Friday, January 20, 2012
Contemporary Bihar is not all about Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad. In recent times, the resurgent state has thrown up many unlikely heroes who have emerged as role models.
Bihar's resurgence begins at the grassroots level. For many years, villages in Bihar saw their youths migrating to other states in large numbers in search of livelihood. It was left to the minuscule minority of do-gooders to stay back and contribute their mite towards a silent agricultural revolution in the state.
Leading the pack of achievers are five young and doughty farmers from Darveshpura village from Nalanda district who recently created a new world record in paddy cultivation. Sumant Kumar had a bumper yield of 224 quintal per hectare which was enough to eclipse the world record set by a Chinese farm scientist Yuan Longping. Four of his friends from the same village - Krishna Kumar, Nitish Kumar, Ramanand Singh and Sanjay Kumar - also had extraordinary produce. So proud was the chief minister Nitish Kumar of the achievements of the young farmers from his home district that he not only felicitated them at their ancestral place but also asked them to motivate other peasants in the state.
These farmers had opted for an unconventional way of paddy plantation known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which requires less water and seeds than the traditional methods but helps procure far greater quantities.
Interestingly, it was a Dalit woman Jyoti Manjhi from the Naxal-infested Gaya district who first popularised this technique in Bihar by cultivating paddy on the barren land and converted many villages in Fatehpur block of the district into a veritable rice bowl. She has since become a Janata Dal-United MLA, thanks to Nitish who offered her the party ticket in the last assembly elections because of her achievements in the field of agriculture.
Manjhi is not the only woman who tilled her land to fame. Bihar has another role model in Rajkumari Devi, a woman farmer from Muzaffarpur district, who set up a self-help group of 360 underprivileged women to make them financially independent through farming alone. Her image of riding a bicycle through the dusty lanes of her village is the most enduring symbol of women's empowerment in a state known over the years for its feudal mindset.
Another farmer from Muzaffarpur district, 40-year-old Manoj Kumar too has become an icon for the youths of the state. He motivated the farmers in and around his Mustafaganj village to embrace organic farming and use vermi-compost on a large scale. A gold medallist in geography from Bihar University, Manoj has set up a band of about 350 farmers in his area who use latest farm techniques and grow two to three crops at the same time. Another remarkable aspect about Manoj's village is that the people plant ten saplings of Semal (silk cotton trees) to meet the expenses of the weddings of their daughters in future. This is, of course, akin to Dharhara village in Bhagalpur district where the villagers have, for long, been planting fruit trees on the birth of every girl.
It is because of these agrarian heroes living in the backwaters of Bihar that the state can hope for another green revolution in future. They may not be the familiar faces as yet but they are the ones who are working silently to make the most of Bihar's agricultural potential. In a state shunned by large investors and industrialists, they are the unsung heroes whose untiring efforts may ultimately lead to the revival of Bihar's crippled rural economy.
Devotion comes first for him
Hollywood star Richard Gere.
Hollywood star Richard Gere kept everyone guessing about the place he had stayed during his recent visit to Bodh Gaya. He had gone there to take part in the Buddhist Kalachakra Puja presided by the Dalai Lama. He landed there on New Year's eve and listened to the Dalai Lama's discourse every day. He spent the rest of the day as a normal devotee without the trappings of a celebrity. He spent most of his time at different monasteries and visited the Mahabodhi temple. He apparently did not want the focus to be shifted away from the huge Budhhist congregation in any way.
The advent of multiplexes has sounded the death-knell for the single-screen theatres in Patna. Most of the old theatres have either shut down or are being demolished to make way for huge shopping malls. Two of the oldest cinema halls - Ashok and Elphinstone - have already been closed. But the oldest theatre in town Regent is holding its fort. Established in 1928, this cinema hall has reinvented itself to cater to the needs of the new generation of cine goers. It now has a coffee shop, offers online tickets and even keeps its lavatories clean. Hardly surprising then, it has retained its loyal clientele.
The 84-year-old theatre has also started giving away gifts to its patrons 'as a mark of reciprocation for their affection'. This year, 101 lucky winners will get surprise gifts every month. Of course, the ticket rates of this theatre are at par with a multiplex. It has stayed in business by taking advantage of the multiplex boom rather than getting swamped by it.
Bovine love unites Lalu and Nitish
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Much has been written about Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad's love for his cattle.
He proudly kept his herd of cows and buffaloes at the chief ministerial bungalow, 1 Anne Marg, when his party called the shots in Bihar.
After being ousted from the power, he had to shift his 'bovine brigade' to his cattle farm at Danapur in the outskirts of Patna.
In contrast, nothing was known about the domestic animals that the incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar kept.
It was only after he disclosed the details of his moveable and immovable assets that the people realised that he, too, had two cows with three calves worth Rs.83,000. A year ago, he had only one cow and a calf worth Rs.53,000 only.
Triple role for Patna's woman SP
2008-batch IPS officer Kim.
The Bihar police had last year decided to create three posts of City SP instead of one in the state capital in view of its burgeoning population.
Patna was subsequently divided into three zones and three young IPS officers were posted as City SPs under one Senior Superintendent of Police for effective policing in the city. But in less than a year, things are back to square one. Patna, at present, has only one City SP - a 2008-batch woman officer Kim who is also in charge of traffic. Two of her fellow City SPs - Shivdeep Lande and Upendra Sharma - have been shifted to other districts.
Since no replacements have come in their place so far, Kim remains the lone City SP. She is the first-ever woman IPS officer to become the City SP of Patna and her bosses in the department have apparently given her a chance to prove that she can handle the city's crime and traffic at the same time for which three officers were required earlier.
Read more: http://goo.gl/x1VX8
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s dream to see Nalanda International University become operational has finally started to take concrete shape with the construction of the first pillars beginning recently.
A signboard at the construction site states that Rs 10.19 crore has been sanctioned for the boundary wall of the proposed university, which would come up on a 450-acre plot located on the eastern Rajgir-Chhabilapur Road in the district.
Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam Ltd, an undertaking of the state road construction department, has appointed Allied Infrastructure Pvt Ltd to construct the boundary wall. The construction work began on December 22, 2011, following the finalisation of the agreement on December 20.
Gopa Sabharwal, the vice-chancellor-designate of Nalanda International University, told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi that the architectural design of the new institution would be finalised by the end of this year.
“The ongoing construction (of the boundary wall) around the land earmarked for the university would be over within seven months, while the process to prepare the master plan would begin in three months. The master plan will take care of land usage for construction of academic and residential buildings as well as landscaping of the entire campus. Global tenders would be floated to select the agency. It would be entrusted with the task of making detailed building plans. The agency would get six months to chalk out the details.”
An official at the construction site said: “The boundary wall would stretch over 8.5km. We have plans to construct the boundary wall within seven months. The wall would be 2.5-m long and 4.5-inch wide. There will be two 10-inch beams, one below and another above the wall. There shall also be a piling every two metres,” the official overseeing the construction work said. About 90 labourers are at present working at the site.
Nalanda sub-divisional officer Seema Tripathi said more labourers would start work by the end of January. “The work will pick up pace once the temperature rises a little. Work would continue even at night. Since the temperature is very low now, the labourers are working only during the day,” she said.
Though Sabharwal was non-committal when academic activities would begin at the proposed university, she was specific about the schools that would be built in the first phase. “A school of historical studies and another of environment and ecology would be the first two institutions to be built in the first phase of academic activities of the university. The nature and structure of the schools, including course structure, specialisation, methodology of faculty selection and constitution of an advisory committee, are being worked out at present. Moreover, the process of faculty selection would be undertaken simultaneously with building construction process. The aim is to make the faculty ready for the schools by the time the building construction work was finalised,” the vice-chancellor designate of Nalanda International University said.
Read more: http://goo.gl/2GsgB
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Artists from India and abroad have made a replica of the proposed new structure of the ancient Nalanda University in Patna here today.
The setting up of this world famous historical academic institution has been the favourite project of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The Nalanda University, at one time propagated Indian wisdom to the entire Orient such as China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia.Its replica would prove to be a major educational and economic boon for Bihar and the country as well.Daina Hedden, an artist from Netherlands, said that it was a big challenge for her to make a replica of the ancient university structure.
"I was invited by the Bihar government to create an artwork which is influenced by the history of Bihar, so it was a challenge for me. So I came up with the idea to make a big tower with a cross shape inside. It is 20 feet high and made from rust-free steel so it's reflected from every corner," said Hedden.
Talking about the structure, her colleague, Sanjeev Sinha said that the replica he created was a symbol of love and brotherhood."This (university replica) is a symbol of love, and also of world peace. And whoever will have a look at this structure will have a feeling of peace and calm. The message which will go out from this would be peace, humanity and how to be happy in your life," said Sinha.
Earlier this year, renowned economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen had said that the setting up of the Nalanda University had been his childhood dream and this would be a multiple boon for the region.
Many schools along with various departments of information sciences and technology, business management in relation to public policy and languages and literature and many other disciplines would be taught at the high tech varsity.
Read more: http://goo.gl/Ebdhz
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Residents of Bihar, India’s poorest state, often remind visitors that their home was not always known for high levels of poverty and illiteracy. It used to be the cradle of Southeast Asian civilization and a place to which scholars from all over the world flocked. In the next few years, many are hoping that Bihar will regain some of this reputation when the Indian government constructs Nalanda International University, a project that is drawing interest and funding from countries across Asia.
The school is named after after an ancient Buddhist university that operated from the 5th to the 12th centuries A.D., until invaders burned it down. The new Nalanda will open on a 500-acre site near the brick ruins of its predecessor. Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate and Harvard professor, leads its planning board, and countries including Japan, Singapore and, more recently, the United States, have offered support. But the plans to build a globally competitive research institution in the heart of poverty-stricken Bihar still face many obstacles.
In an interview with The Hechinger Report, Anjana Sharma, who is in charge of academic planning for Nalanda, discusses the vision for the university and how that vision will be realized.
Q: How did this project come about?
A: This is the oldest seat of learning in the world. There were other centers of learning, but an actual university the way we think of universities these days, in terms of curriculum, in terms of students, admissions processes and examinations, as far as we know, Nalanda was unique in that respect. It was the first to do it.
There was all this enthusiasm among the East Asian countries to begin with this university, because it was unique as an Asian university and it was a desire to return back to the time of Asian excellence, which has been eroded over a period of time.
It is a university that is completely unique, not only because it’s related to an ancient university that has historical value and, of course, emotive value attached to it, but also the fact that it is genuinely an international university in the true sense of the word. Because it’s an international university, many of the requirements are going to be different, in terms of student-teacher ratio, in terms of the fact that it’s going to be, at the beginning, only a post-graduate and research university.
They call it the dream of Bihar, and I think the support for the dream of Bihar is enormous.
Where in the process are you?
Right now we have the land. But we are now at the point where we are going to begin and launch a design competition. We want the university to look like not only the symbolism and the great historicity of the ancient seat of learning, but also to be a place that will be unique in its architecture. To not only reflect the old, but to be very modern in how we build it. Green architecture is very important to us. We’re now trying to figure out how to run this competition, so that countries can truly participate and help create this place. The internationalism is not just limited to faculty and students, but to the on-ground reality of building the buildings.
But the institution should be a place that can work in an organic manner and a harmonic manner with the areas that are surrounding it—so that it doesn’t become a place that is isolated, with these high walls cut off from the realities of Bihar, but something that is porous and open and inclusive.
The idea is to bring faculty members from around the world—how will you do that? It’s a beautiful area, but also remote. How will you deal with those logistical issues?
I think you have named the thing that in order to translate this idea into reality is the challenge of Nalanda right now. But I’m very hopeful, and I’ll tell you why … Logistically how to get there is important. One of the things [the Bihar government is] planning to do is to build a four-lane highway.
The other thing is that we may manage to get a domestic airport closer to where we are.
One of the things we are looking at in terms of design is that we will be planning for a whole township. It will be like a university village. We understand that everything you would require both for the body and soul and for the mind should be available. For example, Penn State is in a completely rural area surrounded by all these large farms, but they managed to create a space so that you didn’t feel like you were dying because you had no access to anything. There are so many more examples of this. Our idea is that we should also be able to create this.
But the idea is not to create an enclave that is separated from the world that surrounds it. The challenge is really to see how we can work with the community. One of the things we’ve been discussing is having a school on campus, for children from the surrounding regions and for faculty and post-graduate students.
It’s difficult to build up a reputation. It’s something that takes years. How do you hope to bring in faculty and students, in terms of the academics?
We’ve already got lots of people who are chasing us. We’re not even having to entice. Considering we don’t even have a website up as yet, it is quite amazing for us how, through word of mouth, people are finding us and writing to us. We’ve had this amazing experience where people are writing and saying, ‘I do this, how can I help, when can I come to teach there?’ We’re in a very happy situation.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has offered infrastructure and intellectual support to Nalanda International University.
A communiqué issued by the chief minister’s office late on Wednesday evening said that Nitish met the Japan Prime Minister in a New Delhi hotel on Wednesday.
Noda suggested Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to identify the specific areas for collaboration and bilateral exchanges.
Development of Bodh Gaya also figured prominent during the talks.
Nitish thanked Noda for extending his support to the Nalanda International University.
India has always been revered as a land of learning. From ancient sciences to arts, philosophy, and literature, the country has always be...