Raghunathpur/Patna/Gaya: Shahbaz Khan earlier used to take seven to eight hours to travel
from Raghunathpur to the state capital, a distance of about 100
km, to market his goods. Now it takes just three, thanks to a
metalled road, the most visible and talked about sign of
development in a changing Bihar.
"Look at this road....now, buses are plying from here to Patna and
other towns. It is a big change for us," Shahbaz, in his late 20s,
told IANS pointing to the road in front of his home. His village
is in the Maoist violence-affected Aurangabad district.
He has seen his father and his grandfather spend their lives
without understanding what the word 'road' meant. And yet here he
is now, standing outside his home, pointing to the road.
Balram, a farmer in his 50s, said hundreds of his neighbours and
relatives had died waiting to see a road in their village.
"This road is a dream come true....and it has been fulfilled
during Nitish Kumar's tenure," he said.
Bihar's economic survey for 2010-11 said nearly 10,800 km of rural
roads, including 3,054 km of National Highways, were built in the
last five years in the state.
According to a rural works department official, the state laid
over 25 percent of its road network after independence in the past
five years alone.
Former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad once famously promised to
build roads as smooth as actress Hema Malini's cheeks. But that
unkept promise has been fulfilled by his successor and political
opponent Nitish Kumar who has a promise of his own - of reducing
the travel time between capital Patna and any village to six hours
About 2,417 km of roads were constructed in Bihar in 2008-09,
compared to 415 km in 2005-06. Under the Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak
Yojana, 323 km of road was constructed in 2008-09. About 1,913 km
was also constructed under the Mukhyamantri Gram Sadak Yojana in
the same year.
A survey, presented in the state assembly Wednesday, shows both
the plan outlay and expenditure of the road construction
department in 2009-10 set a new record for the state, standing at
Rs.3,046 crore and Rs.3,045 crore respectively.
Bihar has a total road network of 94,009.42 km, of which 74
percent constitute link routes whereas national and state highways
form about five percent each.
The survey pointed out that 3,474 km of roads were built in
2009-10 and 1,325 km till October 2010. Not only that, the state
built 1,951.51 km of National Highways from its own resources,
without waiting for central funds.
Buried under all these statistics are equally numerous stories of
prosperity and happiness.
Like Shambhu Rai, a vegetable grower in Gaya district.
"Earlier, I was forced to sell my produce to local traders....the
roads were so bad, it took me hours to reach the 'mandi'
(wholesale market) in Patna. Now I can travel to the mandi, where
I can get a good price," he smiles.
A.K. Jha, a senior researcher at Patna's A.N. Sinha Institute of
Social Studies, said the roads have consolidated Nitish Kumar's
"It also helped that Nitish Kumar in achieving a historic verdict
in the October-November state polls," Jha told IANS. "Bad roads do
not give people in small towns and villages sleepless nights
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)