If I noticed correctly, on 2 March 2021, the day Nitish Kumar was vaccinated against Covid-19, an armed robbery took place at a jewellery shop in the Kankarbagh area of Patna.
Three months ago, a daring day-light robbery took place at another jewellery shop in my home-district, Darbhanga, where the dacoits also fired 20 rounds in the air while decamping with the 10-crore rupees worth of booty. The closest police station was only 800 meters away.
On the night of March 5, a mid-level businessman cum property owner was stabbed on the bypass road near Begumpur in Patna. As he was coming back from a social event, three young men armed with rusted rods attacked him and wanted to rob his bike and valuables. The victim resisted, called his friend following the attack and made his way to the hospital where he succumbed to the injury.
Most cases of robbery, murder or extortion don’t hit headlines unless they are as stark as the killing of an Airline executive in the capital city of Patna. Many such stories go unreported and certainly unnoticed in other parts of the state.
For a long time now, Bihar has been holding its place in the list of states that have the worst law and order record. If you ask the Chief Minister, however, he will say Bihar is still better than many of the states, giving comparative references to the Jungle Raj of the Lalu-Rabri years.
These days, according to reports, he gets angry pretty quickly.
Rather than being in denial, however, he should come forward and share his challenges, his lapses and accomplishments with the people frankly and honestly.
The primary reason for the lawlessness appears to be the officials or bureaucrats selected by the Chief Minister or his cabinet colleagues -- mostly on political or caste considerations. These bureaucrats neither stay faithful to their official duties nor do they continue to be loyal to their political mentors.
Nitish’s bureaucracy has become so fossilized and hardened over the years that the edicts of younger politician-ministers seem to fall flat on it. Most hand-picked officials, since they feel they are close to the CM, treat MLAs or other people’s representatives as inferiors; they get activated only by a call from the CM’s office or by directives from very senior or effective officers. In the meantime, the opportunists who man the political- bureaucratic chain reap the harvest. Nitish’s administration is a prisoner of his own creation.
Consider this: According to a report, on 3 March 2021, a team of police and civil administration officials personally led by the Patna District Magistrate raided the famous and closely looked after Patna Beur jail. At the recommendation of the DM then, the Inspector General, Jails, suspended a DSP on charges of dereliction in duties.
This was something the IG, Jails, should have done following his own investigation. Obviously, he was responsible for what happened under his watch and he must have been held accountable. This, again, is a classic example of administrative mess let loose by the Chief Minister.
Such deep seated criminal instances of corruption abound in the political-bureaucratic circles of Bihar.
The tragedy with Bihar is that the healthy positive socio-political climate generally generated by the public and their representatives is also non-existent.
For instance, look at the way the prohibition policy is limping along in Bihar. Since April, 2016, despite its imperfect enforcement, the prohibition policy has resulted in improving the conditions of poor families, both rural and urban. Here, a public policy duly passed by a government is facing non-compliance from a sizable number of people. Their determination to break the law gives enormous unlawful benefits to the law-enforcement officials, hooch industry and the smugglers.
Early this month, a judge in Gopalganj sentenced nine men to death penalty and four women to life sentence for their involvement in illicit (poisonous) distillery that claimed the lives of 19 people.
Also, take the defiance of the politicians: the president of the RJD recently appointed as his party spokesperson a close ally of Anant Singh, the Mokama MLA who is a known criminal-undertrial currently in jail. This newly appointed party spokesperson, obviously a part of the underworld led by Anant Singh, looks after the interest of Anant Singh as well. What message does this give to the people?
In yet another repulsive news, Mukesh Sahni, a member of Nitish's cabinet, sent his brother to an official event to fulfill his role as a minister. No bureaucrat or member of the public dared to tell him it was wrong. The minister or his hangers on had no regard for laws and propriety. This is the price people are paying for electing uneducated and ill-trained politicians to the public positions.
All this happened after the Chief Minister himself appointed an acknowledged corrupt casteman the Education minister of Bihar. Those alarmed by this selection had to approach the leaders of the BJP in Delhi to have it withdrawn.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.