Jamui Diaries: Bihar has changed for good
As I walked through the streets of Jamui, a district in southern Bihar, I kept wondering what has changed in this region since my last visit in 2009. It was only after travelling a little inside Bihar that I could understand the changes taking place in Bihar.
I last visited my ancestral town in Chewara, Sheikhpura, which is nearly 39 kilometers from Jamui back in 2009. It took us almost 5 hours to cover this distance back then. But today we covered that same distance in just 45 minutes. Similarly, we covered a distance of 159 kilometers from Patna to Jamui in just 4 hours, unlike our previous experience of covering the same distance in at least 6 to 7 hours. We literally found roads everywhere we traveled in south of the river Ganges which was comparatively less developed than the north. This was not a common sight back in 2009.
Another very import parameter of development is electricity. The current situation is still no good with 10 to 12 hours of load shedding in Jamui main town. This area hasn't seen stable electricity supply for decades now. A simple description of the situation would be that I could hardly listen to my own voice as I entered the market area that is completely dependent on generators. Surely, the state government would be passing the buck on centre for this situation. But one can expect better power situation in the days to come as NTPC has promised to complete the much awaited first unit of Barh Thermal Power plant in June next year.
Property rates have gone up tenfold in Bihar. But at least in this part of the state it has less to do with development but more about social challenges evolving out of the growth of Naxalism. People from small villages in Jamui are fast migrating towards the town area, because of better policing. Security remains a big concern for this region where crime has rapidly increased in the past 15 years. In fact, the kind of security arrangements that were made for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during his visit on Monday remains unprecedented.
But what surprised me the most was that the business community I interacted with is simply inconsiderate of the developments that Nitish Kumar proclaims to be his strength. A leading businessman from Jamui on condition of anonymity told me that 'afsarshahi, gundagardi to sab badha hua hai' meaning bureaucratic inefficiency and gundaism is on a high. Another businessman in Patna told me 'Nitishji ne woh kaam kiya hai jo dikhta hai' meaning he has worked in areas where his work is visible.
Development card did work well for Nitish Kumar in the past few years but as he grows politically stronger he should be cautious of the old ghost of caste politics in Bihar.
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