Dear Media, Bihar doesn’t need IAS or IIT toppers as role models
[ An extract from newslaundry.com for ref purpose. For source, look it up by clicking– https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/07/06/dear-media-bihar-doesnt-need-ias-or-iit-toppers-as-role-models%5D
Despite producing a large chunk of bureaucrats, Bihar continues to be at the bottom of all significant indices of development.
While visiting his hometown Patna, an annual ritual for expatriate writers looking for ‘the exotic’ material, Amitava Kumar came across something that made its way to the pages of his book A Matter of Rats-A Short Biography of Patna (Aleph, 2013). In one of his many failings as interpreter of the city and Bihar, a default role thrust upon him as one of the more famous non-resident Biharis in the contemporary literary scene, Kumar joins the media chorus in cheering for the place as a site of competitive examinations- success stories of young students and their mentors. It’s not only a convenient red-herring from the scourge of economic underdevelopment and dismal indices of human development that have stuck with Bihar but is also one of the reasons why the state hasn’t found any meaningful way to pull itself out of the conditions of wretchedness.
The fact that the media, regional as well as national, has contributed to nurturing this deceptive Bihari pride in producing assembly line Indian Administrative Service (IAS) recruitment or Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance examination toppers is evident every year in the reports one comes across once results are declared.
This year, for instance, national as well as state editions of The Hindustan Times were again keen on identifying successful candidates from Bihar in civil services examinations. The Times of India spotted a human interest story in declaring a village in Gaya district as a ‘factory of IITians.” This, of course, is in addition to a number of reports in Hindi dailies, ranging from Dainik Jagran to Jansatta, or a regional daily like Prabhat Khabar, profiling the selected candidates from Bihar. In the local media scene, such reporting even goes down to the districtwise lists and profiles of candidates to give the readers as well as viewers of local news channels a sense of the native district pride.
In a state where people identify their villages and towns with figures as mundane as an incumbent bureaucrat, a young entrant to the civil services or to one of the better known engineering institutes, the media seems to perpetuate that strange sense of reflected glory. One may recall how the August 6, 2007 cover story in Outlook had the picture of Sanjay Kumar Singh, the 42 nd rank holder in that year’s civil services examination, garlanded and mounted on a horse while being taken on a procession in his village in Bihar, accompanied with the pomp of a band party.
It’s a clear sign of a state that hasn’t moved on from its state-centric imagination of socio-economic mobility. That’s the caging of its youthful ambitions. The village celebrating Singh’s success is more likely to have a two-hour electricity supply, or even none, a significant number of young men in the village probably migrated to other parts of country to work on farm lands, factories or even pull rickshaws and in all likelihood, he would have to negotiate the dusty lanes to reach his village whenever he feels a need to bask in its adulation again.
As a salaried civil servant in a government office placed at any random place in the country, Singh is least likely, and least equipped, to change anything for his village. He, for all seminal purposes, is a false role model. The village he would keep visiting will not have changed.
One of the reasons for that, is the fact that youth in Bihar have been brought up to join Singh or his ilk in a salaried existence, preferably stable and secure, in an organization. Entrepreneurship, innovation and private initiative have not only been denied to the state from other parts of the country and world but the youth of Bihar have also failed in offering that to their land. It’s ironic, though not surprising, that the impoverished state has adopted the middle class anxieties of secure occupation and social position as the roadmap for its aspirations.
Moreover, Bihar has become a sad reminder of what social scientist Hamza Alvi once described as an “overdeveloped state”- the kind of post- colonial social order where the state has inherited and spread its tentacles across unwarranted spheres, and hence, there is overdependent on it. Perhaps it’s this mai baap sarkaar which has forced generations of Biharis to seek the larger-than-life fetishism of a government job.
In his slim classic, The Republic of Bihar (Penguin, 1992), Arvind N Das hints at a few historical strands to which this obsession could be traced, though the fascination is a pan-India trend in some sections of the population. After the annulment of partition of Bengal in 1911, a new secretariat was set up in Patna for the newly created state of Bihar. The government transferred staff en masse from the disbanded Dacca (now Dhaka) secretariat to Patna and due to a lack of enough eligible staff from Bihar, the transferred Bengali staff held sway. Perhaps this also contributed to intensifying the yearning in the pre-independence generation of Biharis to storm government offices as the paid staff.
In contemporary Bihar, the obsession has produced a theatre of the absurd. Almost every locality boasts of producing a number of high ranking official or hordes of IITians knocking at the door of civil services, yet the areas remain bogged down in unchanging underdevelopment, unemployment and abysmal living conditions. The state presents a case for refuting the perception of civil servants as agents of social change or development for their region or for the social segment they come from.
However such media narratives do not survive a reality-check. Even a cursory look, for instance, would suggest that such assumptions would fail in relation to Bihar. Despite a large chunk of bureaucrats hailing from the state, Bihar continues to be at the bottom of all significant indices of development. Contrast that with states like Gujarat where young people have been far less keen on joining bureaucracy. Yet, driven by enterprise, innovation and private initiative, the state has done far better on developmental fronts, including better human development indices.
Two pieces of data from the Economic Survey-2017, released by the Bihar government, reveal how a lack of entrepreneurial drive and the occupational shift to industrial employment have adversely affected Bihar. While the rate of urbanization in India advanced from 27.8 per cent to 31.2 per cent during 2001-2011, in the same period urbanization in Bihar grew only by 0.8 per cent, from 10.5 per cent to 11.3 per cent. Citing figures of 2015-16, the state government’s survey observes that the per capita income of Bihar is only 35 per cent (Rs 36,964) of India’s per capita income. What’s inevitable, hence, is the fact that migration continues unabated despite policy measures like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
In adopting false role models in examination-achievers, the youth of Bihar haven’t recognised that the real power to alter their state’s destiny remains unleashed in entrepreneurial initiatives, industrial vision and courage of innovation. That’s the flight of imagination they need, and not the cosy confines of a towel covered chair in a government office. They need education and the open-ended enquiry and innovation which it brings to facilitate initiatives that matter for the region. They could possibly even be employment generators in the region, not merely seeking jobs. It’s time the Bihari youth got role models who can apply themselves to script new narratives, not those who succeed in robotic rote learning to crack competitive examinations. To that extent, media narratives on examination-stardom need to strip it to the point of its irrelevance for the region.
The next time an examination-achiever, or whatever the phrase means, from Bihar is hurt by a worker from his or her state targeted with quasi-racial abuses in any of India’s metro cities, anger should also be followed by introspection. They may share part of the blame too. The media wouldn’t make them believe that, but they should know. Millions of Biharis on various trains today know that.
The author can be contacted on Twitter @anandvardhan26.
Complaining about the media is easy and often justified. But hey, it’s the model that’s flawed.
Pay to keep news free and help make media independent
Disclaimer : Newslaundry.com is determined to include views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. This doesn’t mean we agree with everything we publish. But we do support their right to the freedom of speech. In case of columnists and non-Newslaundry staff articles, the information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of Newslaundry.com. Newslaundry.com does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.