| Road construction department secretary Pratyaya Amrit (right) with chief minister Nitish Kumar at the site of the bridge on the Gandak |
Lalu Prasad’s loss has proved to be Nitish Kumar’s gain in the RJD chief’s own bastion.
In the form of Pratyaya Amrit, a 1991 batch IAS officer from Lalu’s native district of Gopalganj. Lalu had no use for him, but Nitish tapped him to script his government’s success story.
The first thing Nitish did after taking over was to locate “good IAS officers of Bihar cadre serving the state or on central deputation”, says Arun Sinha in his book Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar. Amrit was then on central deputation.
Amrit — now secretary, road construction department — has helped build 1,123 bridges across the state within seven years. He was managing director of the bridge construction corporation from November 2005 to June 2009.
“If one were asked to list two areas for which the Lalu-Rabri regime drew maximum scorn, they were the total collapse of roads and bridges and the pathetic law and order condition,” said a senior IAS officer who had accompanied the chief minister on his recent Seva Yatra to Gopalganj. “Pratyaya, though relatively a young IAS officer, has turned what was a major source of discontent against the Lalu-Rabri regime into an effective tool, earning maximum accolades for the Nitish regime,” said the bureaucrat.
During the Lalu-Rabri regime, the bridge construction corporation was virtually moribund, saddled with huge debts. It all changed under Nitish Kumar. “I had promised that a traveller would be able to reach Patna within six hours from the farthest end of Kishenganj. I am happy that I have fulfilled the promise in seven years,” Nitish said.
Amrit played a “key” role in enabling this. Asked how he achieved this, the history graduate IAS officer told The Telegraph: “We have not done any miracle. Our senior R.K Singh sir (currently Union home secretary) guided us…We simply put the system comprising engineers and workers in place under the guidance of the CM, who, too, is full of ideas.”
Nitish picked Gopalganj — home to Lalu Prasad and Amrit — and also Raghopur, the Assembly segment that Lalu and Rabri represented — among the places to build the most number of bridges and roads.
Raghopur has both the Gandak and Ganga crisscrossing it. Many of its villages — mostly diaras — have the Ganga, Gandak and their tributaries separating them. These places lacked roads. The bridge construction corporation built two bridges, Bishunpur-Malmala and Jandaha-Bitandipur, ending the age-old isolation of Raghopur in north Bihar’s Vaishali district.
Apart from the upcoming Gopalganj-Bettiah bridge, the bridge construction corporation has built three others in Gopalganj.
“It is extremely satisfying to work for the people you share your roots with,” said Amrit, who hails from Bharatpura village under Sohagpur panchayat of Gopalganj.