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5 things Nitish Kumar needs to do to win confidence of Bihari youth

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Even though the JDU-led Grand Alliance in Bihar secured a landmark victory in the recently held Assembly polls ensuring third-term for Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister, the educated Bihari youth, living especially in the other parts of the country, were dismayed and did not mince words in expressing their disappointment on social media, fearing the return of ‘Jungle Raj’.

‘Jungle Raj’ was a real thing in Bihar in the 80s and 90s when Lalu Yadav and company ruled the roost in the state. Kidnappings, murders, corruption, unemployment and migration to other states for bread and butter were the major problems faced by the people. However, things began to slowly change after the JDU and BJP formed a coalition government in the state in 2005 promising vikas (development) to one and all, irrespective of their caste and religion. 15-year-rule of Lalu was thus put to an end for good, it was believed.

The change was notable and conspicuous. The quality of education improved; new roads, hospitals, and schools were built; and people started flocking back to the state as new opportunities of jobs were created. However, after Nitish broke ranks with the BJP over the nomination of the then Gujarat CM as NDA’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections, political uncertainty and instability ensued during Jitan Ram Manji’s rule.

Now that Nitish has been formally elected as the RJD-JDU-Congress Mahagathbandhan’s leader, he is faced with the daunting task of winning back the confidence of the educated youth of Bihar who, like other Indians, have dreams and aspirations.

Here are five things Nitish Kumar must do to win back confidence of Bihari youth

  • Quality Education

The state’s dismal track record in providing poor, unreliable education to the youth is a major cause of concern. It is a fact that students passing out from Bihar state board and universities find it tough to secure jobs and admission into good educational institutes in other parts of the country. Nitish must take concrete steps in improving the quality and reliability of education, for ‘Farzi Degrees’ have done much harm to the future of Biharis.

Opening new quality institutes like IIMs or IITs is not enough. What needs to change is the system and the mindset of the people of Bihar. For, in today’s competitive world mere degrees cannot help one get a job.

The need of the hour is quality education that will impart necessary skills required to meet the demands of the industry. The hardworking youth of Bihar wants nothing but the state’s support in this regard.

  • Lack of industry and jobs in state

The primary reason behind the Bihari youth flocking to other states is the lack of opportunities and quality jobs at home. Therefore, providing quality education will not suffice. What Bihar needs today is manufacturing industries, IT parks, MNCs and factories. The educated youth after completing his or her education should be able to find quality jobs at home rather than being forced to migrate to other places. No one wants to leave their homes in search of greener pastures in foreign lands where there’s little respect.

Today, Bihar is not in a position to boast of any major industry and after the formation of Jharkhand the situation worsened as mineral rich places such as Bokaro, Koderma, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur etc. went to the latter. The industry of Bihar for e.g. sugar mills and fertilizer plants either were shut down or were incurring losses. Therefore, the Nitish Kumar government ought to pull out all the stops to attract investment in Bihar.

  • Safety

With Lalu Prasad Yadav once again a part of the government, it is feared by many that ‘Jungle Raj’ part 2 is in the offing. Days when kidnappings, extortion, corruption and red tapism were rampant must not be allowed to haunt the people of Bihar again. It is essential that such an environment of peace and security is created in the state sans which Bihar would find it tough to become an attractive investment destination. In those days, my Bihari friends tell me their parents would not even allow them to play in the parks, lest they should be abducted.

It is important that people should not be allowed to take the law into their hands and the state must exert its authority. ‘Dadagiri’ should have no place in any civilized society.

  • Corruption

In Bihar, shockingly even for opening a bank account one has to pay a bribe. If you have money, clearing competitive examinations, securing admissions into schools and colleges is duck soup. It’s not that Bihar is the only state in India plagued by the scourge of corruption, but the level is definitely a cause of concern.

It is one the major reasons why people leave the state in disgust and frustration. This has to change. Nitish Kumar can learn a thing or two from his friend Arvind Kejriwal who openly supported him during Bihar polls. There should be zero tolerance towards corruption and the government and its Babus must lead from the front.

  • Infrastructure

In order to attract investment, quality infrastructure is essential. Roads, highways, schools, metro and mono rails of high standards are required in urban Bihar. However, at the same time rural Bihar must not be left behind and deprived of the fruits of development. 24/7 electricity, clean water, and irrigation system should be made available by the state to help the people realize its full potential.

Needless to say, a tough road lies ahead for Nitish Kumar. But strong will and sincerity can help him overcome any obstacle considering the kind of overwhelming mandate he has got from the Biharis.

Lalu’s support will be crucial in this regard.

“The seven commitments (nischay) made by Nitish would require almost Rs 2.70 lakh crore. People have voted for him for 35% reservation for women in government job, monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 to the educated unemployed youths, students credit card up to Rs 4 lakh limit, free Wi-Fi in every college and university apart from free electricity connection in each household over the next five years,” a senior JD(U) legislator says, adding that Lalu’s support would be required on every step to make this happen.

It is hoped that Lalu would prove its critics wrong.

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Facts About Fodder Scam: 21 Year Old Case Against Lalu Prasad Yadav

A Rs 1000 crore scam through a nexus of bureaucrats, elected officials, and businessmen which resulted in the conviction of more than 500 people

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Lalu Prasad Yadav is the highest profile person convicted in the Fodder Scam. Wikimedia Commons
Lalu Prasad Yadav is the highest profile person convicted in the Fodder Scam. Wikimedia Commons

BY SHANTAM SAHAI

  • 1000 crore scam with fraudulent withdrawals on the pretext of fictitious livestock
  • A nexus of bureaucrats, elected officials, and businessmen
  • All of it resulted in 500 convictions, including that of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav

India faces many challenges. Corruption, however, tops the list. It has proved to be an impenetrable loop in our system which continues to adversely affect the country’s economy and the credibility of our government agencies. This loop has a history of holding our economy back from reaching new heights and also stunted the country’s development process.

Let’s turn the pages of history to not long before 23rd December 2017, when RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav was convicted by a special CBI court in Ranchi for the Fodder Scam. In a quick followup he had tweeted:

In his tweet, he was supposedly attacking the BJP. The fact, anyway, remains that he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and was slapped a 25 lakh fine by the CBI court.

Many were not satisfied with the verdict, though.

What is the Fodder Scam?

Fodder scam, a corruption scandal, was next to a theft that spanned over twenty years. The embezzlement amounts to over ₹1000 crore from the government treasury in Bihar. It involved a number of administrative and elected officials from multiple departments. A scam of extremely high duration and magnitude, it proved the existence of a nexus between bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen. The Fodder Scam became a prime example of the ‘mafia raj’ that has penetrated the state-run economic sectors of the country.  

ALSO READ: Lalu acting as proxy leader to unleash ‘jungleraj 2’ in Bihar

How was it done?

It worked like a conspiracy where high-level politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen teamed up to fill their pockets with public money. Several fraudulent withdrawals from the Bihar treasury were made, on the pretext of procurement of fodder, medicines and animal husbandry for vast herds of fictitious livestock. It was done by forging several documents and fabricating allotment letters for making payment to suppliers for ‘non-supply or short supply’ of feed/fodder/medicines. Basically, huge withdrawals for the supply that never existed.

Fodder scam is so-called because of the fictitious livestock. Pixabay
Fodder scam is so-called because of the fictitious livestock. Pixabay
  • Suppliers, in connivance with officials enjoying political patronage, submitted forged documents and produced fake bills to claim reimbursements from the animal husbandry department.
  • They (suppliers) mentioned registration numbers of two-wheelers saying that cattle including buffaloes were transported over hundreds of kilometres by those vehicles.
  • Bills of 500 kg of mustard oil worth Rs 15 lakh meant to polish the horns of buffaloes were submitted and cleared.
  • Pigs were shown purchased from Ludhiana by animal husbandry officer RK Rana – who went on to become a Member of Parliament on RJD’s ticket. Rana claimed that during transportation of pigs from Punjab to Bihar, half of the pigs died at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

All these were bogus claims to withdraw huge amounts of public money.

For example, when the Deputy Commissioner of Jamshedpur district administration received an information that huge fraudulent withdrawal of Government money has been made in budget head 2403 of Animal Husbandry Department in the period 1991 to 1996, he got it inquired by a senior officer. It was found that in the said head 2403 Animal Husbandry, withdrawal has been made from Jamshedpur Treasury even more than the whole budget of Bihar State in the head.

The allotment for the whole State and the withdrawal from the Jamshedpur Treasury. Civil Court Ranchi
The allotment for the whole State and the withdrawal from the Jamshedpur Treasury. Civil Court Ranchi

This was a just a small part of the big picture, which once revealed, convicted more than 500 people.

How was the scam exposed?

Ravi S Jha, an Indian journalist, who was working with the Asian Age, then in Calcutta, was the first to name Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav of having implicit involvement in the scam. He not only found involvement of Bihar Government machinery in the scam but even mentioned how earlier governments too were flouting norms to make money illegally.

Many people believe the Fodder Scam was unearthed, for the first time, in 1996. However, Bihar Veterinary Association had already exposed the Animal Husbandry Mafia in 1985 through a Press Conference. Though in 1990, the executive committee of Bihar Veterinary Association was modified, and Dr Dinneshwar Prasad Sharma was made the General Secretary of BVA. The mafia now had control over the association.

ALSO READ: SC notice to Lalu in fodder scam case

The CBI investigation is said to have been driven by political consideration. Wikimedia Commons
The CBI investigation is said to have been driven by political consideration. Wikimedia Commons

At that point, Dr Dharmendra Sinha and Dr Biresh Prasad Sinha (Ex-officers of BVA) had started collecting information against this whole scandal. They had shared their information with Sushil Kumar Modi who initiated the whole episode of exposure after it was broken out by VS Dubey.

Who is VS Dubey?

VS Dubey was the Finance Commissioner, who came across some financial irregularities of massive scale. On 20th January 1996, he made an enquiry of the excessive withdrawals by Animal Husbandry Department from Ranchi treasury. The enquiry revealed a horrific whole scale loot of government money drawn through forged documents.

On 27th January 1996, Amit Khare, the Deputy Commissioner of West Singhbhum conducted raids (on direction from VS Dubey) on the offices of Animal Husbandry Department in the town of Chaibasa. The documents seized by him indicated a large-scale embezzlement by an organized mafia of officials and businessmen. Ravi S Jha’s work was based on the evidence found in Chaibasa.

CBI comes into the picture

The state police was probing the irregularities. However, it is accountable to the state administration and hence, there were fears that the probe committee would not investigate the case properly. People demanded the case be transferred to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is under federal rather than state jurisdiction.

Many members of the probe committee themselves faced allegations of being involved in the scam. A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court in March 1996, based on the directions issued by the SC, the Patna High Court ordered that the case is handed over to the CBI.

In the span of over two decades, the CBI registered 53 cases related to the Fodder Scam. More than 500 people have been convicted by various courts, including Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Aftermath and Impact

The Fodder scam has become a symbol of bureaucratic corruption and criminalization of politics. The investigation and prosecution are said to have been guided by political motive. Many lower level staffs who did not have any connection to the scam have been crucified in the process. Many families are left without any earning. And when the Lok Sabha debated for a complete session as ‘Lalu Prasad Yadav’ an official agenda, how can we look forward to a system that has set its priorities right?

The 1000 crore of tax payer’s money that was embezzled in the Fodder Scam, will it be compensated by 3.5 years of jail term or an acquittal?