Patna today is seen as a source of hope emerging at the grassroots, as individuals and organisations, including the government make efforts at creating a city with new commitments to bring in new vistas of opportunities, creating employment, adding colour, vision and value to every neighbourhood, business centres and the pathways that dot Bihar's capital city.
There is indeed some good news to begin with. The World Bank's Doing Business in India 2009 report has adjudged Bihar's capital city, Patna ahead of Mumbai and second only to New Delhi when it comes to launching a new business initiative.
In fact, Patna's rating is above Chennai, Kochi and Kolkata in the overall ranking for facilitating smooth business, says the World Bank Report.
Kargil Chauk, Patna
In short, Patna appears promising. And even though the city still has promises to keep Patna today - the capital city of Bihar- means prosperity.
As we move towards 2010, Patna, located on the banks of Ganga, appears flooded with opportunities. The city is at the threshold of an economic renaissance, which has pushed up the paying capacity of the residents. Slowly but surely, Patna is emerging as a growth centre.
According to ASSOCHAM's study of the employment scenario in India between April and October 2009-10, Patna registered a growth of 20.52 percent in job creation.
Among the Tier II cities, Patna is placed behind Vishakapatnam (115.21 per cent), Indore (60.00 per cent), Bhubaneswar (49.49 per cent), and Jaipur (28.74 per cent) and is registering major growth in job creation during April to October 2009-10 as compare to the same period in 2008-09.
The ranking assumes special significance since cities like Bhopal, Amritsar, Gwalior and Ludhiana have witnesses a decline in job creation by 26.68 per cent, 9.60 per cent, 6.27 per cent and 3.94 per cent, respectively.
Prosperity indeed is writ large on Patna roads. The rise in number of vehicles plying on Patna roads is a huge indicator to this effect.
In the last one year, there has been a growth of 39 percent in private vehicles and 67 percent rise in the commercial vehicles plying across Patna.
In 2008-09, a total of 21,594 vehicles were registered. The number shot up to 30,229 by October 2009. 3,008 passenger vehicles were registered in 2008-09, which shot up to 5,025 till October.
In fact, Patna -- where the number of vehicles in 2007 was 1.75 lakh -- today is bustling with 2.93 lakh vehicles till October 2009 -- a rise by 67 percent in just two years.
The general perception suggests that a big thrust on development has given Bihar the forward momentum, besides increasing the money volume in the market, which has resulted in a corresponding rise in the purchasing power.
Things are looking up in Patna. The last few years have seen families having late dinner at restaurants. The shopping outlets in downtown Patna are chock-a-block, and the real estate business is booming while commanding a never before price tag in the city.
This is, however, just part of the story. Patna needs to expand, as the existing city just does not have a matching infrastructure ready to accommodate everything that the city currently has.
Patna is struggling in terms of infrastructure strength, which is inadequate to cater to the growing population. It desperately needs more flyovers, better roads and end of water-logging to join the big league of developed cities.
Several foreign financial institutions like World Bank and Asian Development Bank have offered to help Bihar towards infrastructure development under the urban development ministry.
In fact, the existing infrastructure in terms of roads and space is so grimly inadequate that the Patna High Court recently asked the Government of Bihar to speed up the decision-making process on the proposed master plan for the State Capital.
While hearing a PIL on illegal apartments, the HC also suggested the Urban development Department to take steps for developing areas adjoining Patna to ease pressure on the State capital.
The good news is that the Urban Development Department has plans to develop Maner and Fatuha as satellite towns and also improves Hajipur and Sonepur in order to shift the population pressure coming to Patna urban area.
The Patna Regional Development Authority (PRDA) has charted out a plan to this effect, although the pace of its implementation has left a lot to be desired.
In fact, if the authorities including the city planners succeed in developing Patna in accordance with the requirements of time, the capital of Bihar will surely be a place to watch in the coming future.
The Patna Urban Agglomeration Area had a population of 16.98 lakhs as per the 2001 Census while the municipal corporation area of Patna had a population of 13.66 lakh (2001 Census).
The population of the Urban Agglomeration Area is expected to be 22.50 lakhs in the year 2011 and 28.01 lakhs in the year 2021. In addition the floating population who commute from districts to the Patna Urban Agglomeration Area each day is expected to be 3.00 lakhs by 2021 against around 2.00 lakhs at present.
In the years to come the existing planned residential area of 8938 hectares would go up to 14,609.57 hectares in another decade. At present, the planned residential area in Patna is 641 hectares while for apartments it is 242 hectares.
By 2021, the face of the city will change dramatically. There are plans of expanding the residential area to 8014.70 hectares. Correspondingly, the commercial space will go up to 514.9 hectares whereas 1073.91 hectares of space is to be earmarked for community space.
In addition to this, over 3000 hectares of green land, 1709.44 hectares of internal roads and 88.74 hectares of infrastructure area are to be created.
The authorities have planned to increase the areas for clubs, cinema halls, theatres, parks and playgrounds to 990 hectares from the existing 224 hectares.
Similarly in a decade to come, efforts would be made to reduce the existing land occupied by administrative offices of the government, educational and medical institutions, religious, archaeological and historical sites and graveyards and cremation ghats -- which is currently over 691 hectares There will be 800 hectares of 30 and 20-metre wide roads.
The area for clubs, cinema halls, theatres, parks and playgrounds is to be increased from 224 to over 990 hectares. There is a proposal for 60 metre-wide roads in Patna occupying a space of over 681.98 hectares,
All this, however, is yet to happen. But, the plan surely gives an idea that a focussed development and expansion of Patna is on the cards.
Being surrounded by three rivers, Patna also has a constraint of growth on the northern side due to River Ganga, southern side due to River Punpun and eastern due to Sone.
Moreover the topography of Patna is like a saucer due to the surrounding three rivers and thus drainage of the city poses as a major problem and pumping of water our seems to be the only solution at present. The city is also prone to flooding.
The Human Development Index (HDI) in Patna, however, needs some focussed thrust. The HDI is the more widely used means of measuring well being, which takes into account additional indicators like per capita income, along with life expectancy and literacy rate of a society.
Life expectancy in Bihar is 61 years, almost on par with the national life expectancy of 62.7 years. Patna's capita gross district domestic product of Rs 31,441. Patna also has the highest per capita saving in the state at Rs 675, highest per-capita fuel consumption and the highest per capita income at Rs 6,958.
Across the state, the city also has highest per capita spending share on health and education (in 2006-07) at Rs 674 and Rs 5,633. The literacy rate of Patna Urban Agglomeration area is 68.9%, which is higher than the literacy rate of the State i.e. 47.53%.
The state government also appears to making some concentrated efforts by increased expenditure on social services to improve the HDI (Human Development Indices). There are attempts at providing better access to basic education, health services, safe drinking water, sanitation, housing etc.
In Bihar, the total expenditure on social services in 2008 has gone up to Rs 10666 crore (35 percent salary component), which is up from 4197 crore of 2003-04.
It includes health and family welfare, water supply, sanitation, housing and urban development, education, sports, arts & culture and other social services.
In fact, in 2007-08, the total expenditure on social services was more than one third of the total expenditure and 48 percent of the total development expenditure.
These efforts may positively impact the ground situation, as Bihar has been at the lowest position among the major states in India in 1981, 1991 and 2001. The same pattern is replete in its ranking with respect to Per Capita Income.
The spin offs of the prosperity is also visible across the board with Patna people expressing a pronounced consumer behaviour with larger disposable income.
The megatrend of consumerism is revamping Patna's economic structure, besides fuelling business growth in the city. Similarly, the retail industry here is also developing fast with improving business environment and rising income levels.
No wonder, Patna has also caught the attention of real estate developers, and a number of projects in both the segments of commercial and residential are underway.
However, the demands for space have come from sectors like banking, insurance, finance, telecom, coaching and educational institutes etc. According to an estimate, more than 10 million sq ft structure is being created to meet the demand.
Patna has also witnessed a huge influx of business organisations coming to the city, while the existing ones have been on an expansion mode thus generating hundreds of jobs in the private sector.
Advantage of cost is one big factor that makes Patna a preferred destination for business and real estate activities. At times when capital values at metros go as high as Rs 30,000 per sq ft, prices here are seemingly moderate.
In terms of retail business, although many big names are yet to set up shops in Patna but huge departmental stores like Vishal Mega Mart, Patliputra Shoppers Plaza, and Khetan Super Market have already emerged successful in drawing huge number of consumers.
Quite a few mall-cum-multiplexes are also likely to come up in a year time at Patna. These malls will have exclusive shops, showrooms and offices, besides silver screens with excellent acoustics, coffee house, and food court, with escalators and capsule lift.
From a production Market focussed on rest of the country, Patna is turning into an equally good consumption market much more focussed on selling to itself.
Clearly, what's happening in Patna is by far the most important development in Bihar. The policy makers want to develop Patna for rest of the state to follow. Patna has begun its journey.
Strength: Advantage of large labour force. Well developed service sector. In fact, the Economy is witnessing a shift towards services, much before industrialisation, mostly driven by a buoyant urban economy
Weakness: Unavailability of land
Opportunity: Huge potential for tourism, as the city has a large variety of historical monuments (Like Golghar) from Maurya to Gupta age and down to the Colonial British Rule. It is the gateway to the Buddhist & Jain pilgrim centres of Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Bodhgaya and Pawapuri.
Patna can also develop as a major education centre. New centres of Indian Institute of Technology and National Institute of Fashion Technology are already here, besides an extension centre of BIT Mesra and a good business school, Chandragupta Institute of Management.
Threat: Poor infrastructure, poor HDI in addition to a negative sex ratio 873 female against 1000 males.
The Biggest Brand: There are many in Patna. But all debates over being the biggest brand in Patna stands settled with Hotel Maurya, which stands heads and shoulders above others.
Set up in 1978, Hotel Maurya, Patna, is a pioneering project of Bihar Hotels Limited (BHL) that has generated foreign exchange for the state of over Rs. 34 million. Located on a two and a half acre plot in the prime commercial area of Patna, the Maurya hasl almost everything -- food outlets, four conference, banquet facilities, swimming pool, gym -- to make it a complete experience.