Indian Decade

A New Hope in Bihar

In Bihar’s capital city, something more than new malls and coffee shops is taking over.

(This is the final installment in a series of dispatches from Bihar.)

I spent the last day of my Bihar trip in Patna, the capital of Bihar. The two-hour drive from Mokama to Patna was very smooth, but what was particularly noticeable for me was the construction that was in progress of a huge electricity generating unit at Barh, some 60 kilometres away from the capital. A part of the unit is supposed to start functioning from next year and the people of Bihar have high expectations for this power plant, which is supposed to end the electricity woes of the state.

Meanwhile, Patna has a new buzz all-round. Many shopping centres, malls and lots of fashionable eateries and coffee shops have appeared recently. Also giving a more modern look to Patna are some of the city’s newly-built overpasses, which have to some extent smoothed the flow of traffic (the number of cars running on the streets has significantly increased in recent years, choking already congested roads of Patna).

The capital now also has a nightlife! The changed atmosphere has given new freedom to youngsters to spend their time at coffee shops or malls, while families now go out for dinner even late into the evening. The present situation in Patna is a complete contrast to that of five years ago, when lawlessness was the biggest problem facing the state.

But in my opinion, the biggest change that has taken place in the last five years is the change in mood amongst the city’s people. People are more positive and a general air of optimism is palpable. My friend Rahul, who has been doing business in Patna for the last 15 years, has not only in recent years expanded his business, he’s also shelved a plan to shift his base to Delhi.

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The past reticence and lack of confidence on the part of Bihar to assert itself has gone as Bihar has suddenly seeingly realized its inherent potential and wants to shed the baggage of backwardness, enter an era of progress and be an active participant in the progress of the country.

The Nitish Kumar government still has miles to go before it can bring the state to the front-line of development, but the present regime has become a catalyst to change and given a new hope to the people of the state.