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Welcome to boomtown Bihta, Bihar's answer to Gurgaon

THE FUTURE IS HERE: (From above) The Smart City Colony, the Vindhya Bihar Colony and the Herbal City Colony, three of the many gated complexes coming up at Bihta, and the IIT-Patna campus that first sparked the satellite township's boom. Pictures by Pooja Yadav

Bihta: Boomtown is just a bus ride way, and everyone from the government to the private player is hopping onboard. Bihta, the satellite township 40km west of Patna, is the Bihar capital's equivalent of Gurgaon where newer buildings are coming up every day and where land has turned to gold.

A decade ago, land in Bihta, then a predominantly agricultural belt like most of the state, used to cost Rs 20,000 per cottah. Now it is more than Rs 10 lakh per cottah.

"It has brought a sea change in our lives," says Pappu Yadav, a local farmer in his fifties. A decade ago, local residents would have to sell two to three cottahs of land for the marriage of their daughters. "But now sale of just one cottah fetches a good amount of money so weddings are also getting flashier," Pappu says, rolling his eyes. "Recently a farmer organised his daughter's wedding in which the amount spent was just phenomenal."

The boom was triggered when the government acquired 500 acres of land for construction of IIT Patna after 2007.

"We found that even Rs 500 crore proved inadequate for the land as farmers and landowners jacked up the prices and we needed their land at any cost," recalls a retired IAS officer who was associated with the land acquisition.

A lot of water has flown down the Ganga since then. Now, Bihta is home to institutes such as NIELIT (National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology), offices such as HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited), a 500-bed hospital cum medical college of the Employees State Insurance Corporation.

The state government has recently acquired 128 acres of land in Bihta because as more and more Indians take flight, the lone Patna airport cannot keep up so the air force base at Bihta will be expanded to accommodate civilian aviation.

The government has also acquired 25 acres for establishing an information-technology park, and another 25 acres to set up the headquarters of the State Disaster Response Force.

"People whose land has been acquired by the government are now wondering how to spend the huge amount of money," says Pappu. "They now have the luxury to send their children to good schools, have a decent house, luxurious vehicles, capacity to buy more land where it is slightly cheaper."

Real estate players have also queued up to cash in. Everywhere you look, construction of high-rise buildings, gated complexes and community centres is in progress.

As the government and private players rush for a Bihta address, the town has taken the bullet train to prosperity.

"It almost looks as if a village has been transformed into a metro in a short span," said a resident who did not want to be identified. "A decade ago there were hardly any shops. But now the scenario has totally changed. The road from Bihta police station to the overbridge is covered with shops on both sides - Raymond, Khadim's, Bata, Samsung, you name it, it's there. Old kirana shops have been replaced with malls like Orbit."

Accessibility has also been enhanced, with roads widened and BSRTC buses providing an alternate way of getting to Bihta for those who do not have private transport. The buses run two women-only trips per day to and from Patna.

"Bihta has turned into a mini-metro with people from across the country residing and shops and markets open till late night," says Chandan Kumar, owner of a supermarket here. "It has developed from a village to a town at a very fast pace."

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