the state has withered away", are an attempt to sully our image. It is meant to take away our self confidence so that we dare not ask for what is rightfully ours.

If a rape took place in Delhi, a snide link was created with Bihar. If there was a bomb blast in Mumbai, there were allusions to Bihar. The one that I found the most hilarious in this ever growing and long list was one linking Bihar to Katara and his human trafficking business.

We Biharis, having been brought up in a culture nurtured by nationalists like Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sri Krishna Singh, Anugrah Babu and JP, had a misplaced faith in the impartiality of national institutions like the national press, the national planning commission and so on. This misplaced faith was so deeply ingrained that we always justified their sins of commissions and omissions. When Indian Express exposed the Bhagalpur blindings, we genuinely felt that it is an attempt to improve the Bihari society, not to denigrate it. When MV Kamath wrote in the Illustrated Weekly of India that Biharis are not fit to rule Bihar, we somehow convinced ourselves that it is genuine criticism. When hare brained schemes like freight equalization scheme were introduced, we bore its brunt for the national cause. When NHAI drew up the alignment of the Golden Quadrilateral or the East West corridor through Bihar (and Jharkhand) bypassing our population centers, we never complained. When the Central Water Commission gave us its misplaced embankments for flood control, we did not find anything amiss. And the flood prone area of Bihar increased from 2.5 M hectares to 7 M hectares. And this went on for sixty years!!

With increased exposure to the world, there is now a realization that there is no benign external agency that will look after our needs. WE have to fight our own battle. And this realization is now finding expression in various forms. Here are two samples. Mayank Rasu gives expression to his angst in Musings of a Bihari. And Sunny writes a satirical piece in a similar vein.

People are even questioning the alacrity with which the media highlighted the Nathnagar case. What were TV cameramen doing in this remote town? How could they film the sad incident and telecast it immediately? Did they try to intervene or were they also part of the mob? These are questions being asked by Mr Indra Sharma.

The new found confidence of Bihari has resulted in a sea change in attitude and he is not willing to take things lying down. He is in a mood to question Shivraj Patil why he is so slothful in giving security to the poor Bihari in Assam. He wants to know from Chidambaram what happened to his solemn promise in the parliament that Bihar would be given a special financial package? He wishes to question Saifuddin Soz what is Central Water Commission doing to reduce the flood menace. And if they fail, Bihari is in a mood to take them to task and ensure that his genuine interests are not compromised.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Conspicuous by its absence

Many many years ago, while being taught English at my school at Patna, I recall being taught the expression "conspicuous by its absence". The expression greatly appealed to my adolescent mind - the apparent contradiction of being absent and yet conspicuous. If one thing deserves to be described as such, it is the coverage of the recent floods in the Indian Mainstream media (MSM). Prof Madhukar Shukla of XLRI Jamshedpur brought this to my notice.

BBC ran a story for several weeks giving us details of the floods which has affected several states of India, besides Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The poignant “Aid Worker Dairy” is there on the web for all to read. The UN called it the worst floods in living memory. From NY Times to several other prestigious global newspapers and media, there has been fairly comprehensive coverage of this humungous human tragedy. The Japanese PM during his visit to Delhi delivered a speech in the Indian parliament. His speech started with a tribute to those who had lost their life in the floods in Bihar.

Contrast this with the almost total absence of the coverage in the Indian MSM. Take any national media - TV, newspaper or magazines, either of English or Hindi. You would hardly find any reference to it. The only exceptions were when Lalu criticized Nitish for being in Mauritius later followed by criticism of Lalu for his helicopter fiasco - in short when there was a stick to beat Bihar and Biharis.

There is hardly any reference to the repeated release of water from the dams of Nepal. There is no reporting of the misery of the poor stranded on the highways. There is no reporting of the Rs 1500 crore allotted by the state Government for the cause of flood relief. There is no recognition of the tireless effort of dedicated officers like Ratn Sanjay and Sudhanshu Kumar who have been working for the welfare of the flood victims without a break. Alas, there is no concern for the imminent outbreak of water borne disease once the water starts to recede.

Agencies like OXFAM and Aid India are doing commendable work on the ground. Multinationals like GE have contributed water treatment plants for the flood affected. Punjab Government is sending fodder for the cattle of flood affected Bihar. Experts like Dinesh Mishra and Eklayva Prasad are advocating their alternatives for water management. As Dinesh Mishra says, the flood prone area of Bihar has increased from 2 M hectares in 1955 when the embankments were started to be built to 7 M when we have several thousand kilometers of them in Bihar. But I have not yet heard of a debate on the abject failure of the Nehruvian temples of modern India in the “conscientious” and free Indian MSM.

A few months ago, some people were discussing the lack of developmental benefits reaching the poorer sections of the society. In this context, someone asked "Does Bihar Matter?" As a take on that, I was tempted to put the headline of this post as "Does India Matter?" After all, there is more international concern for the floods in Bihar than in the Indian MSM. But then I checked myself, for India does matter – may not be to the Indian MSM or the insular civil society in the metros, but to the mainstream Indian population. It does matter to Bihar, the Heart of India, appropriately placed a little to the left of centre in the upper part of its map.

In a documentary prepared by Mr Dinesh Mishra’s team on the floods of Bihar, there is a scene where India’s Independence Day is being celebrated in a village affected by the floods. The village headman unfurls the flag on a bamboo post to the singing of the national anthem followed by cries of Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Long Live Mother India) by semi clad children of the village. India might have given up on Bihar, but Bihar has not given up on India – it never will.

Bihar – the Heart of India, is also the name of a book by Sir John Houlton published in 1949). To be fair, sensitive Indians are very concerned about the floods

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Seeking Support for Flood Relief in Bihar

Bihar has seen one of the worst floods in recent times and we are working towards getting some medicines,funds,cloths and any other help for the flood relief work in Bihar. I am presently working with a team which is providing direct help to people who have been affected by the floods in Bihar and also coordinating with people from other organizations in getting whatever possible help we can. Some of the organizations have agreed to provide medicine, machine for clean water and even basic relief material like plastic sheets.

Unfortunately the magnitude of disaster and loss of life has not been widely covered by popular media so we are finding it difficult to drum support for this cause. Our effort intends to provide direct relief to people in need and we are soliciting help from all quarters, especially Biharis who can make some contribution for this cause.

Our team members from the One Bihar Team are diligently working 24*7 for this operation and we desperately need some help from every quarter.Do let me know if your organization or you as an individual would like to contribute for this humanitarian cause. Please let me know in case you are willing to support us in whatever way you can. We are also seeking contributions through Prayaas please come forward and lend your support.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Floods in Bihar - Relief is urgently needed

This year's floods in Bihar have been unprecedented. Press reports are calling it the worst floods in the last thirty years. Districts after districts in North Bihar are under deep flood water which are not yet showing signs of receding. Crops, villages, roads and railways have got washed away.

The governments: at the state and at the centre - appear barely affected by the human misery and tragedy. The people are unconcerned. The press, and I mean the national Indian Press, is not bothered. I saw not a column in HT, TOI or ET of Mumbai today. Funny I have to depend on BBC World Service to get an authentic account of the floods!

The simple fact is that close to one crore people (ten million people) have had to leave their homes and taken shelter in the open on comparatively higher structures - raised roads, railway line or roofs of houses.

Some of our friends got in touch with relief agencies and found that safe drinking water, clothes and temporary shelter are the most urgent need of the hour. Safe drinking water seems to be the most important and also perhaps the easier to tackle.

The best way to provide safe drinking water is through use of chlorine tablets. A good quality chlorine tablet can render 20 litres of water safe for drinking - enough for one family for a day. One lakh tablets of Chlorine from a good Indian manufacturer can be bought for thirty thousand rupees. Or one million tablets for three hundred thousand rupees. In other words, the cost of safe potable water for one family for one month is Rs 10 or 25 US cents.

Some of us are thinking of adopting a cluster of villages, what is called a block or prakhand in local parlance and try to ensure safe drinking to all the residents of that block for one month. At this stage, it is a just a thought. Let us see how this germinates.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The story of biased high offices

In the high court of Andhra Pradesh, a case was brought up alleging malpractice in re evaluation of MBBS papers conducted by NTR Medical University, Vijayawada. The case was taken up by a bench consisting of the Chief Justice G S Singhvi and Justice C V Nagarjuna Reddy. Then why are we discussing this case in a site related to Bihar?

Well, this is because the hounourable judges have chosen to link it to Bihar. I went through the entire news item word by word thinking maybe the scamsters are from Bihar, for the last I heard, Vijayawada was not in Bihar.; nor does NTR Medical Univeristy have a branch or medical college in Bihar. Then why have they linked it to Bihar?

What I could make out is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing to link the case to Bihar or Biharis, except presumably the bias of the honourable judges. I shudder to think what would happen to a Bihari whose case is brought up in the court of these judges. Can they hope of unbiased hearing?

When it is the honour of the judges, we have the contempt of court proceedings; then what is the recourse to the eight crore people of a state whose name is dragged into a scam which has nothing to do with them? Do we as Biharis have no honour? Can public servants whose salaries and pensions are paid by the public exchequer make such statements and get away with it? It was not too long ago that Mr Prakash Singh, an apparently well educated person who has held high positions such as DGP Uttar Pradesh, had pointed his finger towards Bihar when asked questions about the law and order of UP in a CNNIBN programme. So it is not a one time issue. The bias runs deep and wide.

Can we petition the Govt of India to have bias correction training for such people? Can there be exemplary punishment for them? At the very least, can they be made to apologise?

Or shall we, the natives of Bihar, continue to suffer the ignominy and the bias of public servants occupying high offices?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Unsung Heroes of Bihar-Baba Nagarjuna

जी हाँ, लिख रहा हूँ ...बहुत कुछ ! बहोत बहोत !!

ढ़ेर ढ़ेर सा लिख रहा हूँ !मगर , आप उसे पढ़ नहीं

पाओगे ... देख नहीं सकोगे,उसे आप !

दरअसल बात यह है कि इन दिनों अपनी लिखावट

आप भी मैं कहॉ पढ़ पाता हूँ नियोन-राड पर उभरती पंक्तियों की

तरह वो अगले कि क्षण गुम हो जाती हैं

चेतना के 'की-बोर्ड' पर वो बसदो-चार सेकेंड तक ही टिकती है ....

कभी-कभार ही अपनी इस लिखावट को कागज़ पर नोट कर पता हूँ

स्पन्दनशील संवेदन की क्षण-भंगुर लड़ियाँ

सहेजकर उन्हें और तक पहुँचाना !

बाप रे , कितना मुश्किल है !

आप तो 'फोर-फिगर' मासिक -वेतन वाले उच्च-अधिकारी ठहरे,

मन-ही-मन तो हसोंगे ही,की भला यह भी कोईकाम हुआ , की अनाप-शनाप ख़यालों की

महीन लफ्फाजी ही करता चले कोई - यह भी कोई काम हुआ भला !

These words were penned by legendary poet of people “Baba Nagarjuna”.Born on 30th June 1911 as Vaidya Nath Mishra in the village Satlakha, his mother’s village,he was fondly called baba by his followers.Baba was known for his revolutionary ideas and unconventional lifestyle. His writings inspired generations and he was known for his candid and anti –establishment views.

Born in a lower middle class Brahmin family of Tarauni village in Darbhanga district of Bihar, Nagarjun lost his mother when he was barely three years old. His father lived as a vagabond and hedonist. So as a child Nagarjun had to depend upon compassionate relatives and some generous landlords for financial assistance for his education. He showed excellence in the learning of the ancient Indian languages like Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit first at the rural centres and later in the cities of Varanasi and Calcutta where, alongside his higher studies he also worked for his livelihood. Though, Nagarjun's academic expenses could be met by the scholarships which he won as a bright student, he always bore the fact on his mind that he had also to support his father who could barely earn any money by himself.

After the years of learning and semi-employment in Calcutta, Nagarjun moved to Saharanpur (U.P.) where he got a full time teaching job. Apparently Nagarjun had moved to a better paying job but in fact his unsatiable urge to delve deep and yet deeper into the traditional wisdom of India particularly the Sanskrit treatises and philosophical discourses, Buddhist scriptures and handwritten manuscripts of sorts put him on the path of an unstable nomadic existence.

This pursuit took him to Sri Lanka where in the Buddhist monastery of Kelania he had to adopt Buddhism in order to have free access to the well guarded manuscripts which were inaccessible to the outside world. (This had a precedent. Nagarjun's mentor Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan had to pass through the same experience). It was in 1935 that Nagarjun became a Buddhist monk. As an imperative he had to change his name.

That is when he started his literary career with Maithili poems by the pen-name of Yatri in early 1930s. By mid 1930s, he started writing poetry in Hindi. This is when he adopted the name Nagarjun. A wanderer by nature, Nagarjun spent a considerable amount of his time in the 30s and the 40s traveling across India. He was influenced by Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan and Swami Sahajanand Saraswati.

He also participated in many mass-awakening movements before and after independence. Between 1939 and 1942, He was jailed by the British courts for leading a farmer's agitation in Bihar. For a long time after independence he was involved with journalism. He played an active role in Jaya Prakash Narayan's movement prior to emergency, and therefore was jailed during the period of emergency. He was strongly influence by Leninist-Marxist ideology. This was one of the reasons that he never found patronage from the mainstream political establishments. Coupled with this, his own vagabond way of life, became the cause of his extreme poverty. He spent his last days in illness and poverty in the poor localities of Delhi and Darbhanga. He died in 1998 at the age of 87 in Darbhanga.

Baba’s style of writing had tinge of social and political satire and also protested againt the poltical regime of the times. He wrote on wide range of issues and was loved by all for his hard hitting and incisive views.

The subjects of his poetry are varied. Effects of both his wandering tendencies and activism, is evident in his middle and later works. His famous poems like Badal ko Ghirate Dekha hai , is a travelogue in its own right. He often wrote on contemporary social and political issues. His famous poem Mantra Kavita), is widely considered the most accurate reflection of a whole generation's mindset in India. Another such poem is Aao Rani Ham Dhoenge Palaki, which sarcastically humiliates the then prime minister of India, Pt. Nehru, for the extravagant welcome thrown by him for Queen Elizabeth.

Besides these accepted subjects of poetry, Nagarjun found poetic beauty in unconventional subjects. One of his most astonishing works is a poem based on a female pig called paine daanto wali. Another such creation is a series of poems on a full-grown jack fruit .

Because of the breadth of his poetry, Nagarjun is considered the only Hindi poet, after Tulsidas, to have an audience ranging from the rural sections of society to the elite. He effectively freed poetry from the bounds of elitism. was given the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969 for his historic book Patarheen Nagna Gachh. He was also honored by the Sahitya Akademi by appointing him its fellow in 1994.

A Socialist to the core of his heart, it was probably only Nagarjuna, after Munshi Prem Chand, who strongly advocated the cause of the downtrodden and the exploited. He wrote extensively about the rotten social system which, according to him, was being used to exploit the peasantry.

Nagarjuna was basically anti-establishment, because he was not compromising by nature. This is why he even rejected the offer of nomination to the Rajya Sabha and thrice to the Bihar Vidhan Parishad.Unfortuanlety on 5th Nov 1998 Baba breathed his last in the Khwaja Sarai locality of Darbhanga town in Bihar in the small house of his eldest son, Shobha Kant. About a month before his death, his daughter-in-law made a sentimental appeal to all Hindi lovers to come forward and provide financial help to the seriously ill poet. Her appeal fell on deaf years.

His famous protest poetry Om recently featured in Sanjay Jha’s movie Strings bound by faith and thanks to this effort of Sanjay the new generation is discovering the magic of Baba’s writing.

Cool Bihari would like to remember the great soul who enlightened the heart and minds of many but the sad truth is that he died in penury. Its an unfortunate truth that our the great legend had to bid goodbye to this world in great hardships.His writings will surely inspire generations to come and will always be remembered for his great work of Hindi literature.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Indian MSM - the attack on Bihar continues

Please have a look at this article. The provocative headline besmirches the name of Bihar claiming the accused who allegedly outraged the modesty of a woman, the Railway protection force DIG PJ Rawal, to be a Bihar DIG.

Now what is the connection of the accused with Bihar? Is he a native of Bihar? Does he work for the Govt of Bihar? Is he a resident of Bihar? Well, the answer to all the three questions is NO. Then pray, how does he become Bihar DIG?

The simple answer is that the Indian MSM (Main stream media) revels in throwing dirt on the fair name of Bihar. The OBB (Oye Bihari Brigade) member who has written this article earns his bread and butter by demonising Bihar. He is fully conscious of the rewards that await him if he does that efficiently. So he takes care not to mention that the Bihar Government has extended all support to the complainants, without dramatizing the issue. Alas, he does not even mention that the Delhi Headquartered Railways have openly tried to cause miscarriage of justice by exonerating the accused even before the inquiry was conducted.

I donot remember who said Poverty is a Sin. But even he would not have conceptualized this dimension of his statement when he said that!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

BBC Shows the way, will Indian MSM follow?

This news item by BBC deserves special mention. It is not the body of the news, some of which is old. The real news is that good news from Bihar is now getting the attention.

For example, the municipal taxation system was introduced almost five years back and led to a vast improvement in tax collection by Patna Municipal Corporation. Later, it was adopted by ohter municipal bodies as well. However, it was never considered worthy of widely publicity by the "national" newspapers. The SAP has been in existence for more than a year now and has achieved great results. However, all our "national" newspapers could report is a upward treand in the crime graph. No thought was spared for the fact that police has been made much more approachable and people feel more confident to appraoch the police to report the crime. Also, there is visible action by the police once a crime is reported. The prosecution figures which have vastly improved tell their own story of the massive imrovement due to diligent crime investigation.

Now that BBC itself has reported these good news from Bihar, one can expect the English newspapers of India to follow the lead since past data supports their copycat tendencies.

Friday, June 29, 2007

What the World thinks of Nalanda Univ revival

Pls have a look at the New York Times op ed page article

I could not but help notice the sharp contrast between the article in TOI with its propagation of regional chauvinism of a very low order vs the very enlightened view expressed in the NYT post.

I would like to quote

"But Nalanda represents much of what Asia could use today — a great global university that reaches deep into the region’s underlying cultural heritage, restores many of the peaceful links among peoples and cultures that once existed, and gives Asia the kind of soft power of influence and attraction that it doesn’t have now. The West has a long tradition of rediscovering its ancient Greek and Roman roots, and is much stronger for that. Asia could and should do the same, using the Nalanda project as a springboard but creating a modern, future-oriented context for a new university.....

The problem is that the key Asian officials are not thinking big enough. There is more talk about making Nalanda a cultural site or a center for philosophy than a first-rate modern university. The financial figures being thrown around are a fraction of the endowments of Harvard, Yale or Columbia today. A bolder vision is in order.....

But the bigger issue is imagination and willpower. It is not clear that the Asian nations are prepared to unite behind anything concrete except trade agreements,.......... "

Hope we also learn to think BIG and think VISION than mire ourselves in a quagmire.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Revival of Nalanda and real politics

The idea was first propounded by President Kalam and enthusiastically sought to be implemented by the Govt of Bihar. In a remarkable show of pan global view, the Dy CM of Bihar announced the name of Prof Amartya Sen as Chairman of the proposed Nalanda University.

But what do we see? Pranab Mukherjee is trying to monopolise the idea as a diplomatic masterstroke to fight Chinese hegemony in south east asia and the our easterly neighbours still thinking of creation of Bihar in 1913 as a insult to them (thank god it is a miniscule minority now) are pushing their narrow regional agenda.

Read this article in the TOI :

An ancient institution to be re-built with the help of several nations including China is first sought to be reduced to a tool of real politik in the hands of Pranab Mukherjee and then Shilbhadra is projected as a Bengali!! Did Bengal or Bengali language even exist in the seventh century? Maithil Kokil Vidyapati is seen by some linguists as the first poet of Bengali language and he was born much later!

There is not even a mention of the 500 acres of land that the govt of Bihar is acquiring for the university. Why dont we leave at least a few things alone for overall betterment than put real politics into everything?

Monday, June 04, 2007

End of a dream

The passion driven idealism of a Mathematics genius and a police officer which got 122 students out of 150 from the poorer sections of the society coached by them successful in the highly competitive IIT over five years has come to an abrupt end. The commerical coaching institutes poached their students by offering them the lure of the lucre and claimed them as their own. Thus an experiment which could have been a template of empowering the un empowered has ended.

It is a very sad day indeed. Even more sad is that this end would be unlamented. The national media is busy debating the far more saleable Gurjar agitation in Rajasthan. How can the mere closure of an institute run from a thatched hut in a poor lower middle class locality of Patna compete as a news item with the armed to the teeth militants of Rajasthan? Who has time for the bright eyed boys from backward Bihar who merely wield pens? Earlier there was the excuse by the national media to dismiss the successful JEE candidates from Bihar as those belonging to the 'forward' castes from privileged background. This time around, the students of Super 30 were children of the deprived sections of the society - belonging to families which did not even know where the next meal is going to come from. It thoroughly exposes the anti Bihar attitude of most journalists and media men who have merely used the name of Bihar to denigrate and demonise this economically deprived state. As if on cue, the 'national' newspapers, deprived of their regular quota of bad news from Bihar for the last several days, have again got their chance to deal in muck.

The inaction of the central government is also lamentable. Arjun Singh had sought to become a messiah of the students of the backward community when he introduced reservation in the government owned institutions. The country erupted with very divisive debate on this contentious issue. Super 30 showed that students from the backward castes can succeed without reservation. It underlined they need information about the opportunities and guidance to make the most of these opportunities far more than any reservation. But then the success of this would not fetch votes for the UPA - merely equal opportunities for some deprived sections of the society. For such a small gain, why bother about niceties like oversight of the publicity by the commercial coaching institutes? Commercial Coaching institutes have been known to offer lavish gifts to successful candidates to claim them as their own. So what is new if a couple of them falsely claim to have coached the Super 30 candidates?

What business do middle class idealists like Abhayanand and Anand Kumar have to dabble in such esoteric ideas as equal opportunity to the deprived? Let us question their motives. Let us drag them through muck. Let us be insensitive to their sensitivity and mock them for their over sensitivity. Let us prove that only ventures with a profit motive can succeed. Let us proclaim from our roof tops that the only sustainable success is that obtained through unfair means. And hound them out from our society. For if idealists are around, they will end up showing a mirror to us and make us look bad.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Empowering the un empowered – a different paradigm

The divisive debate rages on at the national capital Delhi and various state capital on ‘Reservation’ as a tool for bringing social equity. In this backdrop, the efforts of the coaching institutes at Patna to empower the poorest of the poor is worthy of note and of emulation. Their objective is to prepare the students from the most underprivileged classes to sit for the competitive IIT entrance examination. Many of these students are first generation literates. Most have not even heard of IITs till they are picked by these institutes. One candidate is the son of a security guard. Another is the son of a nurse at a private hospital. A third is the daughter of a road roller driver. Yet another is the child of an unemployed father.A very large number of them are from the so called backward castes, but their success is not under reserved quota but general category.

Mr Anand Kumar, a Mathematics genius and Mr Abhyanand, Addnl DG, Bihar police, started an institution called Super 30 some four years back. They selected 30 bright students from the poorest of the poor and gave them intense coaching to compete in the prestigious IIT Joint Entrance Examination. Over the last four years, their success has increaed from 14 out of 30 to all 30 making it to the IITs this year. Abhyanand, in spite of his very demanding police job, finds time to teach Physics to these students.

The even better news is that the model has been replicated by others as well. Genius 40 picks up 40 students from the underprivileged background and provides them not only tution but also food and lodging so that they concentrate on the task of preparing for the competitive examination than worry about their next meal. Another similar initiative is I Desire which has been set up by former IIT graduates in the memory of Satyendra Dubey. Dubey, an IITian from Bihar was murdered in 2003 by the mafia due to indiscrete information leak from the Prime Minister’s Office while fighting corruption at the National Highway Authority of India.

Unlike the commercial coaching centres with their slick air conditioned class rooms, these coaching centres have the bare necessities such as the black board, the roof above and functional seats for the students. Books are re used. These private initiatives have ascertained what are the essentails and just focus on those, leaving the non-essentials for their more privileged counterparts.

It is pertinent to note that while the reserved seats are getting cornered by the well off Meenas and other creamy layer, this private initiative strikes at the root of the problem and brings empowering education to the really needy. The fundamental question, how will reservation help if the candidates for whom it has been made are not even aware that such institutions of higher learning exist, remains the most fundamental and unanswered question.

Let me end with a quote from Mr. Abhayanand, one of the founders of Super 30: “For only when we can open up opportunities otherwise blocked for the underprivileged can we aspire for a just and equitable society.” This is indeed not an empty boast. Apart from the direct contribution of teaching 30 carefully selected students from the underprivileged sections of the society, they also ask for a guru dakshina from their students : “Give back to society what you have got, if not more. "

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How To Be a Programmer

These days I started to use a new tool which integrates well with my Mozilla Firefox brower. It is called Stumble Upon. This tool helps me looking for sites based on the interest (I need to define them first after I sign up with Stumble Upon). While browsing through programming Category yesterday I came across a very good site which says How to be a Programmer. Well it might sound like one of those cheap trick sites, but it is not. Its a lengthy article to read and takes about an hr to read and understand.

There are two major skills identified for the programmer (or developer)
  1. Personal Skill
  2. Team Skill
Each of them are then further divided into sub sections. While the first skill deals with what the person must have in terms of skills required like Technical, Aptitude etc. The second skill focuses more on what it takes to be part of the successful team ie correct estimation, managing self time etc.

In a nutshell its a good read for all those who aspire to build their career in Software Industry and want to grow. It is recommended to read for those who are in Software Industry as well. So that they can identify their gaps and make sincere effort to fill them.

Until Next Time..:)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Brand Bihar in action

There’s a steady but significance change in the investment pattern in Bihar. The state and its citizens have always been a subject of ridicule and apathy over the years for the tardy growth rate and dwindling investment over the years. The history of neglect and step motherly treatment by planning commission and financial institutions has seen the growth of the state plummeting over the years. Bihar’s annual growth rate was 5.2% compared to all-India’s 5.6 % in the 1980s, declined to 3.46% in contrast to the national growth rate of over 6% in the 1990s, and has recently increased. Central Statistical Organization (CSO) figures place its average growth rate from 1993-94 to 2003-04 at 5.8% per annum, just under India’s 5.9% per annum.Much has been said about the unfair treatment meted to Bihar but these figures do not present the real picture of the immense market potential and untapped resources of the state. However times are changing fast and more and more organizations are realizing the immense potential which Bihar has.

The recent meet of Industrialist in Bihar is one such significant step in the direction to change the investment climate in Bihar. In the recently held first-ever meeting of Bihar Development and Investment Promotion Council (BDIPC) meet at Patna it was decided that Chairman of Aditya Birla Group Kumarmangalam Birla will look after harnessing the private sector in Bihar, vice-chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Anand Mahindra will be involved in harnessing agriculture. Similarly, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel will extend his cooperation in mainstreaming the rural economy. A dozen sectoral groups to be known as 'Abiding Initiatives', each headed by a top CEO, have been formed to help formulate and fine-tune policies. The easing credit flow initiative will be headed by ICICI MD K V Kamath, while noted architect Hafeez Contractor will draw the blueprint for urban design.

Priya Paul, chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Group, who showed keen interest in tourism development will head the group on tourism, travel and employment potential and RPG Enterprise V-C Sanjeev Goenka will oversee the energy concern. Chairman Max India Analjit Singh has been involved in new health paradigm. With a stress on popularising Brand Bihar, an initiative has been shaped for state's image building.

The think-tank unanimously resolved that there was a major improvement in the crime-control situation under the Nitish Kumar administration and this was a giant leap for putting the state on the threshold of development.

“The state requires a consistent 8.5 per cent growth rate and the key lies in developing basic infrastructure. Stress on education and leveraging the state’s travel and tourism advantage should form the key,” said ICICI Bank chief K.V. Kamath, whose organisation has been doing brisk business in the state.Mahindra and Mahindra Group head Anand Mahindra promised that actual announcement of projects would begin soon.

The govt. has been swift to react to the changing times and has amended the Bihar Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1981, in March-end which mean now sugarcane juice can be directly used for producing ethanol or rectified spirit and for cogeneration.Prakash Jha recently laid foundation of his sugar factory at Gurwalia in West Champaran district.he also announced his intentions of setting up 10 more sugar mills in the state.

In another development a World Bank aided project for boosting rural economy through self-employment will be launched in 4,000 villages spread across six districts of Bihar in September this year. The Rs 306.5 crore project, christened 'Jivika' (employment), will be executed under Bihar Rural Livelihood Project. According to a five-year action plan prepared for 'Jivika', the project will be implemented in 4,000 villages under 42 development blocks across Nalanda, Gaya, Khagaria, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani and Purnia districts. Altogether 5.9 lakh poor families would benefit from the project, the burden of which will be shared by the World Bank, Bihar government and the beneficiaries.

The revival of Bihar has also seen the revival of the Bhojpuri film Industry which is witnessing a phenomenal resurgence after a lean patch. With 76 films produced in 2006, Bhojpuri films have recorded the fastest growth rate — a 100 per cent increase over 2005. They also account for 7 per cent of the total number of films produced, only marginally behind Malayalam and Kannada films, according to figures released by the Central Board of Film Certification.

This summern and even Spiderman is going to make its debut in Bhojpuri version. But a Bhojpuri Spiderman doesn't come cheap. A whopping Rs 3 crore is being spent to dub it; an amount that can fund two Bhojpuri films. And as many as 50 to 60 prints of this Bhojpuri Spiderman will be released.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jack & Jill - Bihari Style

Everything looks better with a little bit of Bihari element in it :-)

The Unfeeling Madrasi

Just read this article Laloo Yadav beats Nehru hollow

If the heading gives an impression it is about the newly acquired management skills of Lalu, perish the thought. If the first paragraph makes you think it is about economic liberalisation, it is only partly right. The real intent is to bash Bihar, plain and simple. It comes as any article on Bihar bashing, short on data and long on rhetoric.

I quote: “By some yardsticks, Bihar exceeds the national average. Bihar’s infant mortality rate of 61 per 1,000 in 2002 was better than the national average of 63 per 1,000 ………. the quality of Bihar’s data collection is suspect, so I would not read too much into these figures”. So my dear learned friend, what should you go by? Your biased hunch or that of your equally dubious co workers?

Let me quote further “the collapse of law and order and the rise of criminals linked to Laloo was seen, locally, as lower castes improving their market share of Bihar’s biggest business — crime.” What has the author based this dubious conclusion? He rants that Lalu won three elections, implying the winning of elections as Biharis endorsement of crime. In his selective amnesia, he forgets that Lalu kept loosing his vote share in each election and was kept in power partly by the ineffective TN Seshan’s failure to conduct a fair election and partly due to AICC which chose to support Lalu in spite of the clear displeasure of BPCC. As soon as we had a fair election under KJ Rao, the whole equation changed.

Now read the openly contemptuous next paragraph “I suspect that Bihar exceeded 4% growth under Laloo mainly because Biharis could migrate to other states for jobs, send remittances home and bring back new skills.” What about the prosperity that the hardworking Bihari has brought to the states he has migrated to? Or they are employed as charity? What about the equally large remittance out of Bihar to support the large Bihar student population? Perhaps his economics does not allow these to be taken into consideration. Quite apart from the demeaning tone of the sentence, notice that this is being said in Mumbai where just recently Biharis were subject to tasteless racist remarks. Should I take this as an endorsement of those anti Bihari feeling?

Thus, he draws his conclusion, “Laloo succeeded for reasons beyond his control” Now notice the superciliousness of the concluding sentence “Even Bihar, which has terrible law and order, terrible roads and electricity, terrible education and telecom, has grown at close to 5% per year for over a decade.” Italics are mine, but rest of it is exactly as given by this special gift to mankind.

Does it ever occur to this expert of economics that Bihar has had the lowest per capita spend among all states in each five year plan since independence – when it was adjudged the best governed state and when it was felt it is the worst? Whether there were same party in power at state and centre or whether they were different, the situation never changed. It had to suffer the crippling freight equalisation scheme for close to three decades. That the most recent irrigation project in agricultural Bihar is the 19th century British built Son Canal system? That it does not have a single IIT, IIM, IARI, ICSR or DRDO lab? That PUSA, the only national agricultural research centre in the largely agricultural Bihar was shifted to Delhi, presumably to research the trees of Lutyens Delhi?

Why go so much in the past, just take the modern highway projects. Inevitably, the East West corridor and the Delhi – Kolkata highway pass through Bihar. But how many towns and cities of Bihar does it serve? It does not serve Patna, Gaya, Arrah, Chapra, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga or Samastipur. Neither does it serve Monghyr, Mokamah, Bettiah, Siwan or Sitamarhi. Muzaffapur is the only town of any consequence in the whole of Bihar or for that matter Jharkhand which would be served. Does the ‘economic’ expert have the foresight to see the injustice of all this? Smug in his south Mumbai office, he has perhaps never ventured into Bihar. But comment he must on Bihar. Not for him any guilt for the feeling of hurt his line of thinking may cause to eight crore Biharis. For him, Bihar is a punching bag, to be bashed.

In the syllabus of Bihar board where I did my Class X, we had a subject called Samajik Gyan or Social Studies. Prepared by eminent Bihari educationists, it had comprehensive coverage of the various regions of India. The teachers at my school did a very decent job of teaching us about the four south Indian states and the union territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep, their geography, language and culture. My school also had teachers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu teaching other subjects, economic migrants, who were accepted by Biharis with full dignity due to a teacher. Thus it was at an early age that I was made aware of the subtle and not so subtle differences between the south Indian states. Then why do I use the omnibus term Madrasi in my heading? This term is used by the south Indians to illustrate the ignorance of the north Indian about the south of Vindhyas and by Dilliwalas as a pejorative. Surely, I do not wish to demean the labour of the Bihar educationists, much less typecast people from south of Vindhyas. A Bihari, I know the pain of being typecast only too well and would not wish to do that to anybody.

It is my extreme angst at the totally un-empathetic tone of Mr Swaminathan Ankleswaria Aiyer that makes me use this term as a pejorative. It helps that no place is now known as Madras. Thus I can call this unfeeling person Madrasi without typecasting anyone from any region.

What future does a Bihari youth have when a senior journalist in a national newspaper have such an attitude?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Killing Bihar, steadily

It is an undeniable fact that Bihar stands at the bottom of the ladder as far as the economic indices are concerned. In the past, blame has been put on the Govt of Bihar, and rightly so. Blame has also been put on the people of Bihar. However, we have always let the central govt and its agencies get away lightly. This is rather surprising since in the federal structure of India, the status of the Govt of India is that of a “Mai-Baap” which has the power to dole out favours. Most of the taxes are collected by them and then distributed. Locations of major industries are decided by them. Major infrastructure – roads, bridges, airports, irrigation systems – are all decided by them. In this context, two recent developments show the central government in particularly poor light.

The first concerns the nascent tourism industry of Bihar. The Buddhist circuit in Bihar has been a major unutilised asset of the impoverished state. In a remarkable show of vision, the state government decided very early on its term that it would promote the Buddhist circuit. To this end, several initiatives have been taken. For example, land has been made available to the hotels; special care has been taken to maintain the law and order situation; the upkeep of the tourist destinations has been improved drastically; and the road infrastructure has been improved greatly for better connectivity.

Bodh Gaya has made good progress in the last year. Even in the face of the very basic facility at the airport, it now has international flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Paro and Colombo. There has been persistent demand to upgrade the facilities at the airport so that they can increase the frequency of their flight. The Japanese and the Koreans cannot take a direct flight to Gaya as the runway is far too short for the long haul aircraft to land. Given half a chance, Gaya can easily beat Calcutta as the premier airport of the Eastern India, but no plan is forth coming by the Airports Authority of India to take any of those steps. However, this story is not about that.

This is about the criminal neglect by the Indian Airlines to break the back of tourism at Gaya and give a bad name to Bihar and to India. In fact, it has even led to a diplomatic fracas already. Read for your self what they have done.

The passengers that they brought to Gaya on confirmed return tickets have been left stranded for over one week since the flight was cancelled in a huff. Indian Airlines, being a PSU, should have been at the forefront of promoting Gaya as an upcoming destination. That is how they justify their colossal losses and their pathetic standards. Far from it, they seek to destroy even what has been achieved.

Who gave Indian Airlines the right to cancel their flights? Is it a commercial decision or has been done with an ulterior motive to destroy the nascent tourist destination of Gaya? What are their obligations if they cancel their flights? If they have failed in their duty, what steps the Govt of India has taken to take them to task? Who are the people responsible for this mess? How are they being held accountable? What would be their punishment for this gross negligence? Unfortunately, there is only silence as an answer till now.

The second is an even bigger tragedy as it concerns the issue of universal education for the indigent. Excellent work is being done by the Govt of Bihar under the Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyaan. A very dedicated, scholarly and avuncular officer, Anjani Kumar Singh, affectionately called Anjani babu, has been put in charge of the program. He along with the Secretary, Education, Dr MM Jha, have done immense work in this area, which is both good quality and good quantity. Particular care has been taken to reach out to the girls from the most deprived sections of the society. The work has come for singular praise by several independent agencies, Pratham and the Indian Planning Commission being two of them. This rediff article captures the spirit of this monumental government work which is nothing short of a revolution.

Unfortunately, this good work would be under immense pressure in the coming financial year. Under a change of policy, the “mai baap” at Delhi, the HRD ministry, would drastically reduce the grant for this most laudable scheme since primary education is being made the responsibility of the state government. The education cess that you and I pay would be diverted to higher education so that little games may be played over issues of such national importance as power of HRD ministry over IIMs and IITs. Thus, while the poorest of the poor would be deprived of even primary education, the central govt attention would be riveted over providing better facilities to the already privileged.

Till now, Bihar was denied funds because of inadequate utilization. Now when it has shown the best utilization, in a show of real politik that would put Machiavelli to shame, the rules of the game are being changed. There is no debate on this in the parliament. The electronic media, always in the look out for issues of national importance for its innumerable debates, finds this topic unworthy of any mention.

Rashtra Kavi Ramdhari Singh Dinkar had perhaps this situation in mind when he composed this couplet in his immortal “Hunkaar”

“Swanon ko milte dugdh vastra, bhookhe balak akulate hain
Maa ki haddi se chipak thithoor. Jadon ke raat bitate hain.”

The pet dogs of the privileged get milk as food and finery as dress
The hungry children of the poor scrounge for bare necessities
They cling to the to the bare bones of their mother
They try to get some warmth on the cold winter night

The poor children in the poignant poem at least have the warmth of their mother’s emaciated body to cling on to. Where do the daughters of Bihar go when their mother, Mother India, refuses to give them even that solace?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Just Do It!

Just Do It!
by Mayank Krishna
First Published: Feb. 1, 2007

In last one year, with the change of government in Bihar, a lot of hope and aspiration has come to surface in the life of Bihar and Biharis. Apart from the efforts of the government, a select group of passionate Bihari intelligentsia scattered around the globe is making the concept of a flat world a reality and working toward bringing back the past glory of Bihar as a land of wisdom, wealth, opportunity, abundance, governance, and cultural heritage. And it has already started making some small but meaningful impact.

But with the hope there is a concern too. From the interaction I had had with numerous Biharis at various stages of their life and career, it seems that a large number of them, particularly young and well educated, are either not interested in Bihar or show utter pessimism about Bihar's future. Some typical responses are 'There is nothing in Bihar', 'it’s too late', 'development in Bihar is next to impossible', etc. This reasoning is devoid of logic. It smacks of ignorance, stereotyping, and a lack of will and conviction.

These young people educated in top colleges of India often attribute 'criminalization of politics and serious law and order problem' as the root cause of all problems of Bihar. Nothing can be more wrong and preposterous. These children of economically liberated India, devoid of knowledge of the post-independence developmental economic policies of Indian government, believe an effect to be a cause. They believe that fortunes of Bihar tumbled in the last 20 years when the truth is that the script of this tragedy was written by the learned economic planners of India in 50s, 60s, and 70s through unjust allocation of developmental resources. Take an example: In 1955, the total national outlay for irrigation was Rs.29106 lakhs. Of this, Punjab got 38% while Bihar got just 4.5% even though Bihar was 3.5 times larger than Punjab. The result: Almost 76% of Punjab’s land is under irrigation while just 41% of Bihar’s land is irrigated. Or, take the Freight Equalization Scheme that applied to Steel and Coal and remained in vogue till 1991. This policy of consumers paying the same freight whether the coal was transported from Jharia to Dhanbad or Jharia to Vishakhapatnam broke the back of industry development in Bihar. Many of us are blissfully ignorant of numerous historical injustices of this kind meted out to Bihar by the economic planners.

They talk of lack of opportunities in Bihar and assert that opportunities should first be created before they can exploit them. This is passive mentality. If Bihar has to progress then opportunities will have to be created and tapped by Biharis themselves. If one can't help oneself, no body can. Others can help, they can support, but they cannot set your house in order. This is something all Biharis need to understand. I am reminded of the old story of two shoe salesmen who went to a place where aboriginals existed. The first sales man saw that no one wore shoes and reasoned that there was no market for shoes while the second one saw a huge market because no one wore shoes! We have to create our own opportunities. Whining and complaining will not help but action orientation will and this is what is expected from the younger generation of well educated, smart, and suave Biharis. They should feel proud of their Bihari roots and act with courage and conviction.

Another issue is entrepreneurship development. In Bihar, people view entrepreneurship as something that smart, educated people don’t do. This has to change and entrepreneurship has to be accorded its due status. With the pool of well educated and technically qualified young Biharis, there is no reason why entrepreneurship development can't take place in Bihar. The opportunities are immense though they might not be so obvious. An entrepreneurial wave can turn Bihar into the vegetable capital of India. Similar big opportunities are in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, fruits, agro-processing sectors. The need of the hour is not large scale entrepreneurial ventures but small grassroots level ventures that ensure wealth generation along with economic and social development of the local community. We don’t need 10 investments of Rs.100 crores each; but 100 investments of Rs.10 crores each. Spread of investment is key not the quantum.

Ultimately, what Bihar and Biharis need is the Nike philosophy – Just Do It! And may I modify it a bit – JUST DO IT WITH PRIDE AND CONVICTION!

The Racist Indian Media?

The Racist Indian Media?
by Mayank Krishna
First Published: Feb. 3, 2007

Indian media is racist, albeit of a different kind. It bats for glamour, power, influence, high and the mighty. It seldom plays for people who don't have a voice, are weak and without power or influence. In other words, Indian media practices the fine art of racism of not giving a voice to people without voice, which is essentially at the core of any enlightened media.

The biggest irony with Indian media is its obsession with insignificant issues and its ability to transform such trivial matters into a national debate. At the same time, it is well versed in the fine art of trivializing the significant issues worthy of national debate. More than 50 innocent people, most of them laborers from Bihar, got killed in Assam by outlawed outfit called ULFA and the news hardly created a whisper. Numerous children got physically molested and brutally chopped into pieces by two maniacs in Nithari in Noida and the news lasted just a few days. On the other hand, a silly English lady called names to a not so famous Indian actress on the sets of Big Brother in distant England and that created a national fury in India thanks to the Indian media. It became an issue of national importance and generated many a serious debate on electronic media as if the issue was as serious as Pakistan planning an attack on India! If there is an apt example to explain the meaning of the phrase “blown out of proportion”, it has to be Indian media’s handling of Shilpa Shetty issue.

This is not the first time Indian media is behaving like a bottle fed toddler. The truth is that it is biologically and genetically incompetent to handle issues as per their worthiness. Perhaps the only consideration for Indian media today is – how saleable is the story in generating eye balls. And this phenomenon is not limited to odd issues that crop up from time to time. Blindness of Indian media is omnipresent all the time. The bias is so evident that it stinks.

Take the example of negative stereotyping of Bihar, an economically poor state of India thanks to the myopic policies of Indian government, by the Indian media. Even if something great happens in Bihar, Indian media finds, or perhaps concocts something negative about it and puts it in national glare. And if it can’t find anything negative, it simply ignores the good news. On the other hand, it seldom reports anything bad about so called progressive states of India. Roads of Mumbai are worst of its kind with potholes and craters, but when Indian media has to talk about bad roads, it always moves to Bihar. Rape, murder and abductions are rampant in the economically well of national capital region (NCR) comprising of Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida, and Faridabad; but when talks of crime start it always moves to Bihar. Talks on caste also lead to Bihar, even though the neighbouring West Bengal never had a single chief minister from the backward class. Talks on corruption again lead to Bihar, when the most corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are in Mumbai!

Bihar is economically and socially poor not because of itself. A large part of blame should go to the policies of central government of India in last 60 years that propped other states on the pillars of prosperity at the cost of development of Bihar. These included unjust allocation of funds meant for development of agriculture, infrastructure, irrigation facilities, etc. These unjust allocations combined with regressive policies like Freight Equalization Scheme virtually destroyed all possibilities of development of industry in Bihar despite abundance of natural resources. Many of us are blissfully ignorant of numerous historical injustices of this kind meted out to Bihar by the economic planners of India. Indian media never highlights this, may be by design or by ignorance.

And the same Bihar, which is trying to rise today from ashes like a phoenix, is today facing the worst kind of reporting racism practiced by Indian media. A few days back, a global Bihari meet was organized in Patna which had eminent speakers like Honourable President of India Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam, noted economist Lord Meghnad Desai, Ex-governor of RBI Mr. C Rangarajan, Chairman of ITC Mr. Y C Deveshwar, and which was well attended by NRIs. The meet was to discuss the agenda of Bihar’s growth and to attract investments. This high profile event was hardly reported in any national media, though local media covered the event on a grand scale. My question: Was it not a duty of any enlightened media to highlight this meet to create positive vibes about Bihar and help it in its endeavour to walk on the path to development? Well, perhaps Indian media was preoccupied with glam doll Shilpa Shetty!

But the irony of all ironies is that even on Shilpa Shetty type issues, Indian media is biased. It talks of racism in case of remarks on Shilpa Shetty. But where was this same Indian media in all its glory when a lower rug Indian actor, Deepak Tijori, made a similar racist comment on Biharis on the Indian reality show called Big Boss? Indian media, it seems, suffers from selective amnesia. Or, does it wear a mask to hide its racist face to fight another racist?

To me, it seems, Indian media has become impotent and it needs a big dose of Viagra to perform like an enlightened media. Amen!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Future of Bihar

Sometimes I wonder why I'm so optimistic and sanguine about the future of Bihar. Despite reports on violence and high kidnapping figures there’s a strange optimism about the future of Bihar. Often we question our own beliefs about the way we see our native state. Are we blind to the realities of Bihar and oblivious about the facts of the state? Are we simply building our own castles in air and far away from the realities of the day?

The answers to these facts are simple and very clear. We are all aware of the challenges which Bihar faces today, we are all connected to our villages and have ourselves braved the odds at some point in our career. My generation has survived the odds of some dark days in Bihar during the days of effete leadership. We have spent our times in the street of Bihar and spent hours in the Patna University campus and have some precious memories of our lives. Bihar has a flavour which only a true bihari soul can appreciate. You need not be a born Bihari to relish the essence of being a Bihari. What you need is a big heart and an even bigger attitude to be proud of what you are and the way you are.

You may be a Harryies of the world who takes dig at every thing which goes wrong with Bihar and also showcase yourself as someone special atypical Bihari .You may also be Bhai G’s like us who are out of Bihar but you can never take a Bihari out of them. The quintessential Bihar by heart who relishes the unique gustatory bliss of Liiti and chokha, the rustic beats of Bhojpuri Music and takes pride in everything which Bihar has got to offer. We are proud of our History and what we have achieved and are also committed to have a better tomorrow for our beloved state.

We have the courage to tell the world that what if we have lagged behind but at least we are trying. What if we may not have the best roads in the world but we are on our way .We may not have the best literacy figures to boast of but we have made a sincere effort to improve. We may not have the best police force in the world to fight odds like this; however we are hoping to improve it. We may not have the best leadership in the country but we have someone who is willing and humble enough to learn from others. We may not have loads of investment flowing in to our state but we have started the process and hope to see some thing positive.

We are going to see a new Bihar in the days to come and let’s take pride and put our best in reviving our golden past and take our state to new heights.

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