A fairytale comes true

There was a time, not so long ago, when Bihar was synonymous with lawlessness and anarchy. Corruption was all-pervasive and crime rates were at an all time high. Then, Mr Nitish Kumar came to power in 2005 and changed everything around with his good governance and pioneering leadership skills, just like in the movies. Residents of Bihar today gladly recount several instances of demonstrable development and palpable progress — of how pot-holed roads have finally been repaired and new highways have been laid, of how women can now walk around freely and how crime rates have come down significantly while real estate prices have touched the skies. In many ways then the nondescript event that marked inauguration of the new premises for a Government school on Thursday in Patna weaves itself well into Bihar’s popular socio-political narrative. Yet, the fact that the new premises of Rukunpura Mushari Primary School was until a few months ago the palatial bungalow of a literally ‘filthy rich’ Government babu — the kind that the economically disadvantaged students of a Government-run school can barely dream of enjoying in their lifetime — is really what makes this episode the stuff that, yes, only dreams are made of. A quick look at what turned this dream into reality takes us back to March 17 when Bihar’s State Vigilance Court — the State’s own anti-corruption watchdog established by Mr Kumar in 2006 — confiscated the property which belonged to Shiv Shankar Verma, an IAS officer who had been suspended for being in ownership of assets disproportionate to his reported income. Back in July 2007, the State Vigilance Unit had raided Verma’s house and discovered nine kg of gold, tonnes of cash and investment papers; authorities estimated his assets were worth Rs 1.43 crore.

While the courts continue to hear Verma’s case, it has been possible for the Government of Bihar to take over the tainted officer’s assets under the Bihar Special Courts Act, 2009, which allows the State to do so if there is prima facie evidence that the assets are the fruits of corruption. In case it is proven otherwise, the assets are returned or an equivalent monetary amount paid in compensation along with interest compounded at five per cent. The law, and more so the manner in which it has been implemented, has rightly sent a chill down the spines of corrupt officers in the State; already, others, including some senior bureaucrats, who have been charged with corruption have expressed deep concerns about their future. In the meantime, young school children who once had to make do with a stinking, dilapidated school building now study in well-furnished, clean classrooms. This is a cue for the country to take note.

Source: The Pioneer

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