ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Decay and Darkness in Bihar

Once praised for its exemplary governance, Bihar is today in an advanced state of decline and poor development, despite the presence of unbelievably fecund land.

The traffic in Patna is, as expected, chaotic but soon we reach zero mile. This is where the “four-lane” toll road begins. “Four-lane” is not so much a descriptor as a concept. In Bihar roads are of two types – four-lane and bad roads, as our driver explained. We are on the road from Patna to Munger, a distance of about 165 kilometres. The well-maintained toll road has little traffic. Unlike highways elsewhere, National Highway 80 – the major artery connecting the two big cities of the state, Patna and Bhagalpur – is bereft of any commercial traffic.

The toll road is four-lane only for about 40 kilometres and then reverts to a regular, potholed, two-lane strip. Almost all the way, we are parallel to the river Ganga, a few hundred yards from its south bank. The main stream of the Ganga has moved a few kilometres north, leaving a riverine island known as the “diara”. Hardly any stretch of land is uninhabited, and villages and settlements crowd the roadside, away from the low-lying, waterlogged area.

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