Nepali Times
Fourth Estate
Patna panegyrics



The meeting last month between prominent Nepali politicos and some of their previous or future Indian handlers in the capital city of Bihar seems to have gone rather well. Not a day passes without a laudatory mention of the achievements of the Bihari state in the Nepali press. From noted UML propagandist Pradip Nepal to Nepali Times columnist Prashant Jha, every participant appears to have returned with a positive take on the transformation taking place in what was once known as the badlands of the Indian republic.

The credit for assembling political heavyweights in Patna in the middle of multiple crises back home must go to the Indian Embassy here. In fact, Pradip Nepal admitted publicly that he agreed to attend purely because the plenipotentiary of the host country made it an issue during his tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. Several others who have been less forthcoming about their reasons for attending may have also found it difficult to refuse.

The meeting was probably a publicity stunt, something that media theorists call a pseudo-event, where nothing need happen to make the news. The importance of such hyperreality has to be understood from the kind of media coverage it generates. Clearly, the main purpose of the Patna get-together was to expose Nepali participants to the developmental politics of Nitish Kumar.

In the current chief minister of Bihar, the mercantilist-military alliance of metropolitan India has found a willing accomplice, a poster child for the Indian model of capitalist development. But Kumar has a political interest in hiding the failures of his government behind the glamour of the flyovers being built in his capital city.

The numbers that Bihar has produced of its achievements await independent corroboration. The Directorate of Economics and Statistics in Patna boasted that the gross domestic product (GDP) of the state grew by 11.44 per cent during 2008-09, a figure that the Central Statistical Organisation reproduced on its website without verification.

But Manas Chakravarty of Indian Wall Street Journal questions the authenticity of the claim that Bihar has begun to industrialise. When neither bank deposits nor lending rise, it's difficult to be too sure about economic vibrancy. And a high growth rate from a very small economic base isn't the kind of miracle it's often made out to be.

The claim of the Kumar administration that law and order in the state has improved also needs to be taken with a drop of holy Gangajal. It's true that reports of high-profile abductions have decreased. Freed of political interference, the police now enforce property rights with more vehemence. But the terror of the uniform in any democracy can't guarantee a sustainable peace, and in fact the backlash from repressed violence can be cataclysmic.

Kumar is an engineer and predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure, and the middle class salivates at the prospect of better facilities that attract organised businesses and multinationals with higher compensation packages. But the poor don't always benefit from the decimation of the informal sector of the economy. It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from the road-building spree in Bihar.

What Nepal really needs to learn from Kumar's various experiments in Bihar is that the state must spend more on education and health to earn credibility and be accepted by wider society. Massive investment in the creation of modern infrastructure becomes meaningful only when the masses benefit and have a vested interest in their uninterrupted operation. When all the people want is to obstruct traffic to gain small favours from government, it doesn't matter whether the road is a single-lane track or a six-lane highway.

The real Bihar, by Prashant Jha - From issue #492  (05 March 2010- 11 March 2010)
Revisiting 1950, by Prashant Jha - From issue #492  (05 March 2010- 11 March 2010)

1. jange
"...prominent Nepali politicos and some of their previous or future Indian handlers..."  Really? Who?

2. Slarti
Your seriousness about your role as a propagandist is awe-inspiring. However, your tendency to use extremely complicated words, e.g., panegyrics (praise?), plenipotentiary (a derivative of Medieval Latin meaning invested with full power), is not.

What is more, I also find the use of the "mercantilist-military alliance" a bit tiresome. You used this term to describe the Nepali media not so long ago. This brings me to my real point - that your analysis is a bit dopey.

There is no doubt that Bihar is not industrialised, what a boon it would be for the country if it were, but what is notable about the development of these past few years is the stability that it has experienced, the resumption of normal life.

An unfortunate fact when writing to you is that your analysis so reeks of bias and of dimness that only a leftist can display that I am loathe to go into too many details. An instance is in paragraph four; you use the aforementioned term to add a sinister angle to the obvious.

Further, the development (of whatever there is) is not capitalist. That there are flyovers and other amenities is a mere consequence of an improvement in governance.

Mr. Kumar does not have plenty to hide and that is not because he has run a perfect government, there are criminal elements in it and, over time, the shine will wear off. Instead, his greatest achievement is that he stands in sharp contrast to his predecessors' antics and total failure in governance. That was also a man who claimed to be a socialist, much as Mr Kumar does.

(As an aside and I am not entirely sure of this, but since the preamble of our constitution calls the country a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic - every politician has to be

Now, since I don't see much point to these debates, why did I participate? Well, just want to ask, is this the type of analysis that makes you an intellectual in Nepal?

3. irritated
One part skepticism (good), another part populism (bad) and third part cynicism (worse). It is fine to question politicians and their claims but to suggest that enforcing the rule of law and investing in infrastructure like roads does not benefit the poor is pure hogwash. If leftwing pro-people rhetoric was all that was needed to develop a country, we in Nepal would not be in such a sorry mess. Will Lal care to write about how the fate of West Bengal has fared under 30 years to pro-people rule? What exactly has developed? After health care and education (of Marx Angels variety), the poor as well as the middle class will need jobs but the only jobs radicals ever create is for their political cadres and YCL types. These so-called people's messiahs are violent rent seekers pure and simple. All they produce is a toxic shadajaal while glibly expoiting both rich and poor alike. 

Lal is bored and depressed. He needs to take care of himself and rest his tired pen for a while. Go to Patna. Take a break. 

4. P. R.

     To Slarti: 

Nepali intellectuals are as you seem to have correctly discerned.

Here even a donkey is called an intellectual, if he babbles in seminars or in the press.... But to be fair, there are more charlatants, partisan propagandists, and quislings than real intellectuals in the group, that is being called; " the intellectuals". 

Generally, though there is a need to sort out the real intellectuals from the bogus ones, even those who could be called intellectuals, seem incapable of doing so... this shows the level of intelligence of the Nepali intellectuals.... they accept even a fool if he claims to be an intellectual.

5. hange

Slarti, with all due respect, if you don't know what Lal is saying, go buy a dictionary (or look it up on-line).  Furthermore, I didn't see you complain when Lal wrote pro-India pieces.  But write anything that debases "Shining India" and people such as yourself go into a hissy-fit.  In case you didn't get it, the article asks us to re-examine claims that have been made south of our border:  a pretty scientific idea as extraoridinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  No one says that Bihar is not developing but, rather, that the sudden reports of Bihar doing a 180 degree turn around be taken with a grain of salt.  The world is not in black and white; there are nuances for those who choose to take the time to notice them.  And then there are those who go into epileptic seizures because they don't like what they read.

6. Slarti
I got the words, I assure you I don't need a dictionary much, nor lessons in understanding reality. My criticism elicits what your guys seem to have missed already. That this guy covers substance with grandiloquence.

If you will read what I have written, you will find that it almost never disagrees with substance, but with attempts to obfuscation.

Unlike a lot of people, the right thinking pride themselves in pragmatism, which means that we are able to see achievements in the right context. That context is that the government in Bihar is working in the right direction, that is providing governance, efficient administration. Secondly, the man has ruled a state that experienced de-growth ever since independence, and in my humble opinion, and as experience suggests, this has happened because much like in your country people here thought that as long as they could get their speech right, they were doing alright.

Notice how the columnist/journalist exposes his laziness by coming with this gem:
"Kumar is an engineer and predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure, and the middle class salivates at the prospect of better facilities that attract organised businesses and multinationals with higher compensation packages. But the poor don't always benefit from the decimation of the informal sector of the economy. It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from the road-building spree in Bihar."

If you still think there is nothing wrong with what he says then you need to go look up whatever there is that needs to be looked up to gain some perspective. Or, write about why this is alright and I will be happy to respond.

7. krishna
This guy is clearly a lefty. Just look at:

8. tempo
This is kind of a silly article.

Lal says that Nitish Kumar is hiding his failures. What are these failures?

1. The growth rate may not be accurate.
2. Crime is down because of security, so it will increase even more later.
3. Nitish Kumar is building a lot of new infrastructure and this has attracted businesses, etc. to Bihar but this may not be helping the poor.

I don't know much about Nitish Kumar's government but if this is the best that someone arguing against its success can find, then it must be doing extremely well. I feel that Lal is just trying to be smarter than other people by going against conventional wisdom.

9. slarti

You really don't have to go looking to know that he is a leftist. He has been on that line for a really long time. What is more, people are falling for this. I was surprised when there were comments elsewhere in this magazine which suggest that people follow what he writes, and that they actually believe what he says. No wonder then that Nepal is caught in a vortex of violence which will never end.  

10. P. R.

How true. Nepal would not have been in this mess without the contribution of the so-called intellectuals of Nepal. Given this  "... a vortex of violence.." is assured.

11. Abhi
slarti, what is wrong with being a leftie? No wonder then that Nepal is caught in a vortex of violence which will never end." Look at the vortex of violence in every part of India? Is it all because of lefties or Gandhi, Nehru, etc?

12. Slarti
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a leftie, the contribution that they have made to the idea of modern welfare state is tremendous. However, a leftie unchecked is a dangerous animal. 

There is violence everywhere in India, and what was Nehru if not a leftie, but all of that started at the time of leftie rule. Besides, India is a very large country, violence for all that it is worth is limited to a very small geographic area, and most of this was started, and is currently egged on by, leftists who never argue for anything other than destruction.

I am nothing compared to the intellectual might of the left, so I won't start a detailed argument, but some interesting points that you might appreciate in the light of Mr Lal's diatribes are as follows; 

Notable, and widely ignored, is the fact that India has achieved in the last fifteen years what it did not in about fifty years of socialist rule. 

While earlier you had wide range of choices with options ranging from becoming a soldier, policeman, a doctor, an engineer and a beauraucrat or playing cards (unemployed). Today, you would be wasting your time if you listed the range of choices available. Whatever your educational qualification.

Of course, there are drawbacks but remember that it was a wasted model that produced the bottlenecks which prevent further development.

I saw the article that Mr Lal wrote, about his dream of going back to the Nehruvian era. Many, better than him, have argued that the current pattern of growth and the policies utilised for it would ultimately lead to greater violence. They even seek to justify the violence by the Maoists/Naxalites in India.

Yet, what they forget is that the development model they are arguing for is ineffective and has been proven to be so. There is no future without further industrialisation. That this industrialisation should be government run is a hopeless argument, for reasons besides the threat of control by a nomenclature. 

Evidence of failure of socialism and communism is also available elsewhere. Whether it is the Soviet Union or China, or even North Korea - with its submissive people - everywhere what the socialist form of economic development has done is produce misery. Wisely, the leaders of China have utilised intelligent policy instruments to alleviate poverty to a large extent. The average income and levels of nutrition have improved significantly.

Mr Lal's assertion that the middle class salivates at the prospect of infrastructure development is evidence that he does not see the impact of development and growth in poverty alleviation.

Again, without taking the risk of going into too many details. Let me go for the core. Mr Lal is all for bashing the middle class and feeding the masses. Is Mr Lal not middle class and who are the masses? It is easy for him to go after a voiceless group and call it names, since he makes a living off of it.

The core fallacy of all leftist thinkers is their conviction that all who have the capacity and the capability to stand up against them are middle class religious fundamentalists (whether Christian or whatever). All who have no way of expressing themselves clearly against the onslaught of latin dominated language are the masses in need of their help. Individuals who have changed from poverty into relative prosperity are just stupid people out to sabotage the revolution!!  And the poor, well they are just silly cows who don't get it, so someone has to speak in tongues for them! 

I have no idea what they call Mikhail Gorbachev!!!

I find, again and again, a common thread in all of them, they are all lazy people when it comes to thinking. If they were not why would you find the same thing being talked about by them over and over and over again. And, yet, when it comes to doing something they will invent an enemy and fail promptly. They always, inevitably, have.

13. the psychologist

Lal is going absurd these days-i m ,or claim,to b good at philosophy than politics..ah,he has veered his journey to absurdism.First,when i chased his columns since two yrs ago,he was felt to deserve the attention,very wise,spectacular,masterpieces,in one word,pieces de resistance were his columns.The fact is that world is not like Gandhi's doctrines as Lal wrote in back issues of Himal South Asian.Its like Camus's and Sartra's.The world  subtly expressing the chaos and fluxes sre inevitible price of living.The irony is,when I read Klein,Zakaria,Friedman,Krugman....including Lal,they seem to claim the very unusual,trying the vain,unconscious of the pluralistic mechanics of truth,fact,justice and reality.They feel at least they are biased but to their own manipulation in their own virtuosic terms.First,before dealing these pedantic details,what system 'd Lal rely upon,Capitalism,Socialism,Communism or?Then brand.Who defines these terms,whose is exact.Which dictionary is correct,which enceclopedia or jorrnal?For illusions of Utopia,is it Lenin or Mao or their so-claimed prophet Marx to blame.Saltwater economist or freshwater?Social  democracy or laissez faire governance?O,what is culture,progrss n civilization?Is it an identity,defence mechanism of mind or ego?

First,everything is relative.Truth,ground realities,actualities including perceptions and experiences.Lal 'll say this boy is out of topic n preaches in comments.Whether Bihar is headed for good is oblivious n reasoning so absurdly ll make nothing,except prediction.I laugh columnists are among most megalomaniac people ,for they want to b credited for predictions.Noone listens me China is a next superpower in my own chronology of reasons but if Zakaria writes,it 'heralded'.If I 've my own radical defination of Flatness n say the world is more upside-down than Flat people loathe me.Friedman is better up for his.Columnists can square off their own definations n analysis n claim.Some hit targets,some miss,some change slowly others instantly n other 've absurd logic to defend.

Strictly speaking,though parodoxical(I belive paradoxes n hypocricies r embedded in all of us),Lal writes more jargons than ideas .As he tried to comment on dirty people ,in Fourth Estate,he has lost his cool.He believes in Gandhi,more than less.Damn Gandhi-followers,u never learnt of negation ,only negativity.Damn columnists,the world is better than ur presence.U write more for ur egos than welfare of people,whatsoever u deny.Because the man like Lal has gone to flex his muscles to write these cheapest things.

14. DBB

I am amazed by Mr Lal's piece and specifically his last sentence.

Infrastruture (roads, canals) may not be a "sufficient" condition but it certianly is a "necessary" condition for "social justice".

Good infrastructure leads to access to market, employment, health and education. No good teacher or engineer or doctor will go and work in a village which takes 3 days of walking which otherwise would take 6 hours bus ride.

If irrigation systems were there to grow three crops not one as done now in the Terai . believe me there would be very little need to block the roads for justice.

So Mr Lal, wake up and research a bit and use your eloquent and forceful writing skills to make development with social justice our national agenda.

If you want some first hand experience- ask NT to sponser a trip for you to Vietnam.



Mr. Lal has a reputation for using fancy vocabulary to explain his views when simple words would have sufficed. I guess he does not subscribes to Einstein's view, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler". Btw, I don't think he is using the word "plenipotentiary" correctly!

On economics, Mr. Lal obviously does not believe in the capitalist system because "capitalism is a system of creative destruction". Highways decimates "informal sector"; doctors drive away witch doctors; electricity supplants woods collectors and kerosene peddlers; cars make buggy whips obsolete; and internet destroys print industries. By Mr. Lal's argument we should not have any of those - highways, doctors, electricity, cars and internet - in our lives. Let's get real!

I do sympathize with Mr. Lal that the benchmarks of progress is not just numerical figures like per capita GDP, industrial production etc but the welfare of the least fortunate in the society. There are better ways to address the "equity issue" (creating welfare society for example) without hindering the creative processes associated with development.

16. hange

Slarti, perhaps we just have a genuine difference of opinion then because I really don't see a problem with Lal's statement,

"Kumar is an engineer and predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure, and the middle class salivates at the prospect of better facilities that attract organised businesses and multinationals with higher compensation packages. But the poor don't always benefit from the decimation of the informal sector of the economy. It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from the road-building spree in Bihar."

I do think it's a bit early to draw conclusions in regards to who and to what extent the changes in Bihar are helping but I do agree that Kumar is definitely a leg up on what his predecessor was doing; then again, that's not saying much.

While Lal is inclined to wax poetic on occasion, I don' t think he's way off the mark: in Nepal, the areas of Rukum & Rolpa were once quite well-off. . . when they were cultivators of hashish.  The government banned the production of narcotics in the 1970s and this, along with diminishing returns from the iron mines of the areas as a result of cheaper Indian metal tools being imported, resulted in grinding poverty.  While these are not the only factors, they contributed heavily to general disillusionment of the government and set the region up as being the breeding ground of the Maoists.  I'm not suggesting drugs trafficking as the ticket out of poverty, but the point here is that Lal's assertion that wiping out the informal sector of the economy has its own consequences is actually pretty insightful. 

No one is saying that what is happening in Bihar is not good- not even Lal if his article is read carefully.  Perhaps he's being lazy (and maybe so am I) but I really do think he's right in saying that the long term impacts are yet to be noted- including the trickle-down effects to the lowest rungs of society.  Hopefully we can emulate what good has gone on down there while leaving out what does not work. 

17. Arthur
According to Prashant Jha's article on the real Bihar, Baburam Bhatterai takes a much more positive attitude than C K Lal, raising a similar question about the extent to which development has helped the poor, and the even sharper issue of land reform, but looking for solutions and being interested in learning from others rather than just venting jaded cynicism:

"Despite our ideological differences, I am inspired by you today. I tried to do similar things when I was finance minister. My question is how did you ensure that high growth benefited all sections of society? Bihar also has a history of land inequality, how have you dealt with it?"

I understand even less about Bihar than I do about Nepal, but aren't  Baburam Bhatterai and Nitish Kumar generally considered to be "leftists" of different sorts, and isn't C K Lal a well known Kangresi supporter of GPK? I sometimes find C K Lal's articles insightful, but never imagined him to be any sort of leftist.

This particular article was obviously just a hastily written expression of irritation but the attacks for grandiloquence or pretentiousness seem unfair. The sub-editor's use of "panegyrics" in the title and C K Lal's misuse of "plenipotentiary" and pointless use of "military mercantilist alliance" are really quite minor aspects. Overall the article clearly expressed what it had to say and was not just trying to impress readers with obfuscation. The problem is simply that what he said amounted to little more than an admission that he is bored and depressed. It certainly didn't successfully refute the widely held positive impressions about recent changes in Bihar, eg as expressed in Newsweek's recent article.

The measures described by Newsweek sound rather like some of those advocated in the Maoists election manifesto and blocked by other parties when the Prachanda government attempted them.

To understand why C K Lal is regarded as a "leftist" I followed the link Krishna provided in #7 to the article Early Afternoon Sun in Himal Southasia.

Ok, now I understand, this sort of "anti-imperialist" rhetoric opposing globalization and development is generally (and wrongly) described as "left" throughout the world, not just here.

C K Lal says: only so many cars can run on the planet's highways. Beyond that point, many humans will have to learn to walk. Communism and capitalism are essentially two sides of the same 'endless growth' coin.
The alternative has to be found in solidarity and survival economics.

That sentiment, more accurately described as "Green" or "romantic reactionary" is the direct opposite of traditional left or "Red" politics, just as Green is the polar opposite of Red in the spectrum of colours.

Aditya Adhikari provides some insight into the destructive anger that has become the tragedy of C K Lal. As for the Nehruvian "license Raj" that C K Lal pines for and modern rightists and leftists both reject, isn't that precisely what Nepal's traditional rightists defend - from the Panchayat right through "democracy"? How could those parties exist without being able to provide patronage from selling bureaucratic jobs that can be a source of corrupt rent seeking?

One final thought, it should also be remembered that the pro-poor and anti-imperialist rhetoric of romantic reactionaries is not always simply hypocritical, and they can be united with on some "welfare" questions against the more brutal cynicism of other right-wingers. For example in English history it was the Tory landowners who supported introduction of a 10 hour limit to the work day (and later extension of voting rights to workers) against the opposition of the Liberal ("Whig") factory owners who insisted on 12 to 16 hours of work and no votes without education or property.

18. Slarti
That is a very intelligent response Hange and I am not trying to be condescending here.

"Kumar is an engineer and predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure, and the middle class salivates at the prospect of better facilities that attract organised businesses and multinationals with higher compensation packages. But the poor don't always benefit from the decimation of the informal sector of the economy. It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from the road-building spree in Bihar."

Here is what I find funny about that statement, and I picking on this because it is illustrative as an example:

The Chief Minister of Bihar is not predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure because he is an engineer, he is doing that because he is intelligent enough to understand that an efficient infrastructure enables economic growth and has a multiplier effect on trade.

The middle class does not salivate at the prospect of better facilities. Instead, people see hope that as a result of organised sector participating the economy they may find employment closer to home and would not have to migrate simply to ensure a more fulfilled life. I am sure many migrant Nepalese would like that, like me. 

Unorganised sector does not vanish because more roads and better infrastructure is built. Participants in this economy prosper when they have easy access, and share the benefits of greater prosperity. Unless of course they are engaged in marijuana cultivation. Fears raised by naysayers are bunk because they preclude human intelligence in their equation, i.e., peoples ability to adapt to change reality. 

It is not early to draw conclusions on this developments, it is too early do draw conclusions on any development. Development, economics and governance are a continuous process, they go through various stages. This applies to every idea. All ideas are only as good as their time.

Poor people are not little dummies, they understand an opportunity when they see one, just travel around some of the cities that saw radical change over the past decade and you will notice how people have adjusted to changes without being prompted to do so.

Having said all of that, I once again say that your points are solid. Mr Lal's are not because he tries to drive a different meaning. 

"Kumar is an engineer and predisposed towards increasing investment in infrastructure, and the middle class salivates at the prospect of better facilities that attract organised businesses and multinationals with higher compensation packages. But the poor don't always benefit from the decimation of the informal sector of the economy. It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from the road-building spree in Bihar."

19. Dev Batsya
I think everyone agrees that Mr Nitish Kumar is developing the infrastructure,
cutting back crime and helping the economy grow in one of the most backward and lawless states in India. I do not see why anybody, and certainly not the people of Bihar, would have a problem with that. He should be lauded for his work, and may serve as an example to others.
If Bihar grows,it can only be helpful to Nepal and vice-versa.



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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)