Bihar Chief Minister Manjhi spoke on various aspects that range from the possible cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Bihar, from where a substantial number of expatriates are working in the Kingdom. He also spoke at length about the step-motherly treatment being meted out to non-BJP ruled states like Bihar.

If India breaks your heart with untold inequalities, it also surprises one and all with the unheralded achievements of its ordinary citizens. One such man is Jitan Ram Manjhi, chief minister of Bihar, the third largest state of India in terms of population and the 12th largest by area. Coming from a humble background, Chief Minister Manjhi has been in the political forefront since 1980, maintaining utmost support for the Muslim population of India. In an exclusive interview with Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Riyadh Bureau Chief of Arab News, Manjhi spoke about a range of issues including his career, which represents the most extraordinary rise of any politician in the history of India today.

Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What are the priorities of your government before the 2015 assembly elections as you have little over a year to govern? Do you think that the law and order situation in Bihar is conducive to attract domestic and foreign investments?
A: For me, toning up law and order, which took a slight dip during the recently concluded Lok Sabha (parliamentary) elections due to various reasons, is a priority area. We have a good roadmap of development and I do not feel there is much scope for new schemes. All we need is to take it forward so that every section left out of the benefits can be covered.

Q: What are the incentives being given by Bihar government to foreign investors? Which are the areas, where you will be seeking investments from abroad, like from Saudi Arabia or Gulf states?

A: Yes, we are currently encouraging investments for big projects, but more for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) since the state has immense potential to sustain them. The state will implement a ‘Single Window System’ for promoting investments within the next three months. I would like to specifically encourage keen investors from Saudi Arabia and urge upon overseas Indians to step up investment, assuring a business-friendly environment on the basis of the real time development initiatives launched by the state government.

Q: How is the current economic situation? Is the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi supportive of financial issues of the state?

A: The GDP and per capita income has gone up by 15 percent. The BJP government led by Modi is not helping us financially. Modi has to give us our due Rs 300-400 billion for various works done under the central government schemes. Also, the damaged national highway that passes through Bihar is not being repaired by the Central government although it is their responsibility. They are not co-operating…Bihar government has partly repaired the highway by spending approximately Rs1,000 crores, which is not being refunded by the central government.
I am going to meet Prime Minister Modi soon in Delhi to discuss this issue. Moreover, the general budget announced by the Modi government has allocated little funds and resources to the state and its people. We have a road-map for serving the poor and the agriculture sector, to which the central government has not been lending any funds towards its fulfillment.
The existing railway schemes in my state are about to be closed due to the lack of support by Modi’s government. If, these are not less, our power projects are also not being supported by the central government.

Q: Has there been an increase in investments of the non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the Gulf region?
A: Yes, recently there have been some investors from some foreign countries including the Gulf states, who evinced keen interest to open private universities. We are trying to facilitate investment in such sectors. As the state government invites NRIs to invest in the education sector, I welcome investment from Indian diaspora living in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. There are other promising sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, education etc. We are trying our best to attract investors from different parts of the world. I will speak to my officers and try to visit Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries to hold talks with Gulf and Saudi investors.

Q: What sectors do you recommend should be put in focus for Gulf businessmen and NRIs from Bihar and India living in Saudi Arabia?

A: We want investments in sectors like education, health, industry, agriculture and infrastructure from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Currently Indian investors and Gulf governments are scouting for food security, which would be a good prospect for future investments in agriculture sector. We will correspond with higher officials to hold a meeting to discuss the model of investment in agriculture, health and other sectors. We welcome investment in agriculture and food processing sector, if they are keen on that.

Q: Every year the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (NRI Day) is celebrated in an Indian city to recognize the efforts made in the development of the country by the overseas Indian community. Is Bihar considering hosting any such convention in near future?

A: After due consideration with officials, we will try to hold Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Bihar. I am in the process of streamlining the things at the moment. A large number of workers and professionals from Bihar or north India are serving in different countries across the world. In GCC alone, there are about six to seven million Indians including 2.5 million alone in Saudi Arabia. I will make efforts to host PBD in Bihar in foreseeable future.

Q: Once your rival, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) allied with your party for the by-polls recently. Will this union have any effect in the upcoming polls?

A: We would welcome any party whether Congress or RJD if it comes to power. But emergence of BJP at state level will divide India and create communal problems. Its hidden agendas like the abrogation of Article 370 or common civil code are being promoted by the BJP cadre, which is not in the good taste of Indian democracy. Such agenda will also destroy the unity and integrity of the country. We have clearly said that the temple issue of Ayodhya would be solved by court or arbitration, but BJP cadres are saying that they will build the temple by hook or crook. RJD, JD (U) as well as Congress have joined hands to strengthen the secular fabric of the country and now it is evident from the results of the election in Bihar that we will win if we remain united. It is high time to check the emergence of communal forces, which seek to divide votes and rule with narrow agenda. In the Lok Sabha elections, BJP received only 33 percent votes share and if we add up the votes of JDU, RJD, and Congress it is 46 percent votes of the total. So, we want to expand this experiment further in the larger national interest.

Q: Considering that communal violence has increased with a number of communal disturbances recorded recently in the state, how is the government planning to protect the minorities including Muslims?

A: We have launched several schemes for their overall protection, such as the minority welfare scheme, which are being strengthened further to let them feel more safe and secure as a citizen. Moreover, a meeting with all the minorities of the state is being planned to discuss new possible projects. We will extend all of our facilities, especially in the economic and educational sector for their empowerment and join the mainstream development nationwide. Another plan of action that has been taken is erecting boundaries outside a large number of Muslim community graveyards, which we have planned to cover across the state. We have also ensured to deploy at least one or two Muslim soldiers or police officers in every police station of the state.

Q: A recent study determined that Indian Muslims are living in the poorest social, economic and political situation in comparison to other minorities. What substantial your government is doing to boost the 42 percent low literacy rate among the Muslim population?

A: We have inaugurated the Markaz-e-Talim school specifically aimed at providing education for the Muslim population of Bihar. Furthermore, another scheme targeted at the Muslims has also been launched, in which banks have extended a loan facility for the purpose of self-employment for the community. Moreover, there are certain plans for the welfare of religious and linguistic minorities and the state government keep reviewing the improvement of socio-economic conditions of minorities of the state.
We are reviewing the participation of minorities in bank loans for setting up industries and providing employment to them, the present position of economic progress, review and examination of the implementation of the notification issued by the state government for employment opportunities in proportion to the population of minorities and finally, review of programs relating to minorities welfare under the 15-point program.

Q: Considering that 45 percent of the urban Muslim population is poor in Bihar with a mere sum of two percent being invested in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. What is being done for providing educational facilities to students?

A: We have started giving loan facilities for Muslim students, which will be expanded when more funding is provided in this sector. Yes, there have been some issues that need to be addressed in the distribution of loans. We are working on guaranteeing that the poor Muslim students are fully benefited. A sum of Rs 400 million has already been earmarked for extending education loan facilities to minorities, mainly for Muslim students.

Q: Has the proposed land for the establishment of a chapter/center of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Bihar been approved by the state government, if yes, what is current status of the work in progress?

A: Yes ! The land has been given for the university in Kishanganj, but we have not received the funds from the government of India. We have given land in three parts but are trying to ensure that the land is allotted in one place. It will be done before the coming assembly election. Through the Arab News, I assure all of my full support to this ambitious project for minority education.

Q: Bihar’s one-fourth population is Urdu speaking. What is being done to provide them with resources?
A: Urdu is the second language of Bihar and is used in official communication. To serve the Urdu speaking community, every block in Bihar has an Urdu translator present in the block development office. Moreover, we have also ensured that the Urdu interpreters are deployed at all major government offices at the district and the state level.

Q: What is the message you would like to give to the Indian workers, especially from Bihar, currently working and living in Saudi Arabia?

A: I would like to urge them to invest in India and Bihar and maintain their ties of brotherhood. All my brothers and sisters should live in peace. I encourage them to contribute in the development of Bihar, India and Saudi Arabia to make us proud of their good work. Taking this opportunity, through Arab News, the voice of the people of Saudi Arabia, I, from the core of my heart, would like to thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for hosting such a huge Indian population in the Kingdom, the largest number of Indian passport holders in the world.

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