New Delhi: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, widely seen as bringing in positive changes in the backward state, said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government needs to do more to aid his efforts to hasten development. Kumar said in an interview that inclusive growth, which the UPA government stresses upon, would not be possible unless it changes its discriminatory attitude. Edited excerpts:
You have been waging a war against corruption. Your government had passed a law that enables it to confiscate property of errant officials even if the matter is before the courts. How far have you succeeded in checking corruption?
We have taken strong steps against corruption and it’s an important area of interest and focus. A number of actions have been taken. A record number of graft cases are there in the courts, people have been caught red-handed while taking bribes at their workplace.
Finally, I went for legislation, which has two features—a limited time frame for trial and that the properties of those who have been charge-sheeted can be confiscated, of course with prior permission from the designated authority. It got presidential assent in February.
Here is an example of an administrator being praised for his attempts at bringing in changes in politics by outsiders, but not getting much support from his own Janata Dal (United) party. Any comments?
No, it’s not the case. The party is with me. But there is no role for the party to play in this point of time, except that they should speak against corruption, which they do. Everybody is with me. But it takes some time to do the good things.
Your government claims to have improved law and order in the state. How far has it improved?
Compare our law and order situation with any developed state and you will find our situation is far better. I do not name any particular state because it will create (a) controversy. In 2004, the number of kidnappings for ransom cases, which created a very bad image for Bihar, was 400-plus. Now it has come down to 70-80 cases. The perception has changed. I have established (the) rule of law. More than 42,000 cases have been decided and people have been convicted in the last four years, which is the highest number in the country.
Twin demands: CM Nitish Kumar says Bihar needs a special status tag plus greater support from the Centre and the Planning Commission. Reuters
Bihar has been in the news for development work. Isn’t that overstated?
Before we discuss development, we should see the change of perception in Bihar. Earlier, there was a feeling that nothing moves in Bihar. Bihar is changing and it’s a place where things can be done. Earlier, there were (a) lot of social conflicts in Bihar, but there is a sense of harmony (now). Mass carnage has become a matter of the past.
I have laid emphasis on infrastructure, particularly (on) roads. We are even investing in maintainance of national highways because the Central government is not providing enough money for their maintenance. We are also focusing on education, healthcare and other welfare schemes.
The state government has signed agreements with industry, but how many of these have turned into a reality?
We have cleared projects worth Rs1 lakh crore. Basically, the investment proposals are primarily in two sectors. One is producing ethanol from sugar cane; a number of proposals have been cleared on this.
And the other is thermal power projects. But for thermal power plants, one requires coal-mine linkage, which has to be given by the Central government. They have not given us any coal linkage for any power plant in the 11th Plan. This is the 12th Plan, still we have not got any coal linkage to any private sector plant till date. Even for public sector plants, we are struggling hard. Due to (the absence of) coal linkage, power generation is disrupted.
Do you support the proposed goods and services tax?
There is an empowered group of (state) finance ministers. If it decides for the whole country, we have to opt for it.
The 13th Finance Commission report has recommended more assistance to states lagging behind in education and health infrastructure. But it also made this conditional on certain parameters. What are your thoughts on this?
We are performing and there would not be any problem on that front. But the basic thing is that they did not address many of our concerns. They claim that Bihar earned more; but in percentage terms, everything has been reduced. If the government can make a special package for Bundelkhand, why can’t it be for Bihar. I do not object to the Bundelkhand package, but Bihar also qualifies for one.
The Central government has even ignored our requests for compensation for the Kosi river tragedy. We got nothing from the Central government. This is discrimination. We want to become a developed state by 2015. How can we achieve that unless per capita development, per capita expenditure go up? We are a development-deficient state. It has been a case of perpetual negligence. How can they (the UPA government) achieve inclusive growth without developing backward areas?
We are improving ourselves. We require two things—larger support from the Central government not only in terms of grants, but also from the Planning Commission. Bihar also needs a special status. We have proved that Bihar can be developed, it can be changed, and it can be governed. Why will they not invest in Bihar?
You had promised to implement the recommendations of the D. Bandhopadhyay committee report on land reforms. What has happened to that?
There has to be a debate on that report. There should be a conducive atmosphere for it.
At the national level as well as in some crucial states, including Bihar, there is a resurgence for the Congress. How are you going to tackle it?
Where is (the) Congress resurgent? The resurgence is visible only in the media, not in Bihar. Take it from me, nobody is taking them seriously. They are not giving us money, no special status.
The Janata Dal (United) is getting stronger in the state and the Bharatiya Janata Party is weakening. Do you see any point in continuing the alliance?
There is no problem here. What is happening at (the) all-India level, I cannot say. So far as Bihar is concerned, our alliance is very successful and there is not much problem. There may be some problems, but they are within manageable limits. Our relationship has matured and the government is working well... Here this alliance will continue and I want that this should go to the people for renewal of mandate jointly.
What is the future of the National Democratic Alliance?
It will be fine. Now it’s (the) Congress (in power) and people will gradually develop a disliking for it. (See) how they have handled the women’s Bill. They got 200 seats and they pretend that as if (they have) two-thirds majority everywhere. Now they will face difficulty everywhere with this kind of attitude and temperament. I feel that a fatigue will develop in the UPA.