Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yatra Season in Bihar & demand for special category status to Bihar

JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar began his 17 day-long 'adhikar yatra',  as a party programme in the state on September 19 gather support for special category status to Bihar to deal with decades of backwardness. It is expected to conclude with a 'Adhikar rally' at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna on November 4. JD(U) came to power in 2005. During this yatra, the JD(U) leader is not using any official facility and official vehicle or government guesthouse as a Chief Minister. 

The yatra and the rally is mobilising the supporters and cadres of JDU to campaign for special status for Bihar. Bihar Vidhan Sabha had passed an unanimous resolution of April 4, 2006 and sent to the Prime Minister on June 3, 2006. A similar resolution was passed by Bihar Legislative Council on March 31, 2010. This was also sent to the Prime Minister on May 12, 2010. The Chief Minister had written to the Prime Minister on December 9, 2006. He also sent a document titled 'Special Category Status: A Case of Bihar' to the Prime Minister on May 23, 2009.

Bihar Chief Minister had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to set up an expert committee to consider the state's long pending demand.

"The expert committee should take a fair and rational decision on demand for special category status to Bihar and respond positively to the aspirations of a poor, backward state, which notwithstanding recent process, remains at the bottom of development pyramid both in terms of poverty indicators and various indices of human development," he argued.

He has demanded that the special cell in the Planning Commission set up in the context of Bihar Reorganization Act to draft short and medium-term measures to mitigate the consequences of the bifurcation of the state.

He has criticized the report of the central inter-ministerial group (IMG) that rejected the demand for special category status to Bihar despite recognizing 'huge development deficit of Bihar' and mentioning that it is 'among the lowest in the country on human development index.'

The IMG indeed recognized that the special plan under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) should be continued and strengthened in the 12th Plan period to enable Bihar complete the on-going projects and take up new projects to address infrastructure gaps. "But despite clear articulation of the special requirement of the state it concluded that 'Bihar's case for special category status is not made out."

"I am disappointed with the report as the IMG did not consider the issues spelt out in our memorandum submitted to you in July, 2011, with any seriousness and seems to have worked in a mechanical and perfunctory fashion with bias and predilection to reach pre-ordained conclusions," he said.

The IMG identified five-point characteristics for according special category status but it did not grant state government officials any opportunity for meaningful submission to it before the finalization of its report on March 30, 2012. It ignored the annual cycle of floods that makes Bihar most flood-prone state in South Asia.

While the demand of Bihar's legislative bodies for a special category is justified, to begin with the JDU leader can make Bihar special by acting on the recommendations for the Common School System.

Contractual teachers have been creating noisy scenes at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's public meeting across the State-it is just a symptom of the crisis in the education sector in Bihar which is increasingly getting in the hands of a education mafia.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Achuthanandan for CBI probe into Bihari youth's death

Note:In an earlier incident, Bihar government has asked Tamil Nadu government to probe the killing of five men, including four from Bihar, who were shot dead by police after being branded bank robbers. The issue was also raised in the Bihar state assembly on February 24,2012. Police shot dead the five in an alleged midnight gun battle on February 22,2012 in a Chennai residential locality. Police claimed the five people had been staying in a rented apartment, claiming to be students, and they were linked to bank robberies in Chennai since January, 2012. Doubts about the authenticity of the battle persists.

Wikipedia has a page on Anti-Bihari sentiment (Hindi: बिहारियों के ख़िलाफ़ जज़्बात, Urdu: بہاریوں کے خلاف جذبات).

It reads as follows: "Bihari refers to the people of the Indian state of Bihar, which is a region in the north-eastern Gangetic plains (as well as people of the Bihari ethnic group that originated there). Bihar has had slower economic growth than the rest of India in the 1990s, and as a consequnce many Bihari's have migrated to other parts of India in search of work. Bihari migrant workers have been subject to a growing degree of xenophobia, racial discrimination,prejudice and violence.

Biharis are often looked down upon and their accent ridiculed. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people[6] and created 10,000 internal refugees. Causes Since the late 1980s and through to 2005, poor governance and Annual Flooding of Bihar by Kosi River (Sorrow of Bihar) contributed to a crisis in the Bihar economy. The criminalisation of politics, and kidnappings of professional workers between 1990-2005 contributed to an economic collapse and led to the flight of capital, middle class professionals, and business leaders to other parts of India. This flight of business and capital increased unemployment and this led to the mass migration of Bihari farmers and unemployed youth to more developed states of India.

The state has a per capita income of $536 a year against India's average of $1470 and 30.6% of the state's population lives below the poverty line against India's average of 22.15%. The level of urbanisation (10.5%) is below the national average (27.78%); and behind states like Maharastra (42.4%). Urban poverty in Bihar (32.91%) is above the national average of 23.62%. Also using per capita water supply as a surrogate variable, Bihar (61 litres per day) is below the national average (142 litres per day) and that of Maharastra(175 litres per day according to 2006 data) in civic amenities. Social and cultural There is a perception in Indian states with smaller populations that Bihari culture could dominate local languages and customs as migration of poor workers continue from those states. This feeling that local customs would be overwhelmed by migrants was a key feature of the MNS campaign in Maharashtra and feelings of resentment in Punjab.

The migrant population in Punjab, according to state researchers, is nearing three million out of a total population of over nearly 30 million. One third of the migrants, nearly one million, live in and around Ludhiana.After the attacks on Uttar Pradeshi's and Biharis in October 2008, a Punjabi group called the Dal Khalsa, carried banners and placards that read “Punjab for Punjabis” and “Return migrants, Save Punjab”. This fear is further personified by the rise of Bhojpuri cinema in non-Bhojpuri speaking states. Punjabi comedian Jaspal Bhatti said that instead of assimilating with the culture of the state, the migrant population was seeking to decimate Punjabi culture and cinema. In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray had also complained to theatre owners for their reluctance to exhibit Marathi movies and producers of Marathi movies complained that it is becoming difficult to hire theatres in Mumbai to release their productions and exhibitors preferred to show Bhojpuri language movies.

There is a demand for a separate state of purvanchal by the bhojpuri speaking population in the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh due to which Anti-Bhojpuri sentiments are clearly visible among the writers of Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh who have expressed their anguish over the Bhojpuri chauvinism shown by Bhojpuri activists in their land, they claim they have been the victim of aggressive Bhojpuri chauvinism. Furthermore, many wrongly see Biharis as criminals and attribute any rise in criminality to Bihari youth, or the so called "Bihari Mafia". Due to the high levels of crime in Bihar there is a perception by some that Biharis are inherently criminal by nature. This has led to Biharis being blamed for crimes ranging from automobile theft to increases in rape, murder and kidnapping.

Now the people from North-East are under attacks in the same manner especially in Southern India. Economic Bihar has a per capita income of $536 a year against India's average of $1,470. Given this income dispartity, migrant workers moved to better paid locations and offered to work at lower rates. For example, in Tamil Nadu inter-state migrant construction workers are paid about Rs.60 to Rs.70 a day against the minimum of Rs.130 per day. After thousands of migrant workers left Nashik, industries were worried that their costs would increase through more expensive local workers. In an interview with the Times of India, Raj Thackeray, leader of the MNS said; "The city (Mumbai) cannot take the burden anymore. Look at our roads, our trains and parks. On the pipes that bring water to Mumbai are 40,000 huts. It is a security hazard. The footpaths too have been taken over by migrants. The message has to go to UP and Bihar that there is no space left in Mumbai for you. After destroying the city, the migrants will go back to their villages. But where will we go then?". The strain to Mumbai's infrastructure through migration has also been commented by mainstream secular politicians.

The then Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh felt that unchecked migration had placed a strain on the basic infrastructure of the state. However, he has maintained and urged migrant Bihari workers to remain in Maharashtra, even during the height of the anti North Indian agitation.Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, said that because of people migrating from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Delhi's infrastructure was overburdened. She said, that "these people come to Delhi from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but don't ever go back causing burden on Delhi's infrastructure." 19 October 2008 All-India Railway Recruitment Board examination attack North Indian students, including students from Bihar, preparing for the railway entrance exam were attacked by Raj Thackeray's MNS supporters in Mumbai on 20 October 2008. One student from Bihar was killed during the attacks.

Four persons were killed and another seriously injured in the violence that broke out in a village near Kalyan following the arrest of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded action against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists and full security to students. Nitish Kumar requested Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh intervention. Kumar directed the additional director general of police to contact senior police officials in Maharashtra and compile a report on Sunday's incident and asked the home commissioner to hold talks with the Maharashtra home secretary to seek protection for people from Bihar.In 2003, the Shiv Sena alleged that of the 500 Maharashtrian candidates, only ten of them successful in the Railways exams.90 per cent of the successful candidates were alleged to be from Bihar. Activists from the Shiv Sena ransacked a railway recruitment office in protest against non-Marathi's being among the 650,000 candidates set to compete for 2,200 railway jobs in the state.Eventually, after attacks on Biharis heading towards Mumbai for exams, the central government delayed the exams. North East states Biharis have sought work in many states that form part of North East India. There were significant communities in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur.

As with all migrations in history, this has created tensions with the local population, which has resulted in large scale violence. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people,and created 10,000 internal refugees. Similar violent incidents have also taken place recently in Manipur and Assam. According to K P S Gill waves of xenophobic violence have swept across Assam repeatedly since 1979, targeting Bangladeshis, Bengalis, Biharis and Marwaris. Karnataka In July 2009, activists of the Kannada Protection Force (KPF) in Karnataka stormed into exam centres and disrupted railway recruitment examinations in protest against the appearance of north Indian candidates, especially from Bihar, in large numbers. Punjab In October 2007, a bomb ripped through a packed multiplex theatre in Ludhiana, killing seven people and injuring many in the following stampede.

The 600 seater Shringar theatre was playing a Bhojpuri film when the explosion happened.The attack which was blamed on the Khalistani terrorists shows signs of Punjabi regionalism over Hindi nationalism still active in Punjab. Rajasthan The government in Rajasthan assured full protection to students from Bihar, after ragging incidents of Bihari students in a private engineering college in Udaipur surfaced. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan flayed the attacks on Bihari students in Rajasthan saying that the students were subjected to insult, torture and assaulted with sticks when they protested. Former chief minister Rabri Devi called upon the chief minister to take necessary action and assure the safety of the students. According to reports, several Bihari students were thrashed during the ragging. Pakistan Sindh Biharis in Pakistan have suffered from violence from Sindhis, particularly in the city of Karachi in the riots of 1994-1996.

As a result of the violence against them Biharis in Pakistan have organized the Bihari Qaumi Movement to protect their rights. Controversial statements Derisive use of BIMARU term Dr Ashish Bose, a Bengali retired govt servant coined the epithet BIMARU. Even official planning commission records use this term. BIMARU resembles the Hindi and Urdu word for illness, Bimar. The BI in BIMARU stands for Bihar. The other Hindi-speaking states that are included in BIMARU are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Bihar, and other North Indian states, have also been held accountable for holding India's GDP ranking below the double digit number. Editorial by Bal Thackeray Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, commented in the Shiv Sena newspaper, Samnna on why Biharis are disliked outside the Hindi-speaking cowbelt states. He quoted part of a text message as the title of his article. The message suggests that Biharis bring diseases, violence, job insecurity, and domination, wherever they go.

The text message says, "Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari" (One Bihari equals hundred diseases, Two Biharis is preparing for fight, Three Biharis it is a train hijack, and five Biharis will try to form the ruling Government). Nitish kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, and the Union Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, protested against the remark, demanding official condemnation of Bal Thackeray. Kumar, during a press report at Patna Airport, said, "If Manmohan Singh fails to intervene in what is happening in Maharashtra, it would mean only one thing – he is not interested in resolving the issue and that would not be good for the leader of the nation".

Angered by Thackeray's insulting remark against the Bihari community, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) activists burnt the effigy of the Shiv Sena chief at Kargil Chowk in Patna and said that the senior Thackeray had completely lost his marbles and needed to be immediately committed in a mental asylum. Consequences Protests & demonstrations Angry students in various parts of Bihar damaged railway property and disrupted train traffic, as protests continued against assaults on north Indians by MNS activists in Mumbai. The police said the protesters targeted Patna, Jehanabad, Barh, Khusrupur, Sasaram and Purnia railway stations in the morning. The protesting students reportedly set afire two AC bogies of an express train at Barh railway station. They ransacked Jehanabad, Barh, Purnia and Sasaram railway stations. According to the railway police, at least 10 students were detained in the morning and extra security was deployed to control the situation.

Noted Physician Dr Diwakar Tejaswi observed a day-long fast in Patna to protest against repeated violence by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray and his goons against the north Indians.Various student organisations gave a call for Bihar shutdown on October 25, 2008 to protest attacks on north Indian candidates by Maharashtra Navnirnam Sena activists during a Railway recruitment examination in Mumbai.

Various cases were filed in Bihar and Jharkhand against Raj Thackeray for assaulting the students. A murder case was also filed by Jagdish Prasad, father of Pawan Kumar, who was allegedly killed by MNS activists in Mumbai. Mumbai police, however, claimed it to be a case of accident. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of Rs 1,50,000 to Pawan's family. Bihar state Congress chief, Anil Kumar Sharma, has demanded enactment of an Act by Parliament for closing opportunities to any political party or organisation that indulge in obscurantism and raise such narrow, chauvinistic issues based on caste, religion and regionalism to capture power. A murder case was also lodged against Raj Thackeray and 15 others in a court in Jharkhand on 1 November 2008 following the death of a train passenger last month in Maharashtra. According to the Dhanbad police, their Mumbai counterparts termed Sakaldeo's death as an accident. According to social scientist Dr. Shaibal Gupta, the beating of students from Bihar has consolidated Bihari sub-nationalism. Rahul Raj See also: Rahul Raj encounter Rahul Raj, from Patna, was shot dead aboard a bus in Mumbai by the police on the 28 October. Rahul was 23 years old and was brandishing a pistol and not shooting at public.

The Mumbai police alleged that he wanted to assassinate Raj Thackeray. Nitish Kumar questioned the police action, but R R Patil justified it, and restored Raj Thackeray`s security. It was alleged that Rahul was protesting against the attacks on Bihari and Uttar Pradeshi candidates appearing for railway examinations. Mumbai crime branch is looking in to the incident. During Rahul's funeral slogans of "Raj Thackeray murdabad" and "Rahul Raj amar rahe" were heard. Despite Mumbai police's allegations, there was high level government representation at the funeral. Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and PHED minister Ashwini Kumar Chaubey represented the state government at the cremation which was also attended by Patna MP Ram Kripal Yadav. The bier was carried by Rahul's friends even as the district administration had arranged a flower-bedecked truck for the purpose. Attacks against Marathis

After the October 2008 anti-Bihari attacks in Maharashtra, members of the Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh (BBS) vandalised the official residence of Tata Motors Jamshedpur plant head S.B. Borwankar, a Maharashtrian. Armed with lathis and hockey sticks, more than 100 BBS members trooped to Borwankar’s Nildih Road bungalow around 3.30 pm. Shouting anti-MNS slogans, they smashed windowpanes and broke flowerpots. BBS president Anand Bihari Dubey called the attack on Borwankar’s residence unfortunate, and said that he knew BBS members were angry after the attack in Maharashtra on Biharis, but did not expect a reaction. Fear of further violence gripped the 4,000-odd Maharashtrians settlers living in and around the city. Two air-conditioned bogies of the train Vikramshila Express – reportedly with Maharashtrian passengers on board – were set on fire in Barh area of Bihar. Hundreds of slogan-shouting students surrounded Barh railway station in rural Patna demanding that MNS leader Raj Thackeray be tried for sedition. No one was reported injured and passengers fled soon as the attackers started setting the bogies on fire. A group of 63 tourists, of which many were Marathis, were on a tour of sacred Buddhist sites. The tourists found themselves stranded on the outskirts of Patna as riots broke out.

The Marathis in the group were forced to hide their identity for fear of attacks. The group avoided speaking in Marathi, and women wore saris in the north Indian rather than the Marathi style. For security, the group had to be escorted by 25 policeman to the station. The tourists reached Nagpur safely. In another incident, a senior woman government official in Bihar, with the surname Thackeray, was the target of an angry mob that surrounded her office and shouted slogans against her in Purnia district. Ashwini Dattarey Thackeray was the target of a mob of over 200 people. The mob, led by a local leader of the Lok Janashakti Party, surrounded Thackeray’s office in Purnia, about 350 km from here, and shouted slogans like, “Go back Maharashtrians” and “Officer go back, we do not need your services”.

A gang of 25 people pelted stones on the Maharashtra Bhawan in Khalasi Line, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Constructed in 1928, the building is owned by the lone trust run by Marathis in Kanpur. It has served as an important venue for prominent festivals, including Ganesh Utsav and Krishna Janmastami. On 29 October, in Ghaziabad, Marathi students at Mahanand Mission Harijan PG College were attacked, allegedly by an Uttar Pradesh student leader and his friends. Police sources in Ghaziabad confirmed the victims stated in their FIR that the attackers “mentioned Rahul Raj and Dharam Dev” while kicking them in heir hostel rooms. A group of 20 youths, from Bihar, attacked Maharashtra Sadan in the capital on 3 November. The Rashtrawadi Sena has claimed responsibility for the attack. They ransacked the reception of the building and raised slogans against Raj Thackeray. Cultural, economic threats Bihari leaders have urged a boycott of music CDs of Bollywood singers, movies, clothes and drugs manufactured in Maharashtra.

“Why don't Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Lata Mangeshkar or Anna Hazare come out and speak against such attacks on Bihari people? They enjoy greater influence on the society and their words would indeed matter,” asked renowned Bollywood actor Mr Shatrughan Sinha. Nitish Kumar also threatened to block cash flow to Mumbai, country's financial capital. "If Maharashtra is rich today, it's just because the capital investments from across the country have made there. Does Raj Thackeray know where will Mumbai go if we block fund flow to Mumbai and Maharashtra"'” ... "I will pump out air of Mumbai by blocking cash flow if the violence against Biharis does not stop".

The Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh also demanded a ban on the import of onions from Maharashtra. The organisation said if the ban is not implemented by the Jharkhand government it will stop the entry of trucks carrying onions from Maharshtra. Jharkhand imports onions from Nashik in Maharashtra. "We will intensify our agitation if north Indians are beat in Maharashtra," said Anad Bihari Dubey. In Jamshedpur, trucks arriving from Maharashtra were stopped and searched by nationalist groups. The government has declared that firm action will be taken to prevent a breakdown in law and order. "We have come to know that some people want to stop trucks coming from Maharashtra. "We will not allow people to prevent movement of trucks. Police have been alerted," R.K. Agrawal, Deputy Commissioner of East Singhbhum district said to the media.A mob also attacked a cinema hall in Purnia screening films of Marathi directors. After the attack the angry mob announced the start of their “non-cooperation” movement against Marathis. Bhojpuri film industry relocation The Rs 200-crore Bhojpuri film industry is considering moving out of Mumbai owing to threats from MNS workers, and growing insecurity.

With an average output of 75 movies per annum and an over 250 million target audience, the Bhojpuri film industry employs hundreds of unskilled and semi-skilled people from the state in various stage of production and distribution. The industry, which has around 50 registered production houses in Mumbai, has initiated talks with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. "We have given a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh government through its Culture Minister Subhash Pandey for setting up the industry in Lucknow. Besides, we are also counting on some other options like Delhi, Noida and Patna," Bhojpuri superstar and producer Manoj Tiwari said. The films have a large market because the Bhojpuri diaspora is spread over countries like Mauritius, Nepal, Dubai, Guyana, West Indies, Fiji, Indonesia, Surinam and the Netherlands. There is a significant wealthy Bihari doctor community in the United Kingdom.[citation needed] 70 per cent of the total production cost of a Bhojpuri film — budgets of which range from Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore — is usually spent in Maharashtra, providing direct employment to junior artists, make-up men, spot boys and local studios among others.

In 2008, the state government approved over Rs 70,000 crore worth of investment, has had record tax collection, broken the political-criminal nexus, made improvements in power supply to villages, towns and cities. Bihar, a state fraught with abject poverty, has come out on top as the fastest growing state second year in a row, with a striking 13.1 percent growth in 2011-2012. Its economy has also grown bigger than that of Punjab — the prime destination for Bihari workers.They have laid greater emphasis on education and learning by appointing more teachers,and opening a software park. State Ministers who have failed to live up to election commitments have been dismissed.
Bihar's GSDP grew by 18% over the period 2006-2007, which was higher than in the past 10 years and one of the highest recorded by the Government of India for that period. Other consequences Since November 2005, there has been a significant fall in the number of migrant workers in many parts of India.

After the early 2008 migrant crisis and bombing of the Bhojpuri cinema hall in Punjab, Biharis have decided to firmly stay away from states of the North East and Punjab. However, other Biharis migrants have found that returning to Maharashtra is still an option for them despite the violent nature of the agitation. Culturally, Biharis appear to have rejected a film based heavily on Punjabi culture. In August 2008, a film called Singh is Kinng starring Akshay Kumar which was a superhit in India, flopped in Bihar. Bihar has been where Akshay Kumar's films, from Jaanwar to Hey Babyy, have acquired a blockbuster status. In this case, the heavy usage of Punjabi language, culture was said to be the main cause of the movie being rejected by Bihari audiences."Source: Gopal Krishna

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 19 (IANS) Marxist leader V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday asked Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to call for a CBI probe into the alleged murder of a Bihari youth in Kerala.
Satnam Singh Mann, 34, was brought dead to the Medical College Hospital here last month from a mental hospital also located in the Kerala capital.
Mann was arrested when he created a ruckus at spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi's ashram near Kollam early last month and was charged with trying to attack her.
In a letter to the chief minister, Achuthanandan expressed dissatisfaction in the ongoing probe which had led to the arrest of two officials from the mental hospital.

"The arrested now say they are innocent. Only a thorough probe by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) will help the truth to come out," said Achuthanandan.

He said it needed to be probed what happened at the ashram, in police custody, at the sub-jail and finally at the mental hospital.

Singh's relative Vimal Kishore was the first to allege that Mann was brutally tortured.

"This death has created a furore across the country and statements that Singh was not in sound mental health is not true. He was on a spiritual journey to our state. The need of the hour is a CBI probe, and I wish you will take immediate steps for it," said Achuthanandan. Mann's family has also demanded a CBI probe into his death.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Is Bihar letting down its women?

‘Long queues witnessed as women voters come out in large numbers’, ‘Using boat, women come out to vote,’ ‘Dewar bites Bhabhi for voting for Nitish’ — all of these were news items at the time of the Bihar Assembly elections of 2010. These elections were seen by many as a watershed, with a huge increase of over 10 per cent in the number of women who came out to exercise their franchise. In the myriad identity politics that dominated Bihar’s political landscape, people argued that Nitish Kumar had actually managed to carve out a separate constituency of his own, of women voters, transcending caste and class. Women talked about getting employment, dignity and security in his regime, something they could not even dream of earlier. And Nitish took credit for the same.

Fast forward to 2012, and the wheel, however, seems to have turned full circle. Looking at newspaper and other media reports over the last couple of months, one cannot but wonder if Nitish’s bubble is bursting. Not a day goes by without a report of some kind of atrocity or another being committed against women. Rape, molestation, eve-teasing, dowry deaths have become common stories in the daily newspapers. Gaya, Nalanda, Aurangabad, and not even the capital city of Patna, have been spared.

The Patna gangrape case is fresh in the minds of everyone. A schoolgirl was gangraped and CDs and MMS of the incident circulated to blackmail the victim, something unheard of till date in Bihar. Moreover, the slipshod investigation, suggesting attempts at a cover-up by the State government, which had so far held itself up as a beacon to women, is a far cry from the situation that was projected in 2010. Analysing the crime figures of Bihar of the last few years, one notices a consistent increase in rapes, along with other crimes against women.

So is it now perhaps the time for a reality check? Looking at the figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recently for Bihar for 2011, one realises that the State has actually become an increasingly unsafe place for women. The crime rates against them have increased from 6,186 cases in 2008 to 10,231 cases in 2011, a 65 percentage point increase in just the last three years. Fifty-six per cent of the women between ages 15 and 49 are subject to physical and sexual violence. Nitish may have given bicycles to girls to go to school, but he has clearly failed in making the roads to the school safe for these girls, many of whom complain of eve-teasing and lewd comments.

Even abduction of young girls is on the rise, with a massive 71% of all kidnapping cases in the State reported against women and children. Some 3,050 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women were reported in 2011, a 104 percentage point increase over 2008! In fact, Bihar ranks second in the country in kidnapping cases, with a total of 4,268 cases registered in 2011. The recent uterus scam from Samastipur has shown that crime and corruption continue to prevail, with teenagers, pregnant women and even men being on the list of those whose organs were removed!

The sex ratio has seen a decline over the last decade. And not just women, Bihar today ranks among the top three States in murder (3,198), attempt to commit murder (3,327) and culpable homicide not amounting to murder (348), dacoities (556), riots (9,768) and arson (705). Some 26,003 violent crimes were committed in 2011, a 10% share of all India crimes, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh.

During his first term, Nitish tried to ensure political empowerment of women, reserving 50% of all posts at the panchayat levels for them. However, this is clearly not in sync with overall social sensitisation, empowerment and uplift of society as a whole, resulting in Bihar today ranking second, behind U.P., in dowry deaths and dowry-related crimes against women.

Even as the Chief Minister keeps talking of Bihar ka Samman, Bihar ka Gaurav and Bihar ka izzat, it is apparent that the samman, gaurav and izzat of the women are under attack. If Nitish takes credit for the 13% economic growth that Bihar has achieved during his tenure, he should also accept the blame for crime figures and take immediate steps to address the issue.

Clearly, there is a lot more that needs to be done for the overall empowerment of women and societal transformation, along with immediate improvement in the law and order machinery. The first crucial step could be to empower, staff and provide infrastructure to the Mahila police stations, and allow for fast-track disposal of cases against women to ensure justice. Perhaps then, Bihar will be able to improve its current record of having nearly 36% of cases from the previous year still pending investigation.

Awareness and sensitisation programmes for society, conducted jointly by civil and political society — through workshops, seminars, public awareness campaigns, gender studies courses etc., — are an urgent need. It is essential to encourage women to perform in all spheres of life, without any threat to their safety and security. Perhaps, then, one can dream of producing its own Saina Nehwals and Mary Koms, who will bring laurels to the country in the national and international arenas.

Dr. Chandan Yadav