We are all talking about the Bihar story but the key point is to understand ‘why’ and ‘what’ have resulted in this victory for Nitish Kumar. What has Nitish Kumar been able to achieve?
First and foremost is building rural roads...what used to take more than two hours to travel now takes just about an hour. The minute there are good roads, movements of people and goods become easier and activities increase. Second has been the focus on schools, especially in the rural areas. The Nitish Kumar government’s major achievement has been to hire lakhs of teachers. The third major achievement is facilitating women’s mobility — 400,000 bicycles have been given to women in rural Bihar for them to cycle down to their schools. This has also significantly brought down school dropout rates. The fourth reason is bringing law and order in control.
Criminality had grown in the state over the years and somehow the administration was being used for criminal activities. After he became chief minister, 50,000 criminals were locked up. Now this does not mean that criminal activities have completely stopped. Bihar is a large state and there would be areas where criminal activities are prevalent and there would be areas where they have come down — the levels would vary, but importantly a message was sent out and the message was that things would not be tolerated the way they were.
Cases of bribes in the state have reduced..the important thing is that there is a fear factor now. People are scared to break the law.
But all these have happened without any private sector investment.
The next challenge for Nitish Kumar would be to create an investment-friendly environment — investment facilitation. To maintain a 10-12% growth rate, the state would require private investment and the next five years would be crucial. It takes time for confidence building and it would be therefore extremely crucial to see how things shape up in the state in the next few years. Depending on that corporate India will look at possible investment.
So I would say a beginning has been made and Kumar has done a commendable job in the first phase. The next five years would be critical because it is a competitive world, and, mind you, Kumar would have to keep this question in mind: “Do I go to Bihar or do I go to Gujarat?”
Mitra is the secretary general of FICCI (as told to Mahua Venkatesh)