When professor Peter Ronald deSouza, director of Shimla-based Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), went out for a morning walk in the state capital on Tuesday, he was taken aback by the general state of affairs all around.
The imposing hostel buildings of BN College, in a state of disrepair and dilapidation, with trees growing out from the walls also shocked him. It reflected in his speech at the inaugural session of the two-day national seminar on ‘Transforming Bihar: Challenges and innovations’ organised by the IIAS and the sociology department of Patna University (PU).
“It is a sign of very serious inertia. We cannot have revolutionaries among students or expect transformation from those who accept to live in such buildings. It also shows that those who run the institutions do not care,” said deSouza.
“The condition on the streets is very sad. Have the people on the streets been ‘invisiblised’ by the authorities? It also means there is no demand (for facilities), because if it is there, the supply will also be there. There could be innovative forms of protests seeking improvement,” added deSouza.
The IIAS director, a resident of Goa, influenced by Jayaprakash Narayan’s call for ‘Total revolution’, quit studying chemistry and took up political science as a subject. A visit to Bihar had been on his mind for the last four decades.
“This is the state that gave us several social movements, theories of socialism, as well as, political movements. What happened to it? Where has its elite gone? When does an existential condition like BN College hostel triggers protests and at what point of time?” he pondered.
DeSouza expressed hope that the seminar will generate intellectual resurgence, help in developing several hypotheses in the field of social sciences, as the rich social space of Bihar has much to contribute.
Guest of honour at the seminar, DN Sahay, former governor of Chhattisgarh and Tripura, described how Bihar, known for its place among BIMARU states and a dysfunctional government, has got the highest economic growth rate in the country, and is surging ahead ever sincce chief minister Nitish Kumar took charge.
Speaking on the occasion, PU vice-chancellor Shambhu Nath Singh said, “There is a curiosity whether transformation is really happening in Bihar or people are just talking about it. The state has several contradictions within. It has the highest growth rate, but is also the most poverty ridden. Education here is not in very good condition, though earlier people used to come to study here. Industrialisation has not taken place and much work is needed in agriculture sector also.”
“Research on Bihar is very important. In fact, a project to understand the state should be launched. We hope the seminar will raise these issues,” added Singh.
Former head of PU sociology department, Hetukar Jha and IIAS fellow Manish Thakur also spoke at the inaugural session. PU sociology department head Dharmshila Prasad welcomed the participants and supervised the entire event, while professor RN Sharma proposed a vote of thanks.
Assistant professor Shubham Shri anchored the event. Professors BK Lal, A Dasgupta, MN Karna, Satish Kumar, Gopal Guru and Sarfaraz Ahmed were also present. Rupam, Madhavi, Shakeel, Pawan, Amit Ranjan and other students were part of the organising team.