(This is the personal account of author’s experience in Janata Darbar. He is the retired Chief Reporter of the Times of India, Patna.)
It was early Monday (April 4) morning and Deshratn Marg in the New Capital Area near chief minister Nitish Kumar’s 1, Anne Marg official residence, was humming with activities.
People in large number, specially women-folk from different parts of the state were vying to take their place in the long queues––one each for women and men––on the wide road leading to Jayprakash Narayan International Airport.
The majority of them appeared well off or from the lower middle class but there were sizeable number of poor in tattered clothes and belongings.
Inquisitiveness and sadness writ large on their faces as they eagerly wait to meet the chief minister with the hope that their complaints and grievances would be redressed.
Holding their jholas (bags), related documents and papers in their hands they passed in front of magnificent Raj Bhawan and ministerial bungalows.
They finally reached the Darbar located in the fortified backyard of the official residence of the chief minister. Hopes and despair as well as fear of security personnel were writ large on their faces. They all had to cross the first hurdle of security check and what the officials called genuineness of their grievances by some officials and host of heavily armed security personnel.
After a long wait, the first paraphernalia began. Many of them, especially poor women and old men, were snubbed and pushed because of incompleteness of applications to be submitted to the chief minister in Janata Darbar. They were stopped at the very first crossing. Many others, though having legitimate complaints were stopped at the first hurdle because they had no written application and lacked supporting papers. Cruel and non-cooperative behaviour of officials and armed security personnel disappointed many poor and women visitors, having genuine grievances.
On the other hand neta-type and upper middle class lot were allowed to cross the first hurdle without much frisking and queries as were being asked from other hapless people.
After the first stage of ‘Darbar Drama’, people ran over a quarter mile to reach the second hurdle. They entered a big hall-type structure barricaded with iron rods erected on wide and long road. It was made specially for those who had passed the first hurdle. The long queues circumvent and after over three hours reach the second hurdle where officials issue entry passes having 15-digit number. There too the non-cooperative and apathetic attitude of the officials were very much visible. They barred many men and women though these poor and illiterate lot had genuine supporting papers and grievances. They appeared clueless. Many of them were seen requesting officials to help them but all these proved futile. They received snubs by the officials and armed security staff.
In between the crowd would become restive and armed police force had to intervene to brutally silence them. This writer, who was also in the long circular queue, was requested by many illiterate lot to write applications on their behalf.
Only then, they were allowed 15-digit entry passes. The entry passes were issued in the name of the Chief Minister Secretariat. I got the registration number 00000-0404114191, which clearly mentions that for any enquiry and further information about the grievances, one should go to http:\\www.bpgrs.in.
Now the other drama started. Men and women were asked to put their essential belongings like rotis, wrapped in papers, jhola and water bottles at a pigeon-hole type iron chest. Firstly they were frisked. Those having mobile phones, files, copies of applications, extra papers, pens and pencils were asked to surrender on the gate itself.
Not only that, men and women were asked to surrender their purses, having money and important papers kept in their pockets. Even belts worn by old men were put off at the gate. Even those wearing hats or caps were asked to take it off.
Terror of security personnel and civil officials were so much visible that none dared to speak yet some subdued protests by conscious citizens were heard.
After a long three-and-half hours of wait and gruelling exercise came the time to enter the big hall of Janata Ka Darbar of chief minister. It is located at the backyard of the official residence. The scene on the gate was quite different. Armed securitymen and senior police and civil officials again frisked the visitors. Only than they were finally allowed in the hall and directed to sit on chairs.
The securitymen put the belongings of people in haphazard manner. Some of the belongings and files were badly trampled under the boot.
I too surrendered my Gandhi Cap outside the Darbar hall. For the older generation the Janata Darbar was the reflection of Darbar of feudal lords, Rajas and Maharajas of the British Raj.
The subjects would crawl before them and the landlords instead of listening to their grievances would refer them to those very officials against whom the complaints were being made.
Many of them were heard commenting Nitish is just carrying the legacy of old British Raj and adopting feudal approach. Some were there for the third and fourth time in the last couple of years but to no avail.
Instead they are now being harassed by the officials––not to talk of mitigating their sufferings. Nitish appeared in a foul mood, repeatedly referring the matter to the same officials against whom the complaints have been made.
While approaching Nitish many of the visitors, specially women, would touch the feet while others paid him respect with folded hands but the chief minister would remain calm and unmoved, not to speak of returning their wishes.
Nitish, who reached the Darbar at around 10:30 AM first heard the women. Many of them wailed and wept while narrating their grievances. Others did not get opportunity to explain their grievances as officials in and around the chief minister would whisk them away to senior officials with their applications.
Senior officials would only assure the weeping and sobbing lot of action. At about 12:40 PM, the chief minister rose and went to his official residence probably for lunch. Almost all the top police and civil officials were later called for lunch. Junior level officials and securitymen were having gala time in eating packed lunch and bottled waters in the hall itself before the full view of Janata, who had come to get their grievances redressed.
There was half-baked arrangements of Sattu with salt and water for the people. But there was huge rush and few of them succeeded in getting them. Later it was stopped for the reason best known to the officials of CM secretariat.
Civic amenities were extremely poor. There was contaminated drinking water without a single glass. Nasty smell was coming out from the toilets. When some people sought glass to drink water they were told by the security men to use their hands. Although all fans on the side of chief minister and officials were functioning, only some of them were in good condition in the side of the people.
A tiff started between the people in queue and security personnel when some persons while returning after the call of nature tried to take their respective seats. The securitymen pushed and abused when they wanted to return to their allotted place. Sensing the situation becoming ugly some senior officials intervened to restore normalcy.
Interestingly, one senior IG rank official, Gupteshwar Pandey, who was supposed to listened to grievances of people referred to by chief minister was seen sleeping. He woke up only when a senior official intervened. But moments later he again started dozing.
Pandey is said to be close to the chief minister. He is the same IPS officer, who had resigned from the service a few months before the last Lok Sabha elections to contest from Buxar seat on BJP ticket. But he was denied the party ticket. Months later Nitish Kumar government got his resignation withdrawn and Pandey was taken back in the service.
My turn came at about 4:15 PM. By that time, Nitish had perhaps become, tired and exhausted. The way he referred me along with my application to Principal Secretary Land Reforms and Revenue suggested that he was in foul mood.
I narrated my problems to him and left the Darbar losing my purse, having some coins. I had kept my notes in pockets which saved the day for me. I could not get my Gandhi cap and some important papers, which I had surrendered at the last gate before entering the Darbar. Thus the long journey of over nine hours ended.
This is the Janata Darbar of Nitish, the darling of Indian media, which heap laurels on him without thinking about the ground reality in Bihar.
Sadly, the website mentioned for further information about the fate of application is not functioning.
I punched the registration number. Weeks later it still said that the site is under construction.
First of all I would like to thank Mr. K K Singh for sharing his personal experience with much hyped Nitish's Janata Darbar and also kudos to Bihar Times for constantly uncovering facts from Bihar. Though I am NOT shocked to read the reality about Nitish's Janata Darbar, it further confirms the misleading image portrayed by our yellow journalism. Thanks to the Crores of public money spent on misleading good governance advertizing campaigns. If Chief Minister’s house does not have basic amenities like safe drinking water, clean washrooms, it is not hard to imagine the condition of other public places in Bihar. It is really unfortunate that the most powerful man in the state does not have the courtesy to greet his own people with a simple smile. It’s the same people who have elected him twice to lead Bihar. May be our Hon’ble Chief Minister has forgotten to smile. I don’t expect that Chief Minister will solve problems of all the people coming to
his Darbar, but I do believe that our people deserve a much better treatment than what described by Mr. K K Singh. How much does it cost to provide clean drinking water to all the people coming to Darbar? Asking people to use hands to drink water in Chief Minister’s Janata Darbar is beyond comprehension. The washrooms in Chief Minister’s compound is not clean just because it is for the use by common people not Chief Minister himself or his officers, it sadly narrates the mind set of our people. I am sure our chief Minister and his officers are educated enough to understand the importance of hygiene in the compound of chief minister bungalow. After knowing the way people are treated in his Darbar, I guess it is not hard to imagine the fate of all the complaints filed with Hon’ble Chief Minister. India became independent from British Raj in 1947, but unfortunately our leaders have not become independent from British Raj mind set till today, and
unfortunately we don’t know for how long.