Patna Durbar: How Nitish Kumar-Sushil Modi’s bond keeps BJP-JDU alliance afloat


A June 4 tweet from Union Minister Giriraj Singh, wherein he apparently taunted key ally Nitish Kumar for attending iftar events just “for a show” followed by Sushil Modi’s somewhat ambassadorial defence of Bihar chief minister has once again highlighted the case of the two cozy, but somewhat mismatched, allies in Bihar.

Sushil Modi’s BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JDU) are clearly bound by a common vision and purpose in Bihar, yet also pushed apart by their political teammates and their temperaments.

It’s not for nothing that Giriraj Singh’s tweet has once again brought the irony behind the electoral friendship of Kumar and Sushil Modi, the tallest BJP leader in Bihar and one of the strongest supporters of Nitish-BJP alliance, to the fore. Kumar and Sushil Modi, in their contemporaneous careers, often symbolise the prisoner’s dilemma that circumstances had thrust upon them.

The two have somehow seen through the bitterness and understood that they were better off collaborating than confronting. But there are spoilers galore. Singh was clearly one of them.

Fresh from his promotion to the Union Cabinet in the new Narendra Modi government, the senior BJP leader, for whom Nitish Kumar had campaigned during the Lok Sabha elections to ensure his victory, on Tuesday morning tweeted four pictures from three different iftars, saying: “How beautiful the pictures could have been had falahaar (fruit feast) been organised with similar fervour during Navratri. We fall behind in our own rituals and religion but are ahead in showing off.”

These pictures were from iftar parties organised by the JD-U, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Opposition alliance member Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) (HAMS). Since Nitish Kumar was the only leader present in all the four pictures, the man and the target behind Singh’s tweet was not lost on anyone.

Not only this, Singh’s tweet was uploaded on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr and its underlying message seemed to be confronting the inclusive outreach of Prime Minister Modi and the secular fabric of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar.

Though there are suggestions that BJP President Amit Shah has advised Singh against making such comments, the Union minister has not withdrawn his tweet, which was still visible till the time of filing this report.

A section of JD-U leaders, however, refused to accept Giriraj’s tweet as a coincidence. They see a purpose in the tweet, as Singh’s quip has come at a time when relations with the BJP have turned frosty after Nitish Kumar refused to accept a “symbolic representation in the Union Cabinet.”

The BJP had offered a solitary Cabinet berth to Nitish Kumar’s JD-U in the Union Cabinet, describing it as a “symbolic representation.”

The Bihar chief minister, who heads a party of 16 Lok Sabha and six Rajya Sabha MPs, promptly shot down the saffron proposal on the ground that it should have been proportionate and not symbolic.

In what seemed like a return riposte, Nitish expanded his ministry on June 2 by inducting as many as eight JD-U members while offering just one berth to the BJP, which was not accepted by the latter. “Giriraj Singh is not alone to have taken potshots at the NDA alliance in Bihar.

In 2017, when JD-U rejoined NDA, our former National President Sharad Yadav had defied the decision. While JD-U quickly showed the door to our former national president, the BJP has failed to force Giriraj to make amends,” said a senior JD-U leader.

JD-U chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh has described Giriraj Singh’s tweet as a clear manifestation of the fact that BJP has no control over such leaders. “It is time for the BJP to take the comments of Giriraj seriously and take action,” he said.

They say momentous eras are appreciated only in retrospect, but in this case, where Nitish Kumar accepted BJP as an alliance partner, the two have together delivered magic.

A landmark Lok Sabha election victory in 2019 where the NDA won 39 of Bihar’s 40 seats looks both unprecedented and unrepeatable. The combined magic of BJP and JD-U made a spectacular start in 2005 when the two parties together unseated Lalu Prasad who seemed invincible then.

Since then, the two parties have prospered and gone from strength to strength, evolving a relationship that was to be the making of modern Bihar.

When the BJP and JD-U separated in 2013 and fought two elections against each other, the BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha poll while Nitish Kumar won the 2015 assembly polls. The two once again came together in 2017 to deliver a watershed result in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Today, however, with Bihar Assembly polls scheduled in 2020, the two parties, JD-U and BJP, need to unthaw their relationship to fill up the fissures, which have come up after the BJP refused to let Nitish have more than one representation in the Union Cabinet.Giriraj Singh or his tweets can make the process a painful one for NDA in Bihar.

Ban private practice of Bihar government doctors, give allowance: IGIMS director


With the Bihar government considering granting autonomy to some of its health facilities, director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) has advocated banning private practice of government doctors while granting autonomy to healthcare institutions for improved patient care.

The IGIMS, which is Bihar’s only autonomous medical institution, built on the pattern of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), has achieved many milestones during the recent past. Seeing its success, the state government now wants to replicate the IGIMS model at five other healthcare institutions of Bihar.

Among the institutions being considered for grant of autonomy are the multi-specialty Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH); the Indira Gandhi Institute of Cardiology (IGIC), a superspecialty centre for cardiology; Rajendra Nagar Government Hospital, a superspecialty centre for eyecare; Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, a superspecialty centre for orthopaedics; and the New Gardiner Road Hospital, a superspecialty centre for endocrinology and nephrology.

Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Sanjay Kumar, had recently said that the government was actively considering autonomy for five of its premier health facilities on the pattern of IGIMS.

Dr Nihar Ranjan Biswas, who belongs to the AIIMS-New Delhi and is on deputation to the IGIMS as its director, suggested that government doctors be given non-practising allowance (NPA) and should be available round the clock, as was the practice at AIIMS.

Dr Biswas had floated the idea of “full autonomy to medical institutions” in presence of health minister Mangal Pandey, speaker of the Bihar legislative assembly Vijay Kumar Choudhary and principal secretary, health, Sanjay Kumar, during a seminar on kidney transplant organised at the institute on May 26.

Sharing his recipe of success, Dr Biswas said, “Medical institutions should be granted full autonomy in the true sense. With autonomy, appointment of director as also selection of faculty members should be done through all-India competitions.”

Dr Biswas was also averse to the idea of extending free treatment to patients. “The government should subsidise the cost of treatment and diagnostic tests, but not make healthcare facilities available free of cost to patients,” he added.

Doctors were, however, divided on banning private practice in Bihar. While the Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA) supported giving doctors NPA and remuneration at par with the Centre, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bihar, opposed it, saying it should be “optional”.

“Government doctors should be given the choice whether they want to avail of NPA or not take it and do private practice. The decision to ban private practice should not be thrust upon all doctors. If doctors who do not opt for NPA were to resign, many government medical colleges will risk being derecognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI) due to faculty shortage,” said Dr Sahjanand Prasad Singh, immediate past president of IMA-Bihar.

Asked if that meant that doctors wanted to have the best of both worlds, Dr Singh said, “In a way, yes… but it will also benefit the state. Giving NPA and remuneration to all state government doctors at par with the Centre will be a huge burden on the state’s exchequer.”

BHSA general secretary Dr Ranjit Kumar said, “We have already given an undertaking to the government in 2007 that we want NPA. Private practice remains banned on paper after the government withdrew NPA from March 2001. However, a majority of government doctors continue to do private practice.”

Senior doctors of the two associations, on condition of anonymity, said that many doctors of AIIMS-Patna and IGIMS, all getting NPA, were continuing with their private practice due to poor implementation of rules.

The Bihar government had banned private practice and paid NPA to its doctors for a limited period of 11 months between March 1, 2000 and February 2001 before withdrawing NPA.

Bihar to waive off 50 per cent taxes levied on e-rickshawas


PATNA: Alarmed at growing rate of  pollution, the state government’s seven departments have collectively prepared an integrated action plan to tame the menace of pollution in Patna and other cities.

According to a survey report of WHO, Bihar’s three cities namely Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur have been found to be among the most 20 polluted cities of world.

Speaking at a world environment day function on Wednesday evening, deputy chief minister of state Sushil Kumar Modi said that all possible steps are being taken to check the pollution in cities growing at an alarming rate.

“In a move to beat air pollution,the government has decided to waive 50% of total taxes levied on the purchase and running of battery-propelled e-rickshawas”, he said.

He further claimed that arrangements have been made to check the pollution emission from vehicles at over 500 fuel refilling centres in addition to run eco-friendly electric buses.

“On 45 fuel-refiling centres in Patna alone, arrangement has been made to issue online pollution check certificates in order to down the level of pollution”he said, adding that state government was committed to control the pollution through awarness among vehicle users and systems.

Bihar seeks to redefine danger levels in its rivers


After a long time, the Bihar government is going to undertake a massive exercise to revise the danger mark level of all major rivers in the state to make flood-fighting work more effective and reduce chances of false alarm of impending floods in case of rivers in spate in flood-prone districts.

The Bihar State Disaster Management Authority has recommended the idea of redefining the danger level of all major as well as small rivers after a study done on the subject over the last one year.

Experts said the primary reason for revising the danger level of rivers in the state is siltation that has caused the river beds to rise, a reason why the current danger level of rivers measured decades back are not so accurate.

“As the river bed of all majority of rivers has risen over the past many decades due to siltation, the danger level indicators are not so accurate. It often leads to false alarm of impending floods when in reality the river is flowing much below the danger mark. So, a reassessment of the danger level of major rivers is imperative,” said Vyasji, vice-chairman of the state’s disaster management authority.

In Bihar, there are 12 major river basins, including Ganga, Mahananda, Kosi, Bagmati, Sone, Karamnasa, Kamla, Chandan and Gandak, besides a large number of small rivers and their tributaries.

Sources said the state’s disaster management authority had already directed the water resources department and written to the Central Water Commission ( CWC) to start the work, which is going to be a time-consuming exercise. Sources said the government had been given the time to complete the exercise in next couple of months so that the new system comes in place before the rivers go in spate in the state.

The gauge readings of rivers is different from one point to another.

Like in Patna district, the Ganga’s gauge reading is different at Hatihdha , Gandhi ghat and Digha, said Vyasji.

To elaborate, the highest flood level( HFL) of Ganga in Patna was 50.27 metres but was revised to 50.52 metres in 2016.

“The gauge readings are different at many points of rivers and it has to be examined based on different parameters. Besides, the siltation of the rivers will be also taken into account in assessing the danger mark,” he said.

Ganga and Kosi are the major rivers in the state facing heavy siltation and efforts have been made to reduce the sedimentation to lower the river bed.

Kosi deluge in 2008 was one of the worst disasters in the state’s flood history in recent decades. Various studies on river management have put emphasis on regular dredging to reduce the siltation and check floods.

Besides, the disaster management authority also believes the revision of danger mark level of all major rivers, including where barrages have come up, would help check instances of false alarm of floods.

Officials said the water resources department, the parent department responsible for flood management, would be able to make proper flood management plan in advance based on accurate data once the revision is done.

“Whenever a river gets swollen either due to heavy rains or heavy discharge from upstream, panic grips people residing nears the rivers and the administration also starts gearing up resources for flood fighting. But in reality, such alarms are false many a time. So a revision of danger mark of rivers is need of the hour,” said Vyasji.