After the Toppers’ Scam of 2016, the death of hundreds of people in a matter of few days due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) as well as the scorching heatwave have exposed the deplorable conditions of education and health in Bihar.
Until a few years ago, however, the media was showering praise on the Nitish Kumar government for bringing about revolutionary changes in these two sectors.
Today the same media is questioning the Bihar chief minister. Forget the Opposition, even ally and BJP MLC, Sachchidanand Rai, is openly criticising the Nitish government and his own party ministers for letting the state down on all fronts.
But is it that hundreds of people have died only this year due to AES in Bihar, or that the Toppers’ Scam was confined only to 2016?
The truth is that hundreds of children have been dying almost every year since Nitish Kumar took over on November 24, 2005. Similarly, totally undeserving students had been topping in the Class-X and XII exams of the state board on an annual basis.
In the early years of the Nitish regime, the media had innumerable stories of how the chief minister got bicycles distributed to schoolchildren and how many school buildings had been constructed across the state. What they failed to expose is the way the Nitish government recruited millions of virtually ‘illiterate’ para-teachers, who were not qualified to become teachers in the first place.
That things were no better in Bihar before Nitish took over is well-known, yet there is no denying that the conditions have gone from being bad to worse.
Though the number of students enrolled in schools has gone up, it has also led to the multi-crore Double Enrollment Scam. Hundreds of crores were siphoned off as students got enrolled in two kind of schools—in private for good education and in the government schools to get cycles, uniforms and books!
While Nitish Kumar would repeatedly boast as to how the number of students clearing high school exams of the state boards with flying colours have increased, the truth is that the number of students who would crack engineering, medical and other competitive exams, especially civil services, have declined over the years.
As far as the situation in the health sector is concerned, it has witnessed a sharp fall. Yet, the media was more than eager to pat the state government on the back for its non-achievements. An impression was sought to be created that the new establishment has done enormous work to improve the condition of primary health centres (PHCs). In reality, the change in these PHCs have more to do with the central government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and little with the state government. Even funds meant for the payment of doctors and paramedics as well as medicine and maintenance of these centres were allotted by the Union health ministry. But with a highly supportive media in tow, Nitish walked away with all the credit.
A decade later, the condition of these PHCs is simply hellish. That is why thousands of patients from around half-a-dozen districts are pouring into the Muzaffarpur-based Shri Krishna Medical College Hospital.
Similarly, Nitish was applauded for building rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, national highways and the East-West Corridor when the fact is that they were built by the Centre.
True, the condition of state highways and district roads had improved in the initial years, but things are back to square one now. The entire state machinery was bound to collapse as it was getting credit for work, which it had barely done. Ever since the cancellation of dinner for the BJP bigwigs in Patna on June 12, 2010, Nitish has made so many U-turns that the bureaucracy does not know what will happen next. A sort of paralysis has gripped the state.
Today, the chief minister cannot blame anyone as the government at the Centre is also of his ally, the NDA. But Bihar today would have been a much better place had the media played the role of a vigilant watchdog in the past.