It took Nitish Kumar four long years into the office of Bihar's chief minister to realise that shortage of government staff was stalling all his efforts at pulling the state out of the woods and subsequently fast-forwarding it amongst the league of the so-called developed states.
"Whatever time is left would be spent in correcting this anomaly. Most government departments today are short of staff by as much as 60 per cent. Some 40 per cent of posts are going vacant. All these vacancies need to be filled up fast including the 13,000 posts in the police department before the assembly elections next year," he told the Hindustan Times on the completion of his four years in office.
In a candid admission about his failures and achievements in four years, Nitish said, "I don't claim to have done everything. But I did whatever was possible in every field within my limited resources and people are vouching for it now. When I took over the reins of the state, the task before me was too tall. I had to start from the scratch because the entire system of governance was in disarray. The financial position of Bihar was deplorable. We lacked capacity to spend. The Plan size was a meager Rs 2000 crore to Rs 3000 crore. It was scaled up to Rs 12, 500 crore last year and we plan to have a plan size of Rs 16,000 crore in the next financial year. The money is flowing at the ground level now," he said.
Delineating further he said, "My prime concern was capacity building and improving the poor law and order situation, for which the state was infamous for. We also needed to create physical infrastructure like roads and bridges. But we had no skilled agencies to work. The Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam was almost on the verge of closure. I revived it and now it is earning profit. It has constructed hundreds of bridges in four years."
"On the law and order front, the task was to build confidence among people in the law enforcing machinery. We succeeded to a great extent in taking out the fear factor from the minds of people, both from inside and outside the state. The result is there to see for everyone. Now, women can be seen moving around in cities and towns till late in the evening. This festival season was almost free from any untoward incident. A number of national and international events are taking place here, which is clear indication that we have been able to instill confidence among people," he said.
On his failures, the chief minister rues having done little on improving the power situation and condition of highways. But he blamed the 'biased' policies of the Union government in denying the due share to Bihar. "I have been pushed into the wrestling arena with my hands tied," he said.
For him, the biggest concern is lack of adequate power generating capacity. "Bihar today faces two major problems in augmenting its power generation. First, the Centre's refusal to provide coal linkages for the new thermal power stations till the 12th Plan period and blanket ban on use of water from rivers of Ganga basin by the Central Water Commission for thermal power stations. This clearly means that Bihar can't generate electricity on its own nor can it expand its existing thermal power stations for next six to seven years. We have substantially improved our transmission system but we are unable to set up new power plants. This is gross injustice to Bihar. Second, there are inherent flaws in the centre-sponsored Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme. It requires setting up of 16 KVA and 25 KVA transformers, which are enough only for lighting up households. People can't set up any cottage industry with such transformers. I have taken up the matter with the prime minister several times, but to no avail. I have also sought central government's consent for setting up Ethanol plants, which will generate 1000 MW. But the centre is sitting over it," he said.
"As the National Highways in Bihar are not on Centre's priority list, Bihar government had to spend Rs 711 crore on their strengthening and four-laning. The much-publicised East-West Corridor project, which connects Northeastern states with other parts of the country, is progressing on a snail pace. The 890-kilometre NHDP-Phase III is yet to kick off properly in the absence of proper budget provisions. I have requested the centre to make budgetary provisions for the National Highways in Bihar but the policy makers at the centre seem to be guided by anti-Bihar bias. They are not providing No Objection Certificate for the four-laning of the Patna-Bodh Gaya road even though the Japan Bank for International Cooperation is ready to finance the project," he said.
Kumar candidly admitted rampant corruption to be one of his main failings. "Our efforts are negated by corruption from top to bottom in state bureaucracy. Though we have tried to tame the unscrupulous elements through Special Vigilance squads and speedy trials, we want to make the existing laws more effective and sent a Bill seeking setting up of special courts to the Union Home Ministry. But the Centre is yet to send it back with Presidential assent," he said.
On the recent controversy over the land reforms and political hullabaloo over it, Nitish said that the recommendations were more idealistic than practical in nature. "Let me assure people today, that no one is going to lose his land. We are yet to examine the practical aspects of the Bandopadhyay panel's suggestions," he said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will consolidate the development projects launched by his government so far in next seven months and concentrate on state Assembly elections during the remaining five months.
"For next seven months, I will consolidate the development schemes and ensure effective implementation of the welfare schemes and then go to the polls. And, if the state is affected by floods, I will fight it out with renewed vigour," he told Hindustan Times on completion of his four years in office.
Nitish said, "If I have not brought the moon for the people of Bihar, I have certainly made Bihar a place, where they can live and pursue their vocation fearlessly. This is my biggest achievement."