On republic day last year, I had expressed my angst at the unfair treatment being meted to Bihar and Biharis in Patna Daily. Since then, Bihar has moved forward. There are signs of positive change, for example an IIT for Bihar, higher planned allocation for development and the improved conviction rate of criminals.
Yet my heart still bleeds this republic day. There is the most unfortunate killing of our labourers in Assam who still have to go to that inhospitable land in search of livelihood. From Rajdeep Sardesai using Bihar as a negative adjective to the children of migrant labourers dying inhuman deaths in Nithari and Muktsar, Punjab, unable to even have their cases registered with the police, there are any numbers of injustices meted out to Biharis. In spite of the increased allocation to Bihar for development in the last one year, it continues to languish at the bottom in terms of the per capita allocation by the planning commission. There would still be no IARI lab in Bihar though it is an agricultural state. But there seldom has been any protest against these. What could be the reasons for this?
Bihar is at a cross road where we have to try to consolidate the gains of the past year and try to analyze what has held it back for so many years. Why is it that when a Lalu Yadav starts a Garib Rath for Bihar or a Nitish Kumar starts the HQ of a railway zone in Bihar, there is widespread criticism, but when a Chidambaram and a Maran join hands to ensure 90% of all mobile phones for the booming market gets manufactured in Tamil Nadu, nobody raises an eyebrow? Why do many of our own Bihari brethren think asking for equal right for Biharis or development in Bihar is akin to rebelling against India?
The backwardness of Bihar and the ill treatment meted to Biharis, to me, appears rooted in psychology - both our own as well as those of non Bihari Indians. Let me try to delve a little deeper into the psychological make up and see what lies there.
As a school student in seventies, I heard the proposed Ganga Bridge at Patna was refused funding by the central planning commission. I wanted to write a letter to newspapers criticizing the decision. But seniors around me, at school and at home, restrained me, saying people at Delhi must have taken all issues in consideration before taking this decision. I wanted to protest the freight equalization scheme, but found little understanding of this sentiment around me.
What holds us back from asking our share? What is it that makes us believe the central government would always be fair?” Why do we hesitate to question its actions in a logical manner? Why the hurry to give away our share so readily? What is it that makes giving away the strategic advantages of Bihar so attractive for our leaders?
Is it lack of understanding of Bihar’s strategic advantage that causes it’s leders to give it away so easily? That would be really sad for the land of Chanakya. Does Bihari culture over romanticize the act of giving? Or is it the colonial hangover which makes us believe some distant master would be fair to us and set our house in order?
Fact is, even a mother does not lactate unless the child cries.
The second negative trait that I see is debating the wrong question. For close to four decades, the three issues that have been bandied about as the reasons for Bihar’s backwardness are: Casteism, Lack of land reforms and criminalisation of politics. This endless debate has taken us nowhere. Meanwhile so many other relevant questions have not even been debated. For example, why are there only three and a half bridges over Ganga in Bihar whereas there are over fifteen in Uttar Pradesh? Why is the most comprehensive irrigation system in Bihar still the British built Son Command Canal system? Why is there no protest when Patna Rice is registered as a trademark in US while there is such a hue and cry over Basmati? Why is there no comprehensive dialogue with Nepal for flood control? Why does the national integration song “Mile Sur Mera” have no Bihari symbols? I could go on and on, but the point I want to illustrate is that we have been asking the wrong questions for decades without any tangible gains in terms of the economic uplift of our masses.
Let me move to the next negative psychological trait, the inability to hail true success. Mr Neelkanth Prasad, the brilliant engineer, kept the dream of the Ganga Bridge at Patna alive and managed to get it built in spite of severe resource constraints. But does anybody remember his outstanding contribution? Rajkumar Shukla brought Gandhi to Champaran and made him the mass leader. Do we ever pause to think of his massive contribution? And thereby we fail to consolidate success and encourage desirable behaviour.
Take the recent case of an IIT in Bihar. When I hailed in Patna Daily MA Fatmi's promise to bring IIT to Bihar, several people implied I was naive to believe Fatmi. Now when he has actually delivered, one would expect some kudos for him. But no, now there is another set of pessimists saying bringing IIT to Bihar has no relevance!!! Govt of Bihar has been trying to bring a semblance of order for the last year. There are enough statistics to suggest Bihar has improved. But read the pessimistic comments. Police solves the case of kidnapping of a twelve year old Kankarbagh boy and nabs the killer even while he was preparing to strike again. CNN IBN gives it a negative twist. We seem to have an inability to celebrate success. Worse, an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!!
Another is self flagellation or the self blame even for things that are not in our own hand. Like a raped woman, somehow, when things go wrong, we tend to blame ourselves, not realizing there are situations where the blame lies outside. And the outsiders, particularly the 'national' English language press from Delhi and Mumbai, like the moronic UP police, lay the blame on the 'provocative' dress or other such imagined 'crime' for the situation. The labourers get killed in Assam and we blame Bihar’s backwardness. Did the labourer cause Bihar’s backwardness? Is he wrong is seeking a better livelihood for himself? How come the same trait of seeking a fortune in another land in a Punjabi or a Marwari is hailed as a positive trait? This is not to deny responsibility for own's action. For example, if a student at Gaya does not study hard, he is not going to get into an IIT. But if some idiot at JEE committee feels there is something wrong just because there are too many successes from Gaya and cancels the centre, the only fair solution is to expose that idiot and set things right, rather than blame ourselves.
After all, Bihar is the heart of India, appropriately placed a little to the left of centre in the upper part of the map of India. Today, a lot of people are asphyxiating the heart not realising the whole body would be dead if the heart stops functioning. We have to ourselves believe and make others realize that it is quite possible to be pro Bihari and yet be pro India. But unfortunately, the voice of reason and logic that can make it happen is lost in the din of self serving media. When Nitish Kumar calls up Manmohan to seek justice for the slain Biharis in Assam, ‘national’ media calls it ‘chita ki aag mein rajnaitik roti sekna’. And in the process, unfortunately, time is running out.
Thus to me, the backwardness of Bihar and the ill treatment meted to Biharis appears rooted in psychology - both our own as well as those of non Bihari Indians. Till we can zero in on the underlying reasons and take corrective action, things are not going to change fast enough.