In last 8-9 years, Bihar has seen significant improvement in the area of education, health, and social welfare, minority welfare, human resource and infrastructure development, now the state government is focusing on second stage of reforms. Chanchal Kumar, Secretary, Building Construction Department, and Art, Culture & Youth Department, Government of Bihar in an exclusive interview with Mohd Ujaley says “In the second stage of reforms, we are targeting industries”
While serving in Chief Minister’s office you had coordinated with all the principal secretaries and overseen implementation of welfare and development programmes. How do you look at Bihar in comparison to what it was 8-9 years ago?
I was in Chief Minister’s office from 2005 to August 2012. During that period state government took major initiatives in the area of law and order, education, health and infrastructure development. Improving law and order situation was keystone for generating a sense of confidence in common man and deterrent effect in the mind of criminals and an enabling atmosphere for public investment in various sectors in the state. Within 3-4 months, there was perceptible change due to speedy trial, many convictions and persuasion of the cases up to a logical conclusion. Once the law and order was in placed, the government started multiple developmental schemes in education, health and infrastructure. Lot has been said and written about the progress in education and health sectors, so let me focus on infrastructure development which is fundamental for attracting investment in the state. The state government made tremendous progress in creating roads. Road connectivity as well as digital connectivity is being ensured to all the villages. This connectivity has helped in increasing the access to public service delivery system to the common man. Now, they can take benefit of government schemes very easily. In fact due to better road connectivity, the agriculture produce could be brought to the market efficiently with less transaction cost. So in totality, lot of things has improved in Bihar over the last 8-9 years.
On the third foundation day of BSBCCL, the CM has said that he brought you from his office to the Building Construction Department as secretary in view of increasing importance of this department, particularly the mega project of construction and expansion of legislative assembly complex and secretariat building which were to be interlinked. Have you been able to achieve what you planned initially, I am asking you this question in view of dissatisfaction of some of departments that have now created their own PSU?
Yes, we noticed that in first five year, lot of works were given to building construction department but the work could not be completed on time, so there has been dissatisfaction by some of the departments and hence the department like education, health etc. have created their own PSUs. Fortunately, now we also have our own PSU and we are able to pursue the projects, complete the schemes and decrease the time for sanction and start the construction of projects on time. In recent past, we have successfully completed key projects and many are in pipeline. For example, construction and expansion of legislative assembly and secretariat building is almost half done, the project is of 362 crore. Similarly, the 498 crore Bihar Museum project has started, apart from that we are also building an international convention centre with the budget of 490 crore. Niyojan Bhavan is also being planned which will house all the tribunals and labour department, the cost of the project is estimated to be 92 crore. Some of the key projects are under tendering stage such as the police headquarter or police building, multi-housing project for MLAs. In addition to all these, we have successfully completed building of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi Maidan, Adhiveshan Bhawan, Mazharul Haque Auditorium, Abdul Qayyum Ansari Memorial Hall, and the Ghulam Sarwar Memorial Hall, and Loknayak Jayaprakash Institute of Technology in Chapra. We have also started one of the major ambitious projects of an Agriculture College in Kishanganj. Today, I can say with satisfaction that the things have improved from what it was earlier. We have progressed but many more things need to be done.
You have e-Niwas Yojana, has it been able to decrease the complaints regarding house allotment or illegal occupation?
We started e-Niwas Yojana with the purpose of allocating house to all the government officers irrespective of their rank, class and designation in a transparent and trustworthy way. Earlier, we used to get reports that many of occupants were illegally living. So we decided to use computer based software wherein we can put all the details about occupants and vacant flats so that the people can apply and nobody should have any discretion to hide anything. Now, we can very easily find out the exact status of waitlist and occupancy, therefore, it has streamlined the process and tremendously decreased the complaints regarding house allotment or illegal occupation.
As you said tremendous works have been done in the state, so what are the second stages of reforms that state should pursue in order to attract investment, generate employment and ultimately benefit the common citizens?
In the area of education, health, and social welfare, minority welfare, human resource development and infrastructure development large number of issues have already been addressed under first stage of reforms. In the second stage of the reforms, we are focusing on the issue which we could not target earlier such as demand of industrialist for adequate land and power supply. The Government of India has passed the Land Acquisition Bill, so now we all have to follow provision. It will be slightly difficult for any state government to acquire land because now the stakeholder has been given much more power to protest and say no, in the case they do not want to get the land acquired. In energy sector, Bihar has done good work in last few years; availability of power to rural and urban areas has increased. Now people say electricity is available for 17-19 hours per day. Now, we are increasing our transmission line capacity so that we can take more electricity and same can be provided to people. So the complain of industrialists about deficiency of power has also been tackled. The Government of Bihar has also taken a decision to have land bank in every district, but the biggest challenge in Bihar is that our terrain is very densely populated and majority of land are fertile so the resistance of the people to part with the land is understandable. However, in totality government is committed for development of industries in the state.
India’s more than 60 percent population is going to be below 30 years of age. The experts believe that the major challenge would be to channelise their energy in right direction. Considering the fact that you are also looking after Art, Culture & Youth Department, in your opinion, are we on right track or do we need to shift the gear?
As you said that we have large youth population and this energy is waiting to be taped, some of them are skilled and some of them are un-skilled, so the challenge in front of country and the state is to give them skills which could be helpful in raising their per capita income. Under skill development mission, the state government has identified the area where the youth of Bihar could potentially be trained to take up the higher responsibilities. In fact, there is Bihar Human Development Mission which is seen by cabinet sub-committee headed by Chief Minister himself, so there is heavy focus on improving the human development indicators. The government is also trying to modernise the agriculture practices by using new technology to improve the productivity, I believe youth can play major role in it. I agree with you that we need to train our youth in proper manner else the demographic dividend we are talking about may become a huge challenge for us.