Till a few years back Bihar was not only an administrative nightmare but was in the news mostly for the bizarre. The state, caught in the vicious cycle of caste wars, deteriorating law and order, administrative apathy and total abdication of the governance to the mafia and local dons, receded from the national consciousness.
But since late 2005 Bihar has made a remarkable comeback from the precipice after Nitish Kumar, an engineer by training but a politician by profession, took over as the Chief Minister of the state. The state underwent a dramatic transformation over the next few years and today is one of the fastest growing state in the country and even international agencies and organisations have lauded several schemes and methods adopted by the state government to bring Bihar back on track.
Rajesh Chakrabarti's Bihar Breakthrough - The Turnaround of a Beleaguered State vividly captures the transition from the "jungle raj" of the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century to the "sushasan" of Nitish Kumar.
Chakrabarti, who has admitted that he was a complete newcomer to the state, has tried to dissect the various problems facing Bihar meticulously and then gone on to highlight the steps taken by Nitish Kumar and his government on restoring administrative authority.
The book flows seamlessly and travels from the almost hopeless situation that Bihar was in 2005 to becoming the pride of the nation five years later with double digit growth, better law and order, improvement in literacy level, better social indicators and a government that functioned. Chakrabarti explains in detail how Nitish Kumar led the JD(U)-BJP combine to power in the November 2005 election after failing to form the government due to the partisan role played by the then governor just a few months back even thought the alliance had won more seats than any other political formation.
Bihar witnessed a fairytale transformation from November 2005 with Nitish going for an administrative overhaul, putting honest and tough officers in charge of crucial departments including the police force, giving them a free hand to tackle the problems and maintaining a hawk eye on their progress by continuously monitoring the progress, writes Chakrabarti.
The chapters on re-establishing the rule of law, the roads to development, social infrastructure and Kosi floods of 2008 have meticulous details. He has given detailed description of how the rule of law and established and dreaded "bahubalis" (dons) tamed and put behind the bars. Caste, perhaps the most unifying and also the most dividing factor at the same time in Bihar, had played the most important role in even criminal cases and the book Bihar Breakthrough - The Turnaround of a Beleaguered State analyses why it was so. The book then goes on to reveal that Nitish Kumar succeeded as his police force perhaps for the first time in the state had a free hand in dealing with criminals irrespective of their caste. But Chakrabarti also cautions that Nitish Kumar was extremely pragmatic and despite going after the dons, also used some of them to consolidate his political position.
Similarly the turnaround of the Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam (BRPNN) which was on the deathbed has also been explained in great detail. The roads in Bihar famous for their potholes are now comparable with the best in the country and the role of officers like IAS officers RK Singh (now the Union Home Secretary) and Pratyaya Amrit in turning around the sick entity is legendary.
The book also lays bare the political quagmire that Nitish faced in tackling the problems and how he tackled them. But the book fails in coming up with a roadmap that Nitish and the state government needs to follow to ensure that the gains are not withered away if there is a regime change or if a new leader takes over. The book also stresses too much on the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi years and gives an impression that most of the problems that Bihar faces is due to their governance or rather the lack of it.
A slightly more detailed study and analysis would show that several problems that Bihar faces today began during the British era and got entrenched in the 1960s and 70s.
But overall the book is a very detailed account of Bihar's problems and the state's transformation. The data and analysis is very handy is getting an overview of the scenario in the state while the details about senior IAS and IPS officers in restoring governance in the state is very useful.
Author: Rajesh Chakrabarti; Publisher: Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd; Pages: 254, Price: Rs 295