by Swathi Subramaniam
Bihar is a state very different from other states in many ways. Bihar has been traditionally ruled by JDU and RJD as the electorals are typically polarised on caste lines. National parties normally have much lesser influence in this state. Recent trend of strong support for a national party, over riding the caste based polarisation has been a rare occurrence.
I visited Patna on 27th April 2014 for about a week. This was my first visit to Patna, Bihar. I had heard a lot about life in Bihar and hence was very curious and anxious travelling to Patna for the first time. The trip provided exposure to many things which I had never witnessed in life earlier for example visiting slums, meeting community dwellers, attending meetings of Slum Improvement Committees (SIC), meeting ULB officials, learning of GPS, coping with heatstroke etc. Proudly to be said that I completed my agenda for the visit.
Bihar is considered as one of the poor states of India. However, talking to people I realised that they perceive that rich poor divide is deeper in Bihar and it is uniformly not a poor state. It is a perception in Bihar that it has the maximum number of SUVs. SUVs are always considered here a symbol of pride and power. Patna is the 15th most developed city in India as per GDP. Total GDP of Patna is 10.5 Billion USD or 60900 Crores. It is 5th fastest growing city in India and its economy is mainly depending on Agriculture and Infrastructure development Industries.
When I looked at the structure of the city I find that real estate construction is taking place in maddening pace. This has resulted in many of the localities becoming disorganised with poor roads and traffic bottlenecks. Only the main VIP areas are having well maintained roads and cleanliness.
After very many years Patna is witnessing hectic economic activity due to real estate boom. This has also resulted in sky rocketing of land prices. Even in areas with lack of access and facilities, poor road connectivity the prices are mind boggling.
The concept of housing societies has not developed in Patna till date. The low cost houses are provided by Bihar State Housing Board. People with money usually go for buying a plot and building a house. In Patna there are no concepts of Resident Welfare Associations. For matured and participatory development of the city the State Government should encourage formation of Housing Societies and Welfare Associations for the speedy development of the city.
The composition of Gross State Domestic Product of Bihar is highly skewed towards two sectors – Agriculture and Real Estate. For a symmetric growth all sectors have to be equally developed and contributed towards GSDP. The massive construction activities has led to large scale migration from other districts of Bihar and poor states like Odisha. The rising population and migration from rural to urban has led to pressure on infrastructure. This has resulted in escalating cost and unaffordability of migrants and urban poor to rent a house thus creating slums.
In Bihar according to Census 2011, there are 1.94 lakh household slums and Patna has 13,533 household slums.
This reflection will not be complete without my experience with people of Patna. The staff at our branch office was very supportive and really made my stay comfortable. Even the hotel staffs were very cooperative and hospitable. All the ‘Patnaites’ whom I met and interacted were courteous and helpful. I think we should learn this aspect from them.