Bihar is now in the throes of administrative turmoil on account of strike unleashed by the opportunist government employees. It appears to be without any rhyme and reason. I am compelled to say so because these people have come up with such an outrageous demand in a state where masses earn just 1/3rd of the per capita average national income. This fact justifies that the state employees should get only one third of the salary to which their central government counterparts are entitled to. However, it would not be prudent to forward such kind of simplistic logic even when the cost of living in Bihar goes to uphold the same.
However, this issue points to a deeper malaise plaguing the administration in Bihar. These staff without bothering about the economic viability and sustainability of their demand, are hell bent on pushing the state in a deeper economic morass. People of the state can be better off only if the state as a whole is doing economically better. Administrative paralysis induced by the financially unviable action may push the state further to the brink where a large section of state population turns into an internal migrant in its own country and is subjected to ridicule day and night. Anyway, it is futile to expect that better sense will dawn upon these people.
It reminds me of my life at one of the government schools in Patna in 1980s, much before the advent of much maligned Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav at the helms. After skipping classes for three years, one day our teachers realized that they ought to be teaching just on the eve of our 'sent up' exam. Only to realize after a month or so that it would be a hard act to follow. I went back to see my school again in 2003. It was as though non existent. I had become wiser by my experience not to even try going to college when I enrolled for intermediate. I passed my intermediate exam without ever going to college barring one occasion which happened to be my very first day in college. Rule book may say anything, but this has been the truth in Bihar which predates advent of Mr Prasad. I am afraid it will not end up even after Mr. Prasad has relinquished the power. Fortunately for me, I landed up in the portals of one of the hallowed institutions under the command of central government never to be at the mercy of the state government staff again.
I had learnt my lessons the hard way and shared the experience of the same with the former principal secretary of state HRD, late Dr Jha, to oppose his idealism around the common school system. My submission to him was simple: "if the common education system amounts to bringing down the level of education all around, it would certainly be better to have private centers of excellence offering schooling choice". I even advocated doing away with all these government schools (handing over management to private sector & trusts like DAV, DPS etc while providing for a strong school regulator) and rather offer per child education support allowance on the lines of coupon schemes introduced for public distribution (and now rightly applied for non aided institutions by the state government). Creating this monstrous governmental edifice breeding huge amount of inefficiency at the cost of public money does not serve any purpose. A lean and mean administration, just good enough for policy formulation and regulatory work, would certainly bring in more efficiency. Execution work and delivery services should ideally be privatized to the extent possible. State employees strike presents an ideal opportunity to experiment with the same. Government has no business, whatsoever, to be provider, consumer and regulator all at the same time.
Somehow I feel that it is not the politicians of the state who have let down the state. In fact, to the contrary, the current breed of state leadership on all side of political divide has been doing a commendable job. NDA dispensation in the state has ushered in a slew of irreversible social and governance level changes and has also laid foundation for some durable institutions too. Even a good many of the state ministers have shown a missionary zeal in doing their duty. There may be some shortcomings, and indeed there are a good number of these, but the intention there in is not questionable. On the other hand the leadership representing state in the union cabinet has ushered in a slew of intelligently crafted initiatives which will help the state on such a large scale for the first time since independence. Here again, there may be a lot more to be desired. The author of a slew of social sector economic scheme is no other person than our very own man in Rural Development Ministry. Off course, a lot of these are erroneously attributed to our economist Prime Minister and the Empress and Prince of Congress party. Our man waged a lonely battle at times in the union cabinet to set the priority right for union government. Similarly, our leaders in Ministry of Railway and also Ministry of Fertilizer & Chemicals (as also steel) have rendered a good service to the state and to the nation. No doubt, like others, I would expect them to do still more.
It is only the people of the state, particularly the employees of Bihar government, who have consistently failed in their duty always. Till people of the state and most importantly the state government employees do change their way, there would be no redemption for the state.