Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Laloo Prasad Yadav is a very lucky man. Just before the Lok Sabha elections he has, most unexpectedly, found a valuable friend. Raj Thackeray, the petty chieftain of the MNS, the violent and always-threatening self-styled spokesman of the 'Marathi manoos', has unwittingly given a clean white sheet to him. And Laloo is sparing no effort in using it to cover the horrible mess that he made of Bihar in the 15 long years of his rule in the state.

The methods adopted by Raj and his goons to protest against 'North Indians' living in Mumbai are unacceptable, as I have already mentioned in my previous post 'From Tilak to the terror of 'T' company'. The whole of India belongs to all of us and we all have a right to make any part of it our home. But, somewhere, in the practical implementation of this right, some of us have lost sight of certain elementary facts.

There is a big difference between individuals working and settling wherever they want to and mass scale swamping of a city, town or state by people from another part of the country. The former no one questions and never will; the latter creates social tensions, particularly when the 'swampers' not only do not care to learn the local language and respect the culture of the original inhabitants, but also begin to carve out and assert an aggressive political constituency of their own.

What is happening in Mumbai today is a result of, and an overblown reaction to, the swamping of the city by a huge number of mainly unskilled and semi-skilled individuals belonging mostly to Bihar and Eastern UP. This should, however, not hasten anyone into concluding that Maharashtrians are a closed people stuck in the groove of narrow regionalism and parochialism that can be seen in some parts of the country.

UP and Bihar together account for almost 25% of India's population. UP is also the 'karma bhoomi' of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Most of India's Prime Minister's have also come from this region. Undivided Bihar was blessed with an embarrassing wealth of natural resources. It also has a very rich history. Pataliputra (Patna) was the capital of the great Mauryan Empire that ruled over most of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan even before Christ was born. It was the physical and spiritual abode of Gautam Buddha and was also home to one of the greatest centres of learning in India at Nalanda.

With such a terrific heritage and a rich wealth of human resources bolstered by unmatched political patronage and support, one would have expected these two states to be in the forefront of India in its march towards becoming a developed country and a global power. But, just the reverse has happened. While most of the rest of India has taken rapid strides, Bihar and Eastern UP continue to remain trapped in a feudal mindset and a lack of development that would shame all but the most insensitive of pachyderms.

'Bhaiyas', as the people of this region are collectively called, can be found all over the country doing jobs that locals no longer want to do, having moved on to the next level of development. In most places, they can also be found doing odd jobs at a fraction of the wages that locals demand. In fact, it will not be wrong to say that their only competition is from impoverished illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Ironically, this region also produces perhaps the largest number of bureaucrats, IITians and leaders in many other fields and professions.

From the lowest rung to the highest, those gainfully employed have one thing in common: they have all left the region. None of them wants to go back. Even if the odd one does want, he quickly finds out that there is nothing to go back to.

It would be pointless to labour again on something that the whole world knows: Eastern UP and Bihar have been done in by rotten politicians who have done nothing for the area or the people but have enriched themselves shamelessly, almost by right. It is because of them that there are no worthwhile employment opportunities to enable the poor to get out of the misery of unspeakable poverty and deprivation that they suffer. The only way out for them is to get away from there.

That is what they have been doing for decades. And Mumbai, India's commercial capital, has quite naturally attracted them like no other place has, with its promise of endless possibilities. Mumbai has given them what their political leaders should have made available to them in UP and Bihar itself. But, instead of keeping away the likes of Laloo who have turned their states into virtual wastelands, these people are allowing them to spread the very poison that has ruined their states in Mumbai as well. That is not going to do them any good. The sooner they realise it and send them packing to Bihar, the better.

Laloo Yadav ruled Bihar for 15 long years. At the end of it, the only ones who were better off were his family and relatives. 'Laloo raj' was 15 years of pure politics unspoiled by even a day of honest governance. For 15 years, he manipulated caste and mouthed crude buffoonery to 'fool' ordinary people into believing that he was one of them and was not from the haughty elite. For 15 years, those who remained back in Bihar willingly allowed him to keep them shackled in poverty.

If Bihar is where it is today, the blame has to be taken not only by Biharis who continue to suffer in Bihar but also by those who have left the state at the mercy of the likes of Laloo and forgotten about it.

After having laid Bihar waste, Laloo claims to have become a great CEO who has turned the Railways around. And the usual sycophants are selling that false story with practiced ease. If a glider catches a thermal and starts rising higher and higher, it cannot stake a claim to being called a plane. That is what Laloo is doing. In fact with the economy motoring at over nine percent and Indians taking to travelling like never before, the real question that needs to be asked is whether the railways have kept pace or have relatively fallen back. In any case, Laloo has on his own contributed nothing more significant than 'kullhars' for tea.

If reports are to be believed, he has spread his rot into rail recruitments too by deviously getting Biharis - whose caste profiles need to be checked - employed in the railways disproportionately. To keep the Congress quiet, he has also announced the setting up of a rail coach factory in Sonia Gandhi's constituency, Rae Bareilly. It may perhaps never be known as to how much 'gold' he has taken out for himself from the 'soney ki chidiya' (golden sparrow) that he had once called the railways with saliva overflowing in his mouth.

Raj Thackeray has, unfortunately for Biharis, given Laloo Yadav just perfect opportunity he was looking for to emerge as their saviour by making the usual dishonest noises about what is happening in Mumbai. The way he has started assuming the leadership role to respond to Raj's antics and announced familiar pressure tactics over the developments in Mumbai, is clear indication that he is going to milk this issue to make all Biharis forget his dismal rule. He is once again going to con them and get them to vote for him in the forthcoming elections so that he can weave his way through to become the PM and then do to India what the did to Bihar.

Many Biharis are rightly upset at being treated badly in Mumbai. But, if Bihar continues to remain the 'land of no opportunity' that Laloo and his ilk have turned it into, Biharis, thanks to their sheer numbers, will become an oppressive and unbearable load on people in other parts of India too. They will then face the same situation that they are facing in Mumbai today. No one will want them. The same will happen to the people of underdeveloped Eastern UP who are almost akin to Biharis.

Biharis, therefore, have a clear choice to make if they want their state to become the land of opportunity that history tells us it once was. They have to politically derail Laloo and the likes of him for good. And the time to do that has come. Unless they act decisively, things are only going to get worse for them. Fortunately, they have a manifestly rare, honest Chief Minister in Nitish Kumar. That makes the task of throwing out Laloo that much easier, notwithstanding his clever buffoonery.

It is now up to the fortunate Biharis who have got away from Bihar to educate and guide and give courage to their unfortunate brethren stuck in Bihar so that they can get their state out of the mess that it is in today. If they trip this time too, they will have no one to blame for the fate that will befall them for sure.
Readers may also read: From Obama to Laloo: a rude reality check