Sunday, August 22, 2010

Work, celebration and politalk at Patna

It so happened that our 9th anniversary clashed with a joint CCS-FNF programme with journalists in Patna. I was excited about visiting a new city and thanks to our dear friends Rajesh and Amit, we had a lovely anniversary celebration with cakes (yes we got two!), wine (which Rajesh went all over town to find!), litti (Bihari dish), breezy weather, and conversations on Bihari politics!

Bihar has a fascinating mix of history-Gautam Buddha attaining enlightment at Bodhgaya, Mahavir spending a lot of time here, Chandragupta Maurya building a vast empire, Ashoka ruled from Patliputra, now Patna. The famous Patna museum was established in 1917 houses stone sculptures and statues. As we travelled across the city, old British clubs are quite visible. We had dinner in the gardens with palm trees along side the river at one such club-Bankipore, established in 1865! There are many sites to explore out of Patna-Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Vaishali. Alas, this trip was too short!

We entered Patna town very soon after leaving the airport. It was almost 9 pm and the old market was bussling with people and traffic. The city itself is not very big, approx 25 km by 10 km along the Ganga.The famous Mahavir Mandir stands right near the Durgah. The differences in the original heights of the two religious structures pushes each one to keep building higher, said our driver! One immediate observation is the liveliness of the city at this late hour. This comes as a wonder thanks to the fear and lawlessness created by 15 years of rule by Lalu. Everyone we spoke agreed on one positive change under Nitish's leadership-the rule of law. It is simply shocking that such a publish display of kleptocracy would go unpunished. How can a CM openly ask for bribes, steal new cars from showrooms for his daughters wedding, and have his goons keep the entire state in a state of continuous fear and still have the guts to ask for increased salary? Our friend Rajesh shared that the goons were still out there, mainly being government contractors driving around Pajeros, they could not just take our a gun and hold you ransom. The journalist community regards Nitish very highly and sees in him a sincere intention to govern better. Unfortunately even with all this governance and visible improvements, his battle for keeping his seat will not be easy. Lalu and Paswan's recent alliance holds the strong caste-vote. Congress is seen to have more of a presence now though it is predicted to just retain its current share of seats. I just hope that sense will prevail and that the Indian voter will surprise all yet again! Another interesting discussion was about MNREGA and an unintended consequence was that due to this scheme, there was a dip in supply of casual labourers that was killing local industry! And what about high rates of growth? Well its could be attributed to larger government spending and not growth in private industry. Also the base was so low that any growth is seen as a positive growth-but the potential is far more.

This trip was too short to explore any of Bihar's wonders, so a trip back is on the cards for sure!

Photos courtesy: Parth's beloved blackberry!

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