Friday, January 20, 2012
Grassroots heroes lead Bihar's rural revolution !!
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.
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