Dear Nitish Sir,
Before I write a word, I must state that you are one of the very few politicians whom I admire. The way you have brought ‘hope’ to the state of Bihar is remarkable. There is a visible shift in the perception towards a Bihari elsewhere and that in itself is a big ‘achievement’. ‘Law and order’ has seen positive changes and there has been some impetus in creating infrastructure in the state known to be ‘laggard’.
However, these are known facts – and in ‘euphoria’ of the ‘turnaround’, we tend to overlook our shortcomings. I would like to draw your attention to some of the shortcomings which I observed in my recent visit to Patna.
It is my belief that if Bihar has to attract investments then Patna needs to gear up for the task first. A capital city is the gateway to the state and for many the mirror to judge the state as well. Thus for Bihar to grow, Patna has to grow first. It is not that it is not growing – but is the growth taking place in the right direction and more importantly with right pace?
As a non-resident Patna'ite who touches the city every now and then, I am always on the lookout for positive changes in my city. I, along with millions, see a huge potential in Patna – but my last visit to the city has left me ‘DISAPPOINTED’. Disappointed is a ‘huge’ word and is the direct adversary of ‘hope’. So, let me tell you why exactly I felt the way I did.
I am sure that you would have seen Patna many times from sky during night – you would agree that Patna fails to cast a magnificent spell unlike other major cities of the country. One does not need to be Einstein to figure out the cause – Patna does not have an elaborate public lighting system. Just move out of the airport and you would be engulfed in darkness. The main thoroughfare of Patna, Bailey Road, does not boast of streetlights in its entire stretch – the stretch beyond Patna Zoo all the way to Jagdeo Path and beyond is devoid of something known as ‘light post’. While the shops in the area try to salvage some pride till 10 pm, the area plunges into total darkness beyond that hour. My question is how could you usher in the dawn of a new era through this darkness? Imagine how a non-resident would narrate this to others – how this could adversely affect any investment pitch for Patna. People may find lack of proper public lighting a small thing but I think it reflects the character of the city and its administration. A stretch of Bailey Road leading to your residence remains in the clutches of darkness - I wonder why someone of your stature would not show urgency in tackling the issue. Why the CM fund for urban infrastructure building has not been utilized for something as basic as providing lighting to the citizens of the state? One could easily imagine the scenes in other cities/towns if the ‘Rajpath’ of the state capital is going through such a phase?
Point 1: You cannot promise ‘light’ to others if your own backyard is plagued with darkness.
I will keep myself restricted to basic amenities in this address. Another important aspect which I think requires your administration’s attention is access to basic sanitation and hygiene. I think Patna can easily be a contender for one of the ‘filthiest’ Capital cities in the country – all thanks to the resource strained municipal body with a ‘who cares’ attitude. It is said that a picture tells a thousand words – I am attaching three pictures for your reference.
These are taken a mere five days back and tell a very grim story – what is worse is that with just a few days away from Monsoon, the manholes are not properly covered. Another shocker is that these death traps are at a distance of mere 5 meters from each other. One can easily imagine how many such death traps lay strewn across the state capital and the state – I hope these are covered before the monsoon starts in the state. Also, regarding the heaps of garbage lying on various localities of Patna inviting diseases to the residents of the areas – Can’t you or anyone in your cabinet or bureaucracy see what an average Patna'ite see everyday?
The municipal body governing Patna has been unable to deliver to the expectations of its citizens – in fact, it has not been able to provide the mere necessities. There has been an excuse to every misgivings – fund crunch, non-cooperation, lack of resources and what not. I wonder till when the city has to suffer due to this attitude?
Patna could be the metropolis of the east – it could again be the ‘greatest city’ of the world. I know it has to cover a HUGE distance but the first step has to be taken immediately. I think you should take the initiative to guide it on that journey.
Point 2: You cannot attract the best talents (required for the sustained economic growth of the state) by providing below standard civic infrastructure and amenities
The one thing which I miss in today’s Patna is the greenery – widening of roads has left visible scars on the face of our city. Your recent stand on not allowing the trees of the zoo to be cut would be pleasing to many ears. I am also excited by the state government’s announcement of planting more than 25 crore trees in Bihar in coming years. These are excellent commitment to the cause of environment – however, I think Patna needs immediate strategic intervention. While a Delhi plans and plants a million tree in a month, we Patnaites are happy at planting 30000 more trees in next 5 years. I agree that Delhi is much bigger than Patna and has more space to offer but will Patna survive with 30000 more trees only? Lakhs of Patnaites suffering in this ‘murderous heat’ would agree with me that Patna requires much more trees in every part. The question remains – how?
I think the state government would do well to take the services of the best city planners (as it did for the prestigious museum project) in the world to arrive at possible ways of planting trees across roads and streets of the city. It could be an innovative way or plain simple thing like planting trees along pavements (as can be seen in Kolkata). Trees would not only provide the greenery but if the plantation is planned effectively they can add to the aesthetics of the city.
It is said that one should always dare to dream – Why couldn’t the Patna'ites dream to have a ‘city of boulevards’? It is said that ancient Pataliputra boasted of many boulevards – why can’t a modern Patna replicate the same?
Once the plan of plantation is ready – involve public to the initiative. Let the citizens come forward and take the onus of giving their city a distinct identity.
Point 3: When you are way behind others, find ways to differentiate and work hard and fast to that end
I would like to end this letter by making a simple request – please accelerate the pace of the ‘turnaround’. We have a long way to go before catching up with others. While I have remained Patna specific in this address, the first steps would be to provide smooth access to basic amenities to all the citizens of the state.