|The under-construction hospital building at Kalyan Bigha and (above) Nitish Kumar’s house in Bakhtiyarpur. Pictures by Sachin
Kalyan Bigha (Nalanda), Nov. 1: Phulwaria’s loss is Kalyan Bigha’s gain.
For all their differences, friends-turned-political foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad follow the same mantra when it comes to their ancestral villages: charity begins at home.
Kalyan Bigha, the native village of Nitish in Nalanda district, now wears signs of prosperity, similar to that of Lalu’s ancestral hamlet of Phulwaria in Goplaganj which became an island of development when other parts of the state languished during his regime.
Concrete roads, sewage system, drinking water tank, power sub-station, community hall, an Industrial Training Institute, a primary health care centre — Kalyan Bigha can boast of everything which is missing in most villages in the rest of Bihar.
Besides, a hospital and high school buildings are coming up in the village, barely 60km from Patna.
“Thanks to Nitishbabu our village resembles a town now as we have all the facilities here. About 200 youths visit the ITI college which is at present running from the community centre,” says Manjit Kumar, who is pursuing his B.Sc from a college in Bakhtiyarpur.
With a population of over 3,500, most of them Kurmis, the caste to which Nitish belongs, and also Barhyee, Majhis and Chandravanshis, Kalyan Bigha stands apart and has become an envy for people from adjoining villages.
Most of the mud huts have turned into pucca houses and villagers are reaping the benefits of development carried out by the son of their soil.
“The lives of ordinary villagers have undergone a sea change because of the development work in the village. What more could we ask for?” says Manjit.
Before 2005, Kalyan Bigha was just another non-descript village.
“Laluji carried out development work only in his village but our chief minister treated the whole of Bihar alike. This is what made all the difference,” Manjit said, while drawing a parallel between his village and Phulwaria.
Phulwaria, a village in Gopalganj district surrounded by marshy land, metamorphosed during the 15-year rule of Lalu-Rabri rule.
A 30-bed referral hospital, a State Bank of India branch, block and land registry office, electric power sub-station, supply water tank, spanking new school building, metal road — Phulwaria became an island of development on the map of Bihar while the rest of the state suffered. During his tenure as railway minister, Lalu Prasad also linked his village to the railways.
For people living in the vicinity of Kalyan Bigha though, nothing has changed. Residents of the nearby villages of Bena, untouched by basic development work, expressed resentment over Nitish’s obsession with his ancestral home.
“He did not even build roads in our village as it is dominated by Yadavs. This is the worst form of discrimination and is not fair,” says Avdesh Kumar Yadav of Bena.
Avdesh, however, did admit that the overall condition of Bihar had improved during the past five years, especially when it came to law and order.
“Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad have been firing verbal volleys at each other but when it comes to developing their respective villages both bare bhai (elder brother Lalu) and chhote bhai (younger brother Nitish) think alike,” says Avdesh.
The island of development has now become much sought after.
Land prices in Kalyan Bigha have shot up like never before. People from adjoining villages want to buy land and build homes considering better infrastructure and facilities.
“The land price has gone up four to five times. But nobody wants to sell off their lands,” says Ashok Kumar, who owns two bighas of land in Kalyan Bigha.
According to Kumar, one bigha of land used to cost between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh earlier, but now the price has soared to Rs 10 lakh.
“Some of the villagers who had moved to Patna after selling off their land six years ago to educate their children are now repenting. They want to come back but where is the land,” Kumar says.
In spite of the radical transformation of Kalyan Bigha, Nitish Kumar’s single-storied brick house in the village stands as it was. It has not been repaired for years and its earthen floors speak of modest living.
“Babu comes twice in a year during the death anniversary of his father and wife. He is a busy man and is the rakhwala (caretaker) of Bihar,” says Sitaram Brahi, 65, caretaker of Nitish’s ancestral home.
According to him, Nitish was born in one of the three rooms in the house where he spent one year before his family moved to their home in Bakhtiyarpur, about 10km from Kalyan Bigha.
With its earthen floors, a well inside the house, two lanterns and a huge wooden trunk kept in one of the rooms, the house speaks of modest living of his family.
“Nitishbabu tells me that he would first rebuild Bihar whenever I asked him to build a better house. Whenever he comes to the house, he enters the room where he was born and opens the trunk to see his bed and then comes out and has a chat with me,” says Brahi.
Rubi Devi, a housewife who runs a stationery shop in the village, said the government had done a lot for women’s empowerment.
“Ab toh pati log hamari izzat karte hai (Now husbands respect their wives),” she said while other women sitting beside her chuckled.
“Bihar ki kismat kharab hogi agar unki sarkar nahin banegi toh (Bihar will be unfortunate if his government does not come back to power),” she adds.
Rubi Devi recalled how they had to earlier walk four kilometres to reach Harnaut for treatment as there was no hospital in the village.
The situation has changed now. An auto-rickshaw stand has come up near Nitish’s house and they reach the hospital within half-an-hour due to better roads.
At present, the village has a primary health care centre which has three beds and two doctors. “Now we do not need to go anywhere,” Rubi Devi said.
Shanti Devi, another housewife, said they were happy their children could now go to schools located a stone’s throw away from their houses.
“There is one middle school as well as a higher secondary school. All of us now want to send our children for education. They can also make our village famous like Nitishbabu,” she said.
After tasting the fruits of development, villagers now have great expectations from Nitish.
“He should set up some industries which will provide employment to local people,” said Uttam, who belongs to the Kurmi community.