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re-branding bihar

abhay k

 bihar government is organizing global summit on changing bihar from 17-19 february, 2012 at patna. first suc h meet 'global meet on resurgent bihar' was inaugurated by the former president dr. a.p.j. abdul kalam in 2007.
this is a welcome initiative of the state government and could well become the platform for brainstorming on how to re-brand bihar.  

in recent years bihar has been the champion of 'development above all' goal and has risen above caste and vote bank politics, elevating the political discourse all over india. success stories from bihar whether it be super 30- a coaching institute for under-privileged children, innovative rice-husk based power plant or the success of several development initiatives of its chief minister nitish kumar, have multiplied. bihar has started getting greater attention from the national and international media.

 the nalanda university, one of the oldest universities in the world, at its peak had teachers and scholars from the whole asia. the initiative of the bihar government to establish a new nalanda university near rajgir, which is just located a few kilometers away from the ruins of the ancient nalanda university with active support of the central government of india as well as the countries of east asia is a remarkable achievement for the people of the state. it could be well termed as the beginning of a new age in bihar's cultural, social, economic and political life. in fact it could be termed as a very important step towards creating a truly cosmopolitan bihar as it was for most part of its history as an international centre for learning and ideas.

 the idea to bring together leading development practitioners, policy makers, scholars, industrialists, investors, representatives from the world of art and culture, donors and members of the civil society to forge partnerships is timely and commendable. however, it needs a little refinement and planning.

 first of all, the event 'global summit on changing bihar' should be either organized prior to pravasi bhartiya divas (9 january) or immediately after it so that some of those from countries rich in bihari diaspora who travel to attend this annual event could also attend the global summit on changing bihar. besides being organized on fixed dates, the global summit on changing bihar should become an annual or biennial event. bihar has a number of excellent locations such as bodh gaya, nalanda, rajgir, pavapuri, vaishali besides its capital patna where the event could be hosted year after year. bihar government could also pitch for hosting the next pravasi bhartiya divas in patna as there is a large bihari diaspora community in mauritius, fiji, trinidad & tobago, guyana, suriname and other countries.

secondly, bihar should focus on its buddhist heritage and past and develop deep linkages with countries of east and south east asia. it should consider hosting global buddhist conference on a regular basis annually of biennially.

 third, it is high time that bihar reclaims its original name vihar. the name 'bihar' comes from sanskrit and pali 'vihar' which means abode or monastery. this is also important from the perspective of branding bihar as a premier global buddhist destination where tourists could get a taste of spiritual tourism and learn how to get enlightenment like buddha.

besides that vihar sounds much softer than bihar in pronunciation. i feel biharis would feel better when they are called viharis.

 fourth, bihar should brand itself as 'vibrant vihar' or 'vihar- abode of enlightenment and bliss'. the state government should learn from the success story of global incredible india campaign and should try to project vihar as an abode of enlightenment and bliss across the world through new and as well as traditional media.

 bihar will have to, off course, match words with action by investing in developing infrastructure, improving overall security and reaching out to countries which have deep buddhist linkages. once the virtuous cycle starts, there will be no looking back and by the next decade today's provincial bihar will become a truly global vihar- an abode of enlightenment and bliss in asia. 

writer is an author of six books. views expressed are personal.




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