'Nitish Kumar has a vision for Bihar'

Law and order has improved considerably, poverty alleviation programmes have picked up, emphasis is on creating infrastructure like roads and power, but says, “Bihar will have to shrug off the corruption tag if it wants foreign investors to put their money in the cash-strapped state.”

Stagg, who was in Patna to review the progress of UK government’s department for international development (DFID)-funded projects in Bihar, had an informal chat with Abhay Kumar of Deccan Herald, where he dwelt at length why the British government decided to extend hundreds of crores of financial assistance to the Nitish regime in three sectors — health, nutrition and urban development.

The British government has invested Rs 130 crore on Bihar administrative reforms mission. What purpose will it actually serve?
The UK-backed Bihar administrative reforms mission aims to have a faster, more transparent and more efficient administration that is suited to provide efficient public service. Against this backdrop, the staff and senior officials of the select department will be imparted training as it’s the government’s bureaucratic system that makes or mars the governance.

Besides, you have allocated Rs 420 crore for urban reforms measures. Of all the states, why have you invested so much in Bihar?
Precisely because we find the approach of Nitish Kumar right. He is the man who has the vision to govern a state like Bihar.

But why not other states?
We would have loved to work in several other states, but we found the going was not that easy.

You perhaps visited some offices here to get a first-hand experience of governance?
Yes, I went to Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) office to apprise myself about the various moves made by the civic body for delivering quality services to city residents.

What impressed you most during the review of DFID-aided projects?
I was impressed with the idea of putting in place a modern solid waste management system, and was also briefed about the GPS-enabled monitoring system for garbage collection operations. Besides, I also visited six citizen service centres being run by the PMC to provide friendly services to tax-payers.

You had a lengthy meeting with the chief minister. What’s your assessment of him?
He is very dynamic and visionary. His priorities, I feel, are power generation, investments in Bihar, jobs to unemployed, industrialisation, and value addition in agriculture sector. In the previous regime, there was no public service delivery system; and about the law and order, the less the better. Today things have changed for the better. Since 2007, we have formed a fruitful partnership with the Bihar government and are comfortable working with them as our aim fits in with their programmes.

But the fact remains that not a single foreign investor has put in his money in Bihar, while states like Gujarat, Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra continue to attract investments from offshores?
True. It will take some time before this happens in Bihar. But at the same time, let me tell you that corruption remains a major stumbling block for foreign investors, who want clarity and transparency. Bihar, therefore, needs to shrug off the years of atrophy with a clean and transparent administration.

After investing in administrative reforms measure and urban development projects, what is in DFID store for Bihar?
The DFID is awaiting the Indian government’s clearance for the Rs 1,000 crore-programme on health, nutrition, water and sanitation that will be implemented across the state later this year.

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