Thursday, December 28, 2006

`Correct unequal distribution of medical colleges' Kumar (Dr.Ajay) and Kumar ( Nitish) Join hands

The newly elected president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Dr. Ajay Kumar and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined hands in making common cause over the discrimination in granting permission for opening new medical colleges across the country.

Soon after taking over as the president of the IMA Dr. Kumar, a noted urologist here, demanded that the Centre take measures to correct the unequal distribution of medical colleges and adhere to the recommendation of the Mudaliar Committee in this regard.

He said that Bihar had just eight medical colleges accounting for just one medical college for a population of one crore as against States like Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat which had as many as 40, 19, 29, 35, and 43 medical colleges respectively spread over a population of 1. 3 million to 3.6 million population.

The Chief Minister who attended the function, and felicitated the newly installed chief, hoped that the IMA and the Medical Council of India would do their best to take note of this discrimination and work to help States like Bihar and others which were not permitted to open new medical colleges.

Mr. Kumar said that the State Government would open more colleges on its own and also invite private players to cater to the needs of medical students of the State who were forced to go to other States for a degree.

The IMA chief was also critical of the United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre in impinging on the MCI status as an autonomous body, which he pointed out, was against its proclamation in its electoral manifesto. He condemned the move as undemocratic.

He also demanded the constitution of the Medical Grants Commission on the lies of University Grants Commission for selection of medical teachers and granting them pay parity.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dance Competition to Benefit Visually-Impaired People

Cine star turned Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Shatrughan Sinha, on Tuesday at Bhartiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Patna, inaugurated the three-day all-India dance competition sponsored by the Bihar Netraheen Parishad in association with the state art and culture department by lighting a candle at the event venue.

"Before we create temples or mosques, we should build temples to honor human beings," Sinha said in his inaugural speech while urging people to continue to work hard for the welfare of the blind people in the nation.

Meanwhile, dozens of participants, several with complete visual deficiency, from across the nation took part in dance competition impressing the judges as well as the audience.

Bihar Art and Culture Minister Janardan Singh Sigriwal said the NDA government in the state was sensitive to the needs of people with visual impairment.

Noted eye specialist Dr. Ajit Sinha, in his speech, said this was the first time such competition was being held in Bihar.

Sinha, mingling with the artists, said he would soon arrange to have an all-star night in Patna to raise money for the benefit of the blind people.

My govt's priority is Bihar’s development: Nitish

Supaul (Bihar), Dec 27: Charging the UPA government at the Centre with neglecting Bihar's development, the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said paucity of funds will not be allowed to impede the state's development and asserted he would not seek votes in the next Assembly elections if his government failed to deliver.

"My government is committed to development and in the brief time it has been in existence, positive changes are visible. In little over a year that we have been in power, fruits of progress have begun to be seen," he said addressing a public meeting here after laying foundation of various development schemes worth Rs. 645 crore for this district.

Kumar said though the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was not coming forth with adequate assistance for Bihar, the state's NDA government would not allow the development projects to "starve" due to paucity of resources.

"We are going to invest Rs 8,000 crore in roads. Likewise we have plans to make huge investments in other infrastructure. There would be very positive changes over the next four years, he said addressing the public meeting at the local Degree college.

Danish Company to Build Tool Factories in Bihar

Representatives of the Indo-Danish Tools Company, in Biharsharif on Tuesday, met with the District Magistrate Anand Kishore to discuss setting up of a state-of-the-art tool factory producing light and medium modern tools to be used in various engineering works, officials in Nalanda said.

The company plans to set up a similar unit in Chhapra district, it was learnt.

Besides the factory, the Indo-Danish joint venture also plans to set up a training center offering diploma courses in 1, 2, and 4-year in mechanical engineering, officials said.

Preferences will be given to local talents first before allowing admissions to interested candidates from other states, they said.

The training center itself is expected to cost Rs. 30 crore out of which the central government will fund about Rs. 9 crore.

Land for the factory and the training center will be provided by the state government which will also contribute in the construction of the building, hostels, and other amenities for the students.

Indo-Danish Tools Company already has five operating units in India including one in Jamshedpur.

Work on the factory is expected to begin in March 2007, it was learnt.

Lalu shares wisdom with Harvard,Wharton Pupil

Abhi to hum jawan hain. Baal pak jaane se kya hota hai (I am still young. Don’t read too much into the grey hair).” With these lines, as he concluded his hour-long interaction with 137 students from Wharton and Harvard Business School, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today announced that he had put his Prime Ministerial ambitions on hold for the time being.

“Everybody wants to rise to the top position in their respective fields. I would become the PM one day, but not now. I have put the matter in the pending list for now,” he said.

But the session with the students was a no-holds barred one with Lalu taking the opportunity to not only take a dig at his opponents, but also venting his views on a range of issues, with the Great Indian Railway turnaround story as the reliable background. As expected, the metaphor of “properly milking the jersey cow so as to make sure that she doesn’t fall sick” in the context of Railways did find it’s way into his address.

Narrating the makings of the turnaround in Hindi laced with a bit of English here and there, Lalu’s address boiled down to this advice: “Wherever you go, whichever top positions you may hold, work with honesty, dedication and determination. Take your employees and officers into confidence. Treat them like your family, not like bureaucrats.”

However, Lalu, it appeared, was prepared for the inevitable question. When a Harvard student asked him about his 15-year long rule in Bihar wherein the state’s condition did not change, Lalu replied, “Bihar was discriminated against by Delhi. The per-capita investment was negligible, particularly in infrastructure sector, as compared to other states. Then there were problems like floods and Naxalism. Till we were there, my opponents ensured that no money was given to Bihar. But I don’t discriminate. Now, my younger brother Nitish Kumar is there. We help him. If I was guilty of not developing the state, why doesn’t he deliver on his promises in five years?”

Asked how significant were the corruption-related issues, whether perceived or actual, in his ministry and how he addressed those challenges, Lalu said people in his ministry were very intelligent and they watched their master. He went on to add that since he was the man at the top, he had to lead by example.

“I even asked the Prime Minister to ask IB and other intelligence agencies to monitor Railways to see if anything wrong was going on,” Yadav said adding that those indulging in corrupt practices were handled through surprise checks and suitable punishments.

On the kind of support he got from the Railway Board, Yadav said, “The biggest achievement of the Board is that IAS officers have not been able to penetrate it so far. All the people in the Board are technical people. And it is good if IAS people don’t come to the Board. I have full confidence and cooperation of the Board and I treat them like a family. Keymen, gangmen, coolie are like my brothers.”

Asked about the future of Indian Railways if he ceased to be the minister, Yadav said: “Whether I remain as Railway minister or not, nobody will be able to reverse the processes we have begun.”

The group of foreign students, probably under instructions of the ministry, were not too keen to share their experiences. However, some of those who talked appeared to be in awe of the minister. While Simmons Jones from Harvard found Lalu “very charismatic, committed and impressive”, Rohan Haldea from Harvard said that “sustainability of this turnaround was yet to be seen”.

Earlier, Lalu’s OSD Sudhir Kumar left no stone unturned to sing the minister’s praises. “My minister’s only criticism is that he has too little time for Rail Bhawan and Railways. Nobody says he sits too much in the ministry, that he’s too busy doing politicking. That is the kind of leader you should be—that you are not there and still you are there and watching from a distance. So, when you have this kind of leadership, then you dispel the impression conclusively that nothing can change in government,” Kumar said going to highlight Lalu’s “rugged commonsense and rustic brilliance”.

‘Queen Bee’( A BIHARI Girl) is UNICEF poster girl

Her name – Anita Kushwaha – does not ring a bell yet. And as she cycles through the dirt tracks of her village in Muzaffarpur, the 17-year-old looks just that: a teenager, but with more than a hint of boldness in the way she tosses her head or looks straight at you. Remember that face: she is UNICEF’s new poster girl.

Kushwaha is also the youngest of three girls selected from all over the country by UNICEF as role models who countered gender bias and made a space for themselves.

But even before the UN body spotted her, making money out of honey and pocketing a profit of Rs 1 lakh, the villagers of Patatiyasa knew her as “queen bee”.

It has not been easy for Kushwaha. Four years ago, she opposed her parents who wanted her to get married. It was unheard of in that Dalit village. Her parents, labourers, finally gave in to the insistence of the girl.

Her sight was set on something else – bees and business. She bought a box with a queen bee for Rs 2,500. The seed money came from a year of giving tuitions to children.

The box started yielding honey and her mother, taken with the process, helped her buy a second one. Raw honey fetched Rs 40-45 per kg. Like good businesspeople, they saved money and bought more boxes. Today, the Kushwahas’ courtyard is abuzz with bees in over 100 boxes. The profit: Rs 1 lakh a year. “I even bought a motorcycle for my brother,” she says.

Kushwaha’s business has created interest in the entire village, with many households taking up bee rearing. “Everyone used to make fun of me,” smiles Kushwaha. “Now they don’t.” In the Kushwaha household, the business begins only after Anita returns from college, Mahant Darshsan Das Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Muzaffarpur, where she is studying for bachelor’s in arts.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Washington Post- Idiot Of The Year Awards- Mentions Cop of Muzaffarpur as special Mention

2006 Idiot of the Year: Laura Mallory, of Loganville, Georgia. This vigilant mother of four has demanded local schools remove Harry Potter from their libraries because, in her analysis, the books are an "evil" attempt to indoctrinate children in Wicca religion. Congratulations Laura, and good luck on your quest to eradicate the dark forces which pollute children's literature.

Silver Medal: Nevada state senator Bob Beers who's pushing the legislature to consider letting teachers carry guns in classrooms "to stem a rise in school violence." Ready, aim, learn!

Bronze Medal: The 22-year-old British war vet who attempted to launch a Black Cat Thunderbolt rocket out of his rear end, on Guy Fawkes Day.

Honorable Mention: The hard-working cops of Muzaffarpur, India who attempted to arrest a 3-month-old baby for robbing a bus only days after his birth.

So that's it for 2006. Thanks to everyone for your help and participation. Let's hope 2007 is a idiotic as this past year!

A direct flight Between New Delhi and PATNA- Thanks Indian

State carrier "Indian" has announced to launched a direct flight to Patna. The airline will fly an Airbus A320 three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — between Delhi and Patna. This flight is in addition to Indian’s already existing flight to Patna via Ranchi.

Sikhs hold spectacular 'nagar kirtan' in PATNA CITY

As part of the three-day 340th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh, a huge nagar kirtan was held here on Tuesday. Thousands of Sikh devotees from all over the country — as also from abroad— took part in it along with the locals.

The nagar kirtan held every year on the eve of the birth anniversary of the 10th Guru of Sikhs, also known as Prakashotsava, began after the morning's diwan at the Badi Sangat Gurdwara, Gaighat. Earlier, the akhand paath ended there. Right from early morning the devotees had started assembling there to take part in the morning session of the ardaas and pay their obeisance to the Guru. The entire area wore a festive look.

The nagar kirtan started in the afternoon. The devotees, including children and women, set out for the Takht Shri Harmandirji, Patna Saheb, the birthplace of the Guru. Students from the local Guru Nanak School, Guru Teg Bahadur Academy, Guru Gobind Singh School as also from schools from other places took part in it. The devotees sang shabad and chanted wahe guru all through the four-kilometre route. The Guru Granth Saheb ki Sawari was led by the punj pyare. The nagar kirtan reached the Takht Saheb in the evening after nearly four hours. A kirtan durbar was held there later.

Those who came from outside enthusiastically took part in the morning session at the Badi Sangat Gurdwara and thereafter in the nagar kirtan , and were delighted to be at the birthplace of their Guru. "It feels great to be here. Though we always wanted to come here, the opportunity to fulfil this wish came only this year," says Ratan Singh, a businessman from Rajpura of Patiala district in Punjab, who has come here with a group of eight. Though they are all first-timers they would like to come here in future too. "We'd like to come here again and again," says Charan Singh, one of the group members.

Unlike them, Narender singh, a manager with a textile unit at Birganj in Nepal, has been coming here for the last 20 years without break as part of a jatha. "It feels so good to be here in Guru ki nagari. Feels like we're in heaven," he says. Likewise, Kuldip Singh, an advocate from Mumbai, has been coming here for the last 10 years. He is part of a 250-strong jatha. "Main yahan antim saans tak aata rahunga (I'll keep coming here till I breathe may last)," he says.

Meanwhile, chief minister Nitish Kumar extended his greetings to the people of Bihar on the occasion of Guru Gobind Singh's birth anniversary.

Nalanda gets set for relic

The move to shift the holy relic of famous Chinese scholar Xuanzang to its original place at Nalanda has gained momentum following the visit of a team from the Union ministry for culture to Patna recently. The relic is currently kept at the Patna Museum under lock and key.

The team headed by RC Mishra, joint secretary in the Union ministry of culture, made physical verification of the Xuanzang's relic at Patna Museum a few days ago. The team also reviewed the renovation work being carried out at the Xuanzang Memorial during its visit to Nalanda.

The relic comprising the skull bone is kept in a crystal casket at the museum, will be permanently shifted to the Xuanzang Memorial Hall at Nalanda in a bulletproof case either in January-end or early February. Mishra is expected to write to the Bihar chief secretary soon with the request to make necessary arrangements so that the relic can be shifted to Nalanda safely," said a senior state government official.

It is understood that director of the Nav Nalanda Mahavihara Ravindra Pant has sought the description, measurement and other details of the relic from Patna Museum authorities to place it at Xuanzang Hall.

Meanwhile, a 26-member Chinese team led by director state administration of religious Affairs Wang Jian is currently on a 100-day visit to Nalanda to carry out restoration work of the famous Xuanzang Memorial Hall.

"The restoration work, which began in early December, is expected to be completed by January-end," said an official.

To make the Xuanzang Memorial Hall more magnificent, the Chinese government has engaged the best of craftsmen for its restoration including its surroundings comprising statues, mural work, bell pavilion etc. The team includes top civil engineers, architects and designers.

It was in January 12, 1957, the then Prime Minister Nehru received the Xuanzang's relic along with a cheque from the Dalai Lama for construction of a memorial for Xuanzang at a function organised at the Nav Nalanda University.

It was in 1956 that the Indo-China Friendship Communication along with the then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and his Indian counterpart Nehru had approved the construction of Xuanzang Memorial Hall — barely a km away from the excavated site of ancient Nalanda University — in order to commemorate Xuanzang.

"The Union ministry for cultural affairs has already sanctioned Rs 1.5 crore for renovation of the hall which will also have an exhibition centre and texts to highlight the Chinese scholar's life and works," Pant said.

PU directive on National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) nod

PU has directed all its postgraduate departments and constituent colleges to get themselves accreditated from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) during the current financial year.

Only four colleges of PU, namely Patna Women's College, Magadh Mahila College, B N College and Patna Science College, have undertaken this exercise so far. PU and some of its colleges are yet to volunteer for assessment and accreditation.

PU departments and colleges have been directed to send their self study report (SSR) within a fortnight so that the same could be forwarded to NAAC latest by January 31.

The NAAC has set a deadline for submission of SSR by January 31, 2007 and completion of peer team visit by March 31.

Holidays rescheduled: PU has rescheduled Xmas holidays in the larger interest of students. According to a PU notification issued on Saturday, the university will now remain closed only on December 25 and 27 on account of Xmas and Guru Gobind Singh birth anniversary.

It is hoped that the rescheduling will ensure timely completion of courses of studies.

Books released: Two books written by former Magadh University vice chancellor and renowned psychologist Shamshad Hussain were released by HRD minister Brishen Patel at a function held here at Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library.

While the book entitled "Ehsas (The feeling)" is a collection of poems depicting individual relations, social contacts and cultural conflicts, the book entitled "Hamara Vyavahar -- Ek Manovaigyanik Evam Samajik Vishleshan" provides valuable tips for understanding human behaviour. Both the books have been published in Hindi and Urdu.

Maithili department: The Maithili department of PU organised the "Maithili Samman Diwas Samaroh" on the third anniversary of the inclusion of Maithili language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Department head Veena Karna called upon the scholars to work for enrichment of Maithili language and literature.

Maithili is likely to be introduced as a subject in various competitive examinations conducted by UPSC and BPSC, she added.

Convention of chemists: Patna Science College teacher Radha Kant Prasad and Magadh Mahila College teacher Bina Rani left Patna on Friday to attend the 43rd annual convention of chemists, 2006 being held at BRA Marathwada University, Aurangabad (Maharashtra), from December 23 to 27.

They will present their paper on "spectral and magnetic behaviour of some metal complexes."

I will not seek votes if I fail to deliver: Nitish

Charging the UPA government at the Centre with neglecting Bihar's development, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar yesterday said paucity of funds will not be allowed to impede the state's development and asserted he would not seek votes in the next Assembly elections if his government failed to deliver.

"My government is committed to development and in the brief time it has been in existence, positive changes are visible. In little over a year that we have been in power, fruits of progress have begun to be seen," he said addressing a public meeting here after laying foundation of various development schemes worth Rs 645 crore for this district.

Kumar said though the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was not coming forth with adequate assistance for Bihar, the state's NDA government would not allow the development projects to "starve" due to paucity of resources.

"We are going to invest Rs 8,000 crore in roads. Likewise we have plans to make huge investments in other infrastructure. There would be very positive changes over the next four years, he said addresing the public meeting at the local Degree college.

Kumar, often accused by his political adversaries for making "empty promises," reiterated his resolve to usher in a new era of progress and prosperity in Bihar.

"If my government fails to keep its promise of building a new and developed Bihar over the remaining four years of its tenure, I would not not seek votes in the next assembly polls," he said.

AchievementsEnumerating the achievements of his Government, Kumar said reservation of 50 per cent of seats for women in Panchayati Raj institutions was a "historic step."

The Chief Minister claimed the law and order situation has undergone a positive change after the NDA government came to power.

"In just one year, 6000 accused have been convicted of various crimes and of these over 1100 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Our endeavour to bring the criminals to justice has created fear of the law in the minds of anti-socials and respect among those who abide by it," he said.

Kumar said the government was actively considering a proposal for inter-linking of rivers to find a lasting solution to the recurrent problems of flood and drought in the state.

"If we succeed, the state would get rid of the twin- problems that have hindered our development for ages," he said.

Kumar also referred to the scheme under which people living below the poverty line would be provided coupons which they would hand over to public distribution system (PDS) dealers upon lifting foodgrains and kerosene at subsidised rates.

The dealers would be required to submit all the coupons collected by them to a government official and the number of coupons would form the basis for fixing the quantum of commodities the PDS outlet owners would be entitled to lift the next time.

"This has been done to check blackmarketing of foodgrains and other commodities meant for the poor. I am confident that the move would check irregularities in the PDS," he said.

Bhojpuri industry On a High

The glory of Bhojpuri films and culture is soaring new highs by the day. Recently actor-parliamentarian Govinda was appointed the official Brand Ambassador of the Bhojpuri Film Awards (BFA). The Union Minister for Food & Processing Industries, Subodhkant Sahay who was the chief guest of the function announced the actor’s name for the coveted post. It may be recalled that the year 2005 was a turning point when a young active and hardcore Bhojpuri film lover Vinod Gupta did something that no one dared to do in the last 45 years. He started the Bhojpuri Film Awards. He talks about his plans...

When do you plan to hold the next year’s awards ceremony?

We have planned to hold the 2nd Bhojpuri Film Awards on February 16 at the Goregaon Sports Club, the same venue where the ceremony was held last year. This time we have hired a bigger ground while the last year’s venue has been hired as a parking place for all VIP vehicles.

What do you feel is the reason for the growth of Bhojpuri films?

According to me, Bhojpuri films got a boost with the release of Sasura Bada Paisewala and since then there has been no looking back for the Bhojpuri film industry. Moreover, the Bhojpuri audience which likes to see more of their own culture has been ever-growing. And to top it all most films released after that have been successful.

Last year you had Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu as your chief guests at the function. Who do you plan to bring in this year?

Last year we started the awards as we felt the need to do something to encourage the Bhojpuri film industry. It was indeed touching that Dilipsaab and Sairaji consented to be a part of the ceremony. I am indebted to them forever and I was not surprised when an impressed Sairaji launched a Bhojpuri film after that. As for the next guest, we are going to spring a surprise.

After Ganga, do you think Bhojpuri films will go big-budget?

Firstly, I would like to thank Deepak Sawant for producing a Bhojpuri film even though he is a Maharashtrian. Talking about the budget, I feel that filmmakers shouldn’t broaden their budget. For incresing the budget would give rise to several problems as faced by the Hindi film industry.

Why did you choose Govinda as your brand ambassador?

Govinda’s roots lies in the Bhojpuri belt. His mother Nirmala Devi hails from Varanasi. In most of his films, Govinda has mouthed a lot of Bhojpuri dialogues. I was delighted when he said that he would be available to us whenever we needed him and that he would leave no stone unturned to serve the industry to the best of his abilities. In short we selected Govinda so that the Bhojpuri industry gets a further boost.

How would a common man get access to the awards ceremony?

Very soon we will start with the publicity. We shall be putting up hoardings across the city. All one has to do is to go and collect their passes from nominated centres.

Ivy league colleges seek out Lalu

Lalu Prasad Yadav has silenced critics by turning around the fortunes of the Railways.

As a result, he is now being feted by Ivy League management colleges that want an insight to Lalu's rail mantra.

It appears that the man who has more often than not made news for the wrong reasons is now set for an image makeover.

From a maverick politician to an able administrator, the man has single handedly set the Railway coffers ringing.

An invitation to give at a lecture at the prestigious IIM Ahmedabad forced one to sit back and take note of the Railway Minister, and now Lalu's popularity has gone past the seven seas.

In June this year, a beginning was made when he travelled to Europe to study their railway systems.

Management guru

On Wednesday, 137 students from Harvard and Wharton universities will come face to face with their new management guru.

"What is there to prepare? Whatever we do everyday we will tell them. I've been to their countries."

"Their railways are beautiful but running in losses, and that's why they are interested in us, to see how we have completely turned it around," said Lalu Prasad Yadav, Railway Minister.

There are reports that Lalu may visit the US next year. He has invitations from eight Ivy league colleges and universities to come and talk to the students.

But will his typical Bhojpuri accent serve his purpose?

"There will be translators but if any problem, whatever I have learnt in English I will speak. I am sure they will understand," said Lalu Prasad Yadav, Railway Minister.

After being written off by almost everyone, the Railways' profit now runs into crores, and clearly the minister is winning all the accolades.

A blind principal making a difference in poor children's lives in Gaya

A visually challenged man in Bihar, who has risen to become the Principal of a school, has become a source of inspiration for hundreds of schoolchildren.

Everyday when Shailesh Sinha enters any classroom as the principal of Doon Public High School in Gaya city, he gets a warm greeting by the entire classroom.

At ten years of age, Sinha lost his eyesight because of degeneration of the retina.

His parents took him to several doctors for treatment, including a specialist in China.

Though the Chinese doctor could not render medical help to Shailesh, he motivated him to keep learning, as nothing could come in the way of knowledge.

Shailesh completed his education, and has been impairing his knowledge.

With the government's encouragement, Shailesh started the Doon public High School, where he teaches children who cannot afford good education.

Interestingly, Shailesh can write on the board like any other person while most blind people use only Braille to read and write.

He is thorough with his work, explaining everything to his students in detail.

The students adore Shailesh, who is their greatest source of inspiration. Most of them love him for his dedication."My principal is blind but still he teaches us, deals with it very well from point to point...we understand everything he explains to us," said Sagar Kumar, a student.

"It feels really good. We don't even realise that he is blind...he teaches very well," said Varsha, another adulating student.

"I tell the children in the beginning itself that you have to pay attention to what I teach, and not on my writing.... And the children are very understanding," says Shailesh.

Shailesh has made an everlasting impact on the underprivileged children.

Polio cases rise to 50 this year in Bihar

Despite umpteen rounds of the pulse polio immunisation programme in the State, two fresh cases of poliomyelitis were reported in Bihar last week. With this, the total number of children afflicted with the debilitating disease in the State rose to 50 this year. The figure in 2005 was 30.

The two new cases were detected in East Champaran and Sitamarhi. What has worried the doctors is that both the kids had been administered polio drops more than four times. Other children, who were afflicted with the disease this year, had also been immunised against the virus.

When contacted, State immunisation officer Dr Gopal Krishna confirmed the development and said that medical officers of the districts concerned were trying to find out the causes that led to the new cases. "May be, the immunity level of the children was low," he added.

Eight rounds of the PPI programme had been carried out in the current year. With 50 cases of poliomyelitis, Bihar ranks next to Uttar Pradesh, where 501 patients were detected this year alone.

The other cases were reported from Haryana (16), Uttaranchal (13), Punjab (7), Maharashtra (5), Gujarat (3), Madhya Pradesh (3), Assam (2) and one each reported from Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand.

Bihar third among States in child marriage

A large number of girls in Bihar are married before they turn 18, the minimum age prescribed by the law, posing a serious threat to their lives and that of their children.

In Bihar, the average age of a girl at marriage is 17.2 years, third after Rajasthan (16.6 years) and Madhya Pradesh (17 years), according to a recent report of the UNICEF.

While an alarming 80 per cent of girls get married below the age of 18 in West Champaran district, it is 73 per cent in Nawada, around 70 per cent in Kaimur and Rohtas and 66 per cent in Madhepura district.

According to a report of the Population Foundation of India, the situation was comparatively better in Siwan, Katihar, Purnia and Saran districts where the girls married off before they attained 18 years of age were 43 per cent, 47.5 per cent, 48.2 per cent and 51.3 per cent respectively.

In Patna district, hardly 40 per cent of girls below the legally permissible age get married and this could be attributed to higher percentage of literacy. At 52.7 per cent, Patna has the highest female literacy rate among districts in Bihar.

The UNICEF's latest report on the state of the world's children says parents consent to child marriage out of economic necessity, or because they believe marriage will protect girls from sexual assault and pregnancy outside marriage, extend girl's child-bearing years or ensure obedience to their husband's household.

Senior gynaecologist and professor at Magadh Medical College and Hospital Reena Singh said premature pregnancy and motherhood were inevitable consequences of child marriage.

Admitting that there was a rise in cases of pregnancy out of the wedlock among adolescent girls, she said "Many of these pregnant girls who throng various private nursing homes and hospitals are hardly 14-15 years old".

Singh also said that several married pregnant girls, particularly from rural areas, were unable to tell their age and during examination it was found that a fairly large number of them were well below 18 years.

Girls under 15 years of age are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. If a mother is under 18 years of age, her baby's chance of dying in the first year of life is 60 per cent greater than that of a baby born to a mother older than 19.

Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth-weight, undernutrition and late physical and cognitive development.

Besides, according to the UNICEF report, girls who marry at a very young age are also more vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse and are less likely to complete even primary education.

Singh said the government, besides clamping down on those promoting child marriage, should also launch an awareness campaign against the practice in a big way to sensitise the people to the inherent dangerous consequences for both the individual and the society.

In Bihar, where 61 out of every 1000 newly born die immediately after birth, the need for effective enforcement of the law banning child marriage and public awareness about the hazards is even more pressing, she said.

Manoj Bajpai builds up Bihar village

Actor Manoj Bajpai has been silently working out ways to develop his native village in Bihar while he spends time there away from the glamour of Bollywood.

Bajpai, of Satya fame, arrived in West Chaparan district's Belwa village, 300 km from here, a few days ago to spend time with his family and friends but has been busy chalking out a development strategy for the backward area.

The actor has joined hands with his friend Gayandeo Mani Tripathi, who plans to set up an organisation for rural development.

"I decided to work with my friend Tripathi as he is setting up an organisation for development in rural areas, so I suggested that he open it in my village," said Bajpai.

He, however, refused to disclose the details of his project and said he would come up with something concrete soon.

Bajpai, known for the portrayal of intense roles, said material gains are not everything in life, as they don't satisfy the soul.

"I am in my village to satisfy my inner soul by contributing something to the development of my village," he remarked.

The actor said he had given 13 years to Bollywood and 11 years to theatre, "But I now decided to give some time for self-satisfaction".

He his hectic schedule in Mumbai had made it difficult for him to visit Belwa more often. "After living in Mumbai, I had become distanced from my village and now I would like to fill that gap."

Bajpai was reportedly enjoying the greenery of Belwa and loved talking to villagers in chaste Bhojpuri.

On the acting front, Bajpai is now looking forward to the release of his next film 1971 and hopes audiences will appreciate it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sugar majors may defer Bihar plans

Sugar majors may put their Bihar plans on hold owing to bleak outlook in the sector.

The fall in domestic sugar prices to Rs 1,650 per quintal from Rs 1,850 a quintal last year, coupled with the worldwide glut, has led the companies to delay their plans by almost a year.

Dhampur Sugar, which was planning to set up a Rs 185 crore plant of 3500 tonne crushed daily (tcd) capacity atMadhepura , has postponed the plan till 2008. The plant, equipped with power generation and distillery facility, was expected to go on stream by October 2007.

“The project is still on. But we have deferred the investment plans. The unit is likely to become operational only from 2008”, said Gaurav Goel, joint managing director, Dhampur Sugar.

Rajshree Sugars and Chemicals (RSCL) had announced setting up of two 5000 tcd integrated sugar complexes in Bihar at an investment of Rs 500 crore.

The sites identified were East Champaran and Madhubani. The mills were also supposed to have distillery and cogeneration facilities.

“The sugar mills are likely to become operational only in the sugar year 2008-09 (October-September)”, said Rajshree Pathy, chairman and managing director, RSCL

The ultimate gainer will be K K Birla’s Oudh Sugar Mills and Upper Ganges Sugar Mills which have increased their capacity in Bihar from 10,700 to 11,700 tcd this season. The capacity would rise to 14,200 tcd in the 2007-08 season and to 17,500 tcd in 2008-09.

This would include the expansion at Sidhwalia unit from 2500 to 5000 tcd (2007-08) and at Hasanpur unit from 1700 to 5000 tcd in 2008-09, according to C S Nopany, chairman and managing director of Oudh Sugar Mills.

With all these additions, the company would continue to remain the biggest sugar player in Bihar.

Bihar had received investment proposals from various sugar companies such as India Glycols, Kamlapur Sugar and Industries, Ganesh Sugar Mills, etc after the Nitish Kumar government came up with an investment policy that offered fiscal incentives to companies investing Rs 250 crore and above.

The proposals are considered to be an important achievement of the Nitish Kumar government.

Govt scheme boon for Bihar women - 50% reservation

Despite the government's efforts, dowry deaths continue.

But the Bihar government's 50 per cent reservation scheme for women in Panchayat and government schools has worked better than anticipated.

Ever since Abhilasha Kumari began working as a Panchayat teacher at a district school in Champaran district, she's had reason to smile.

"Ever since I got this job, my family's respect for me has grown. And there have been marriage proposals from boys' families," said Abhilasha.

Good initiative

She's not the only one. An initiative of the Nitish Kumar government to empower women in the state by reserving 50 per cent Panchayat jobs has had an unexpected fallout.

The young teachers have suddenly become very eligible and young men are now queuing up to marry them.

"Now my parents don't have to worry," said Premlata Kumari, teacher.

The locals say it's not really hopes of a fat dowry that's bringing the marriage proposals, but the reassurance of a steady source of income.

"Usually the girl's family has to worry a lot about dowry. But now that will not be a problem," said a villager.

"Lots of important people come, they say they will marry for free," added another.

It's not just the reservation for women in the Panchayat. Women in the Panchayat have gone ahead and employed even more women and as a result far more women across the state are now not just empowered but also very sought after.

Nepalis 'occupy' 205 acres in Bihar

The Indo-Nepal border may fast turn into another flashpoint between the two south Asian neighbours. Forcible occupation of 205 acres of land by alleged Nepali citizens along the 'no man's land' near in Kishanganj district has begun rankling Indian authorities here.

The border has earlier been a contentious issue because of the Nepali Maoist threat, especially as Indian paramilitary forces say it is used freely by the Red brigade to smuggle arms and ammunition back and forth along the border and to meet their Indian counterparts.

S Yaiskul Singh, second-in-command of the 21st battalion of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), told reporters that due to the change in the course of the river Mechhi, which actually demarcates the Indo-Nepal border on the Indian side, 205 acre of fertile land alongside the No-Man's land now falls on Nepal's side. "Nepalese citizens living in the vicinity have now illegally occupied the land and are also tilling it. Huge chunks of land have also been brought under tea plantation," he said.

SSB sources said before the induction of the popular government when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak, the Red brigade had planted 87 flags in the area. "The bunkers and flags planted by insurgents were uprooted," Singh said, adding that the Maoists had also tried to dismantle the border pillars marking the demarcation.

The land, which is near Kurlikot village under Thakurganj police station in Kishanganj district, continues to be under alleged Nepali occupation despite repeated requests. The Nepali authorities concerned have not taken necessary steps to vacate them, Singh claimed.

"Though the matter was repeatedly raked up at high-level meetings, the Nepal authorities only appear to duck the issue," he said.

Japanese bank to fund road project in Bihar

Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni announced a plan to develop the Buddhist circuit by laying world-class road network.

The Japanese Bank of International Co-operation will fund the conversion project of the existing 320 km of bumpy roads into a smooth four-lane highway in Bihar's Buddhist circuit zone, an official said.

The Buddhist circuit includes the famous Bodh Gaya, Rajgrih, Nalanda and Vaishali.

'The Japanese bank has agreed in principle to fund the project in the Buddhist circuit. The state government will submit a feasibility report to the bank by February,' said R.K. Singh, secretary, road construction department Saturday.

The bank has been keen to develop the roads in the Buddhist circuit for the last two years. It is estimated the bank would invest Rs.2 billion in the project.

The news about the funding came when the Buddhist circuit is celebrating 2,550 years of Buddha's Parinirvana. The Unesco had already declared the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, the birthplace of Buddhism, a World Heritage Site in 2002.

The existing roads connecting Buddhist holy shrines in Bihar are in such a bad shape that they discourage foreign tourists to visit them.

'Several foreign tourists have complaints about the bad roads in the state,' said a state tourism official.

Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni announced a plan to develop the Buddhist circuit by laying world-class road network.

She said such a network must be created linking Bodh Gaya, the seat of Buddha's enlightenment, to other Buddhist destinations like Nalanda and Rajgrih.

Blueprint for growth, from CM

Bihar today became the first state to issue an "approach paper" on achieving its development objectives for the 11th five-year plan and fixed an ambitious 8.5 per cent growth rate target for 2007-12.

The paper focuses on the state's "factor advantages" of a young demography, rich gri-potential and ability to improve educational-health parameters as the key elements to achieve its targets.

"The paper visualises a growth rate of 8.5 per cent compared to an average of 5.6 per cent in the years 2001-02 to 2004-05 according to estimates of the Planning Commission. This involves agriculture growing at a minimum of 5 per cent (with effort, according to the Planning Commission, it can grow at 7 per cent), industry at 11 per cent and services at 10 per cent," said the synopsis of the paper released by chief minister Nitish Kumar.

The high growth target planned by the government, the paper claims,would eventually wipe out the unemployment backlog and also take care of the fresh accretion to the labour force.

The 124-page document enlists all core sectors that need to be focused on for achieving the targets and it lays special emphasis on agriculture, infrastructure and the social sector. "Education, which comes under the concurrent list, is an instrument to develop human resources. We have requested the Centre to bring it under the plan head instead of the revenue head so that more money can be spent on
education," the chief minister said.

Nitish asserted that the state had consciously fixed a higher growth rate than the one suggested by the National Development Council. "Even these targets can be revised upwards. We are certain of our performance because full budgeting exercise for the next fiscal will be completed by March and development work will start
from April. The work will be closely monitored," he added.

The paper states that the government is committed to catalysing private investment in the state and asserts that in the industry sector, sugar, tea processing and entertainment offer a "good promise".

"The State Investment Board has already approved 66 proposals with investment of over Rs 26,000 crore, including mega projects for production of ethanol from maize and sugarcane juice. It has also approved 19 new sugar mills. A transparent land policy is on the anvil.

"This, along with setting up of industrial parks, technical education, ITIs and the growth pole scheme and development of backward regions through cluster development programme, will give added thrust to secure larger private investment," states the paper.

Deputy chairperson of the state planning board N.K. Singh said the low growth rate of earlier years was due to poor infrastructure.

"Bihar has learnt from its past experience and will not allow the future to be a hostage of the past," he said.

http://www.telegrap 1061226/asp/ jamshedpur/ story_7185239. as

[Hope and pray that the present govt start the real work has
been doing lip service for too long time now...]

Bihar needs Rs 1,66,593 cr for GDP growth

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday an investment of Rs 1,66,593 crore would be required for in Bihar during 11th five-year-plan for achieving a growth of 8.5 per cent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The vision paper for the plan was approved by the state Cabinet. Kumar said that while Rs 58,310 crore would be collected through state resources, while Rs 1,08,283 crore would be mobilised from private investments.

During preparation of vision papers, special emphasis had been laid for improvement in health, water resources, education, industries and rural sectors, Kumar said.

He said the state government would soon take up an ambitious plan of interlinking of rivers in Bihar which would increase the availability of water for irrigation in the state.

Kumar added that he had urged the Centre for investment in oil refineries and petrochemicals in the state.

BIHAR becomes the first State in the country where RTI will be just a phone call away

If you want to exercise your right to information, all you have to do is reach for your telephone. That is, if you are in Bihar.

"For better implementation of the Right to Information, we need a system where in people can call up and get the information," Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar says.

Right to Information (RTI) has moved one step forward in Bihar with the state government setting up a call centre so that RTI applicants can call to ask for details and information.

The call centre will then apply to the department concerned and pass the information back to the applicant. And thanks to the new software, callers will now be able to use several languages including Hindi, Maithili and Bhojpuri.

“This call centre will speed up the process. We want the use of modern technology to get the work done properly. And the most important point is that the process should be followed in the right manner,” a very meticulous Nitish Kumar explains.

The Chief Minister sounds quite convincing but how have conventional on-paper RTI applications fared in the state? Official figures aren't that promising.

Out of around 500 applications sent to various departments, only 112 have been attended to so far. But the Chief Minister says that information will be provided at all costs.

“We are still following the conventional method. But we haven’t received any complaints so far. However, one did not have any alternative till now,” Nitish Kumar says.

With the new phone-in service, Bihar will soon become the first state in the country where RTI will be just a phone call away. And the hassles of processing an application can be avoided altogether.

It's been long since Bihar made news for the right reasons. The much talked about RTI is one area, in which Bihar is taking the lead for others to follow. If implemented in its true spirit, it could actually be a boon for the masses.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Year of hope, despair for Bihar

A governor bowing out of office after being pronounced guilty of constitutional impropriety by the apex court, the high and mighty of the political class getting hauled up for being caught on the wrong side of the law and a State struggling to shed the image mired in crime and corruption, 2006 was a year of hope and despair for Bihar.

It was a year in which the State's NDA Government, starting out on a huge reserve of goodwill and enormous burden of people's aspirations after 15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime, raised new hopes of economic and social sector revival while keeping under check age-old caste conflicts and naxalite violence.

Two months and two days after the birth of the Nitish Kumar Government, time finally ran out Buta Singh as Governor.

On January 26, Singh, who was on January 24 indicted by the Supreme Court for his "drastic and extreme" recommendation for dissolution of the still-born 13th Assembly and imposition of central rule on May 23, 2005, after the elections threw up a hung house, exited from office.

Holding as "unconstitutional" the dissolution, a five- judge bench of the apex court by a 3:2 verdict said the drastic and extreme action under Article 356 cannot be justified on the mere whims and fancies of the Governor.

Clearly, the Governor misled the Council of Ministers which led to the advice being given to the President leading to the issue of Presidential proclamation.

The irony could not be missed as Buta had to relinquish office on the day when the nation celebrated the 57th anniversary of the birth of the Republic.

In a State where the dividing line between politics and crime has got blurred, the year gone by was full of bad tidings for muscle-flexing politicians as law finally appeared to be catching up with them.

Mohd Shahabuddin and Sadhu Yadav, the mighty mascots of the State's erstwhile ruling RJD, found themselves behind bars.

On January 2, Shahabuddin, the Siwan MP, was chargesheeted in four cases, including that of sedition in connection with the recovery of firearms of foreign make and ammunition with Pakistan ordnance factory markings from his house at Pratappur during a raid in April last year.

Sadhu Yadav, brother-in-law of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, often in the news for wrong reasons, was chargesheeted in the Rs 18 crore- flood relief scam on April 10. The MP from Gopalganj had to surrender to a vigilance court in a case of alleged forgery and cheating, an off-shoot of the scam, on December four and was sent to judicial custody.

A warrant of arrest was also pending against Sadhu for assaulting a candidate for the post of Phulwaria block development committee chief Dinesh Sahu for refusing to obey his diktat to withdraw in favour of Kunti Devi, wife of Lalu's elder brother Gulab Rai.

Samajwadi Party's State President and Phulparas MLA Deonath Yadav was handed down life sentence by a Madhubani court in a 14-year-old murder case, while suspended JD(U) MLA from Piro Suni Pandey was sent to judicial remand for an extortion demand from a construction company in Aurangabad.

Even while the courts dealt with cases against dons- turned- politicians, the nascent NDA Government, whose Chief Minister had promised to make the State crime-free within three months of coming to power, realised it was easier said than done.

On the very first day of the year, Bihar woke up to the shocking news of a woman and her five kids being roasted alive in their hut at Rampur-Shyamchand village in Vaishali district over a dispute of cattle theft.

Around the same time when the Chief Minister was preparing to deliver his address to the superintendents of police to ensure speedy trial and conviction of the kidnappers on July 17, the son of a suspended official of Animal Husbandry department and a fodder scam accused O P Diwakar, was abducted on way to school.

Though Bihar remained largely free from any caste, communal or naxalite violence, Papya Ghosh, a professor at Patna university and historian of repute, was stabbed to death at her Patna residence on December three triggering widespread protests. Arun Tiwari, a VSNL engineer, too was stabbed to death in front of the Patna Women's college where Ghosh once taught.

Though the NDA Government raised a 5000-strong special auxiliary police comprising ex-servicemen to tackle naxalites and criminals, how daunting the task of controlling crime is can be imagined by the fact that an official list was furnished to the High Court containing names of over 150 policemen, including three IPS officers, facing criminal charge including extortion and murder.

Even as it fought locally-bred crime, the State received with disbelief the news of arrest of Kamal Ahmed Ansari, a Pak-trained militant and Khalid Shaikh from Madhubani district in connection with the July 11 coordinated blasts in Mumbai's commuter trains.

The State had its own share of page-3 gossip and controversy when Ranjana Jha, a woman from Supaul district, accosted acclaimed Bollywood singer Udit Narayan at a posh city hotel claiming herself to be his first wife. The "Papa Kahte Hain" singer initially denied association but, under pressure from women's groups, ultimately accepted Ranjana as his first wife.

Nitish Kumar, who was judged the best Chief Minister on the basis of opinion polls conducted by various media organisations, took the historic step of reserving 50 per cent of seats at all levels of Panchayati Raj institutions for women.

The Government began the exercise of recruiting 2.36 lakh teachers for primary, middle and secondary schools to pull education out of the morass it had got stuck into.

A common school commission was constituted to suggest way and means for removal of dual system of schooling by establishing commons schools for both rich and the poor.

Seven medical colleges were proposed to be set up in the private sector and Nitish Kumar made a pitch for the NRIs to invest in Bihar at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Hyderabad promising a slew of tax concessions and waivers.

The Planning Commission raised Bihar's annual plan size for 2006-07 to Rs 8250 crore, Rs 2850 crore more than the previous year.

An administrative reforms commission was set up to recommend measures for improvement in the functioning of the administrative machinery by making it modern, people-oriented, sensitive and effective.

To instill confidence among the minorities and bring justice to the Bhagalpur communal riots victims of 1989, a judicial commission was constituted to probe afresh cases which were closed by the police citing "lack of evidence." The riots had claimed over 1000 lives, mostly Muslims.

The State was jolted when a 140-year-old overbridge being dismantled near Bhagalpur Railway station came crashing down on Howrah-Jamalpur Express train killing 35 passengers on December two.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kerala tops literacy chart, Bihar at the bottom

Kerala tops the list of states in terms of literacy while the rural areas of Bihar have the worst literacy rate even as around 50% of people in the age group of 5-29 years have not gone to any educational institution.

According to a recent National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report, the literacy rate in India during 2004-05 was 64%, with Kerala having 83% of its rural population and 85% of its urban residents as literate. Bihar's rural areas had the lowest literacy rate — 44% — while the urban literacy rate was lowest in Rajasthan at 64%.

The survey also found that only about 50% of the people in the age group of 5-29 were currently attending any educational institution. They included 53% males and 46% females.

Among the states, the attendance rate was highest (60%) in Haryana and lowest (42%) in Orissa. While 63% of all these students were in government institutions, about 17% of students were studying in private unaided institutions and 14% were attached to private aided institutes.

A meagre 6% of them were attending the local body institutions, the survey on 'status of education and vocational training in India — 2004-05' said.

Majority of males, who were away from education, attributed it 'to supplement household income'. Similarly, girls cited attending 'domestic chores', the survey found. In the age group of 15-29 years, about 2% reported to have received formal vocational training and another 8% reported to have received non-formal vocational training.

In about 26% of households in rural areas and about 8% of households in urban areas, there was not a single member above 15 years who could read and write a simple message, the survey said. About 50% of rural households and 20% of urban households had no literates among female members of age 15 years and above, it said.

Idea may start mobile operations in Mumbai, Bihar by mid 2007

The competition among mobile service providers in the lucrative Mumbai market may hot up with the Aditya Birla Group's Idea getting the licence for the circle, where it could launch new service by mid-2007.

The Government granted two licences for the Mumbai and Bihar circles to Idea, which is expected to hit the market with its Initial Public Offer in February to mop up Rs 2,500 crore, earlier this month, sources said.

While no official comment could be obtained from the company, sources in the know said that Idea would strive to offer services to subscribers in these two circles in 6-8 months and investment for the purpose could be upwards of Rs 1,500 crore.

This is part of the Rs 6000 crore investment the company has lined up for its pan-Indian expansion over the next two to three years.

Idea, currently operating in 11 circles, including Delhi, had earlier obtained Letters of Intent for Mumbai and Bihar circles, which would give the company access to approximately 70 per cent of the cellular market. The company has also applied for new licenses for another nine circles.

The company will hit the capital market in February next year to raise Rs 2,500 crore. The proceeds from the IPO would be used for expansion of services in the existing circles, roll out of new network in Mumbai, start National Long Distance (NLD) operations and redemption of preferential share.

Drunk Muslim says divorce, Bihar village enforces it

divorce pronounced by a Muslim man in an inebriated condition has come to haunt him, as he has been forced to live away from his wife and children by villagers led by orthodox religious leaders.

Mohammed Mokhtar was forcibly separated from his wife Sakina Khatoon and their children in Parbodhi village near Hajipur in Vaishali district, 35 km from here, by some villagers.

Compelled to adhere to the interpretation of the Muslim law by a local religious group, Mokhtar was upset and frustrated for being separated.

The man reportedly shouted 'talaq' (divorce) thrice to her wife in a drunken state following a domestic quarrel few days ago.

'I frankly and honestly admit that even if I pronounced divorce to my wife, it was in a drunken condition. I hardly recall that I did it,' Mokhtar told IANS over phone.

'I requested people to forgive me if I pronounced divorce in an inebriated condition but some village men forced us to live separately,' he said.

Sakina said she was willing to live with her husband but preferred to live separately due to the social pressure.

Maulana Inamul Haque, a religious leader in the village, said: 'Alcohol is prohibited in Islam. If someone consumed it and then pronounced divorce, it will be accepted as divorce.'

Mokhtar's case has been referred to the Imarat Sharia, a religious body at Phulwarisharief near Patna.

Those following orthodox religious dictates say that if Sakina wishes to reunite with him, she could undergo the practice of halala, that is, marry another man and obtain a divorce from him in order to eventually reunite with Mokhtar.

'I will commit suicide if this happened. I am against her marriage with somebody else before reuniting with me,' Mokhtar said.

While halala is a common practice in the Muslim community, a Muslim couple in Orissa - Najma Biwi and Sher Ali - were reunited this year without it after a court intervened.

South African seeks his roots in Bihar - without any clue

He is not the first South African of Indian origin to come to Bihar to trace the roots of his forefathers. But he is different - because he does not even know the name of the village his ancestors came from.

But Girija Sani Singh, 67, is in Bihar with his Gujarati wife Urmila Singh, determined to trace the truth nevertheless.

The couple is not finding that easy because they don't know Hindi.

'I know it is not an easy task, I am trying to do everything for it,' said Girija Singh, dressed in a flower-patterned colourful shirt and trousers.

'I was simply overwhelmed and turned emotional when arriving in Bihar because of my blood connections with the land. I felt something special, something unique,' he told IANS.

Girija Singh said he was associated with former South African president Nelson Mandela during the fight against apartheid and was in prison for 11 years from 1963 to 1974.

According to him, his grandfather migrated from a village in Bihar in 1910 to South Africa and worked as a labourer in a sugar factory. He later settled in Durban.

'I have little information about the name of my grandfather's village and its location. But it is in Bihar,' Girija Singh said.

He has approached government officials who have assured him necessary cooperation in his mission.

Girija Singh said he felt embarrassed at his inability to speak Hindi. 'I am sorry I cannot speak in Hindi - the language of my forefathers. It is due to the cultural transformation over the years.'

But the couple love to watch Bollywood films and mentioned 'Lagaan' and 'Mangal Pandey', both starring Amir Khan. 'I was impressed by both films,' Girija Singh said.

Urmila's family hails from Gujarat. They migrated to South Africa in 1912. But she is in touch with her people in Ahmedabad.

When South Africa won the battle against apartheid in 1990 with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years, Girija Singh was invited by Mandela to serve in the new government led by him.

He joined the South African police intelligence and retired from the service last month. He got married in 1992.

This year, a few Indian-origin people managed to trace their family roots in Bihar, thanks to the efforts of the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA).

A large number of people from Bihar migrated to Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Surinam, South Africa and other countries in the 19th century to serve as indentured labour on sugarcane and rubber plantations.

Many descendants are now eager to locate the families of their forefathers in India.

Last year, the Bihar government launched a special tourism package called 'Root Tourism' aimed at helping people of Bihar origin wishing to retrace their roots and visit their native villages.

There are over two million PIOs in the Caribbean islands - over 500,000 in Trinidad and Tobago, around 400,000 in Guyana, over 60,000 in Jamaica and over 2,000 in Barbados. Mauritius is home to 700,000 PIOs while over 300,000 PIOs live in Fiji.

Bihar Chronicle- A New Begining

Today on the dawn of 2007, we realise that Bihar is Changing. In last couple of days we had have couple of good new. i.e.

- Resurrection of Nalanda University
- Starting the Road Project in Patna
- Proposal for Setting up NIFT campus in BIHAR
- National Highways Developement - Phase III giving bihar nearly 900 KMS of
highways connection all major cities in BIHAR
- Proposal for setting up an IIT in BIHAR
- Global meeting in JAN for a Resurgent BIHAR

and many more like this.

In such an environment in which the wind of chages are blowing from all direction it it imperative to give my BIHAR something new from my side. This feeling prompted me to launc this blog. The objective is to give plateform to all the good news which are not covered or reported elsewhere are covered on this Blog.

I invite BIHARI people all across the globe to come joing this plateform and contribute in thier own unique way to give BIHAR a voice.

Best Regards,