Chocolate and Gold Coins

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Remembering Lalu

One year ago, Amit wrote this interesting account of a discussion he had with someone who lived in Bihar under Lalu.

One tight slap under your ear

I was chatting with a gentleman who knows Lalu Prasad Yadav fairly well. He told me:

You know, Amit, there is one word that you should never mention in front of Lalu Prasad Yadav: development. If you even whisper "development" in front of him, he will give you one tight slap under your ear. He hates that word.

If someone says to him, "Laluji, let's build a road," Lalu will reply, "you build a road in your house if you want. No roads will be built in Bihar." Lalu is in power because Bihar isn't developed, and he knows it. It is in his interest to keep the people uneducated and poor.

So at villages, he will tell the people this: "So you want a road? Ok, I'll build a road. Then the big men will come from cities and build factories here, and they will take your land and they will exploit you and make you work and you will be like slaves. So tell me, do you want a road? If you want a road, I will build it."

And of course, all those people in the villages are uneducated, who know of industry only from hearsay and myth, so they say, "No roads. We don't want roads." And Lalu says, "Janta doesn't want roads. No roads."

Hopefully when the election results are out, Lalu's reign will end.
But, I ask this gentleman, will the next guy try to develop the state, or will he make the same calculations as Lalu? The gentleman sighs, gently. We stare into our respective glasses of beer, which glisten under artificial light.[Link]

I recalled reading an earlier post in which Amit had said that kidnapping was a growth industry in Bihar, (and not rocket science – who would have guessed with a genius like Lalu running the state).

Anyway I wrote the following joke in an email to Amit:

Those Bihari kidnappers lack imagination. They should kidnap that famous politician Lalu Prasad Yadav …and hold Bihar ransom lest they release him!


  • After thirty-three years of living in the U.S., I have found myself become more enightened in some respects and terribly provincial in others. The province in my case happens to be Bihar. I follow the state much more closely now and once, in a fit of emotion, volunteered to run the Bihar Cultural Association of Chicago. I stuck to it for three years, and I don't know if I accomplished anything for my home state but I sure made a lot of Bihari friends.

    First, the good news! After fifteen odd years of raping and pillaging, the Lalu Raj ended a couple of months ago when the state was rid of the bad guys in the general election. Nitish Kumar, an enlightened technocrat and an engineer by profession (so I hear), became the new chief minister of Bihar. So this province of 80 million has a future after all. Optimism is runninng high in Bihar. The big companies and employers, who had once dismissed this poverty stricken area of decaying infrastructure, high illiteracy and a kidnapping "industry," are coming back once again to explore investment opportunities in the state.

    But what would it take before the province of the Licchvis, Mauryas, Lord Budha, Gandhi's first act of civil disobedience (in Champaran) and the first president of independent India finally catches up with the rest of the country?

    It would take a responsible government. That's all! Living in the U.S., where government is considered more an impediment to progress than a facilitator, we tend to forget that government here has already done its basic duties well - or relatively well. Not much is required of them after that. In Bihar, as in many other backward parts of the world, the government has not even performed its basic function of providing law and order, water and power, city planning, elementary education and yes, roads.

    As crucial as private enterprise and entrepreneurship are to the growth and prosperity of a nation, there is still a need for a responsible government. The problem is that responsible governments, once having performed their basic duties, want to take responsibility for more and more things.

    In Bihar, my impression is that much of the infrastructure, even roads, can be built by private industry to serve their own interests. India is still a country where big private companies build an entire infrastructure, not just their factories. What cannot be undertaken by private industry, and neither should it be, is utilizing the democratically approved tool of an armed police to establish law and order. And that's all it would take in Bihar.

    In closing, as I bow to big government and wish everyone Happy PRESIDENT's DAY, I would urge all Indiaphiles to go to their local Indian stores and rent a movie called APHARAN. It is about the kidnapping epidemic prevalent in Bihar and masterfully produced by a well known director, and a fellow Bihari, Prakash Jha.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:24 AM  

  • I don't think anybody would release any ransom for good old lallu.

    Deplorable his record maybe, he has done a yoeman's service to Indian democracy- he has proved beyond doubt that democracy is effective only in literate societies. In uneducated countries, it looses its essence- in this case for 15 long years.

    It is a strange coincidence that I too had to mention lallu in my latest post though in a completely different context-lallu and blogging-believe it of not.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:50 AM  

  • Hi Sarat and Hiren
    Sarat: Thanks for an excellent comment. If being the head of the Bihar Cultural Assoc of Chicago brought you some lasting friendships then I think it was well worth it.

    Lalu was a clown. He knew how to play the caste card and won for many years. Hopefully the new rulers will govern on behalf of all Bihari and provide the basics of government that each state needs.

    You are correct, the basics of law and order and rule of law are essential for business and growth. We do take them for granted in the U.S. becasue some wise people got it basically right at the start.

    Hiren: the ransom was not to release him but to keep him hostage! The kidnappers would have made out like...bandits.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:43 PM  

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