Undoubtedly, one of the most controversial states of India, Bihar is that child of the nation that started out as good and obedient, but with time changed into an unruly and uncontrollable personality.
The Rich Past
Historically saturated with sophistication and a flag bearer in almost all fields, ahead of its time in architecture and institutions, geographically strategically placed and within the fertile lands of the Ganga, geologically rich in minerals and agriculturally vibrant, Bihar had it all going for itself till the early 20th century. Known as the center of the Mauryan Empire, with Pataliputra (Patna today), serving as its capital, Bihar was synonymous with progress and prosperity.
It was in Bodh Gaya, Bihar that Gautam Buddha achieved Enlightment and the religion of Buddhism found its first footings and later flourished to all parts of the world.
Nalanda in Bihar considered as the epitome of ancient learning is renowned for its educational ways even thousands of years after its destruction.
More recently, during the pre-independence era, the Champaran agitation against the British was a major force and is counted as one of the important movements in the Independence struggle. With the likes of Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President, and Jayprakash Narayan, hailing from Bihar, the state has been a contributor in the political space as well.
How did it start falling apart?
Post Independence, especially after the 1970’s Bihar saw a gradual decline from its pedestal of honor. It slowly but surely came to be known more for its crime rates, corruption, lack of education and industries. Many specialists attribute this to its political set up and apathy from central governments; however, Bihar took a fall for various political and social reasons and till today is struggling to shed its backward image. The first state in the BIMARU list of states that need to improve on its economic and social indicators, Bihar today is slowly but steadily on the upward move.
A mention of Bihar without mentioning its ex-CM Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav is incomplete. This maverick politician who governed Bihar along with his wife for almost fifteen years is a colorful part of the politics of Bihar. In turn, the state of affairs of Bihar has a lot attributed to his governance.
In 2000, a part of southern Bihar was created into Jharkhand, a separate state by itself. This has in many ways helped to streamline administration and helped in the overall growth of both the states.
Patna is the capital of the state and of course one of the most important cities of the Bihar. Besides Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur, and Darbhanga are other smaller cities.
Culturally, Bihar is rich in classical music and dance. The Bhojpuri film industry is one of the popular cinemas and is watched and followed avidly by locals. It churns out a multitude of films every year and is extremely popular for its songs and dance sequences.
Those residing in Bihar are commonly referred to as Biharis. Due to various political and social reasons, such as poverty, unemployment, and a stringent caste system, there has been a continuous influx of Biharis from Bihar to neighboring states and cities. It is almost as if a Bihari camp is formed in major cities, especially for unskilled jobs such as laborers and construction workers. For the educated and elite Biharis, migration is a means of acquiring better higher education, work opportunities and a better standard of living.
Recently, there has been a lot of debate and flak received on the way Biharis are perceived and represented in literature, arts, and cinema. Very often, they are looked as a bunch of hassled set of people who have left their state due to lack of any positive infrastructure. The state itself is usually considered as corruption infested and unfortunately a region which was once hailed as progressive is relegated to the position of a sick state.
Silver Lining – The Present
However, things are for sure brightening up and with the current Chief Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar helming affairs, it seems Bihar is set to recover its lost glory. In recent years, there have been positive investments in the state and it has seen a massive improvement in the law and order situation. Due to its very rich past, it has the potential of being made into a perfect tourist getaway, and many cities such as Bodh Gaya, Vaishali and Rajgir are already a hit with tourists.
Here is hoping that Bihar is able to capitalize on its many pluses to negate all its minuses and turn over into the state of near perfection, which means, economic growth, social parity, political will, good education and robust work opportunities in the industrial and agricultural sector. With a glorious past, well-placed location and hardworking people with a heart of gold, Bihar is sure to rule in the future. What it only needs is a sustained and well-intentioned push.