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Bihar's Capital should be shifted out of Patna
Thursday January 8, 2015 11:28 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba

Just back from the 'republic of Bihar,' visiting its capital Patna, in the freezing winters of the Christmas holidays of 2014. Very great feeling to be back home and nostalgia and fond memories of childhood haunted all through my stay there.

I have been visiting Patna since 70s, when there existed 'Soda Fountain,' D Paul and the lush green lawn called Gandhi Maidan. Over the years the city has changed exponentially. I see both good and bad things prevailing and it is hard to choose between them.

As far as positives are concerned, the city has become the bazaar or the marketplace for the whole Bihar. You name the brand, it exists there. There are huge numbers of shops of all around the city. The old Patna market is just a brick on the wall. There are malls and other shopping complexes that have sprung up. The hawkers have taken over the pavements. The wealth of the city is reflected through the goods being sold there. It appears that the whole city is a shop keeper's paradise.

The second noticeable thing about the city is the variety of cars seen on the road. You name the car and its there on Patna roads. The high rise residential complexes are another feature of the city. The old houses have given way to multi-stories housing flats.

The way cities residential area has expanded suggests that a huge migration rural population has taken place over the recent years. The real estate prices are booming almost on par with the metropolis of India.

It appears Patna from no angle is the capital of India's one of the poorer state. There is enormous amount of wealth concentrated in the city is glaring.

Patna is no more what the Mughals had left or what the British had developed. The city is crossing all the boundaries. The urban boundaries are redrawn many times and are still expanding. Anyone who visiting the city after a long time maybe surprised about the gigantic developments taking place in this historic city. The city is buzzing with life.

The flip side of Patna is, it's bursting at its seams. A sea of humanity seems to be swamping all over the urban space. Patna junction and 'Ashok Raj Path' are chocking ad have become overcrowded areas.

The 'Patna lawn' or Gandhi Maidan, in the middle of the town, once known for a huge green space, now looks like a 'Thar' desert. As a child I still remember seeing polo matches being played there. Now it is a place for political rally and public protests.

Patna traffic system is appalling. The stick wielding British era vintage policemen regulate the chaotic traffic system. They do not have bacon lights and no one heeds to their signal. There are no traffic rules in this city. The red light signals do not work. The pavements have been over taken by the hawkers; people have no other option then to walk on the road.

The roads which were meant for 4-5 lakh people are now being used by more than 50 lakh persons. There are cars, Lorries, peddle rickshaw, auto rickshaw, cycle, pedestrian, all using the same road. In that shrinking space, the two way traffic is a nightmare. The road from Patna town to Patna city is a classic example traffic chaos.

Traffic jam is common feature on Patna roads. Its daily mayhem there and road outrage is often becomes bloody. Recently, someone I know died on the road accident in the middle the city as his auto-rickshaw over turned. He was traveling from one part of city to another doing the mundane chorus.

The filth and garbage is littered all over Patna. There is no mechanism for garbage collection. The garbage invariably is littered on the city road. With flies and mosquitoes, pigs and cows wading in that garbage the foul stench is all over the place. Men urinating in that garbage are not an uncommon sight in Patna.

The much touted 'Sulabh Shauchnalay' or 'public toilets' which the state has given to the world is nowhere seen operational in the city. The adage "India is moving anarchy" figuratively comes true in its personified form in Patna. Patna certainly needs "Sawatch Bharat Abhiyan." This city is certainly is the dirtiest capital in the entire country.

There are few categories of people who caught my attention while I roamed in the city for a week. Bihar is a politically charged state and politics is the favorite pastime there. First of course were those who looked like politicians. The eye catchers were the Netas sitting inside the big car SUVs in the style of shotgun Sinha. Then there were party workers roaming aimlessly on the streets. Public protest, procession, rally are daily routine in the city.

The second category was the 'Doctors.' I was amazed to see the astronomical numbers of private hospitals, nursing homes springing up in the city. This phenomenon was much marked on the new bypass road where the new bus stand has come up. Someone told me that Patna doctors have amassed huge amount of wealth that may match corporate income. Come rainy season and disease proliferates, they make killing out of the sick people. Someone told after the seasons earning Patna doctors leave for Europe or America for holidaying.

The third category was those running educational coaching institutes in Patna. The Bari Path, once a quite lane has become synonymous for this business. I know someone in this line who is minting money running coaching centers. He often goes to Europe and there he travels to various countries driving his car there. He has lot of stories to tell, about his driving stint in Europe and how had put his car in the ferry when traveled from Italy to France. There is always an audience to his parable who are awe struck.

One thing that caught my fancy was the ad campaign of the coaching center on the Patna roads. A huge cutout of the coaching institutes with trainers pictures were displayed on the auto rickshaw top and someone using mike to announces the achievements of the institute and the trainer. This looked more like film publicity campaign with the trainers donning the role of the hero.

Along with the coaching institutes, there is a plethora of educational institution from primary to higher education. The Director of Higher education gave me a summary of the growth of educational institutions in Bihar.

The next category is of students. Patna seems to be bubbling with students. It looks that all the students of Bihar has descended in the capital Patna. There are any number of lodges both for girls and boys in the city. They students roam around the Ashok Raj Path where competitive bookshops are in large number and on Bari Path which has many coaching centers. Some Romeos are looking for their Juliet to sit on their flashy bikes.

The last category is the common man. If any one likes to have glimpse of the real common of India, for this a visit to Patna is recommended. The poverty and hunger is there on many faces. I was approached by one such person, saying he had no food since the morning. When I gave him 20 rupees, I cannot express the joy he had, feeling the relief from his hungry.

Any description about Patna cannot be completed without the mention of Patna city. Patna is divided between Patna city and Patna. City is the older area of habitation and Patna is an extension of it. Patna city is essentially the place where Muslim landed aristocracy once resided. It was a Muslim enclave of yore. Still there are remains of the ruin huge with huge gates of the buildings that tell the story of the Muslim splendor.

I visited one such Haveli, in Patna city which is still in spic and span condition. It is near "noon ka chowraha" in Patna city. Its occupants are elderly couple who are run an English school in their premises. With the money earned they seem to be maintaining their ancestral dwelling. Their children live in the US and the couple abhors the idea of their house being dismantled or sold. There are many 'havelis' like that still surviving in Patna city.

Patna city has now become Patna Sahib. With coming up of the grudawara, it's now a Sikh pilgrimage center. There is a sizable Sikh population there mostly Partition immigrants, occupying Muslim evacuee homes. Nonetheless Patna city is essentially a Muslim locality that still maintains its old charm. With its narrow lanes and by lanes, life moves on in this overcrowded place.

Patna has quite a few landmarks; one of course is the "Golghar" the granary built by the British during World War II. It is circular in nature with stairs to climb on its top. As a child I remember seeing entire Patna from there. Now very little can be seen from the "Golghar," number of high-rise buildings are sore point for the eyesight.

The other landmarks in Patna are the Museum; Secretariat, High Court, Khuda Bux Khan Library, Tu Tu Imam's fort like house, St Xavier, St Michael and Mount Caramel schools etc. All remains the same as it was some 40 years ago. Patna zoo, Golf club, Moniul Haq stadium, Birla planetarium and Buddha Park in old jail premises are later additions.

There is an urgent need to de-congest the Patna in order to bring sanity to the madness there. No amount of urban planning like building flyovers or artery roads or metro rail project or even creating satellite towns will de-congest Patna.

The only remedy to ease the human pressure from Patna is to shift the capital elsewhere from its present location. The entire administrative paraphernalia has to be relocated. This could be the only way to make the people of Patna breathe easy.

A suggestion would be that the new capital can be built at Rajgir which not far from Patna. Rajgir is prominently located and connected with the roadways and railways. It's very close to the famed Nalanda University. The place has a picturesque hills and rope ways of 'Johnny Mera Nam' fame. A Chandigarh kind of township could be a feast for landscape developers. The city equipped with all modern facilities could be bait for all those who migrated out of Bihar in search of livelihood and modern day's comfort of life. A true "Ghar Vapasi," or return home, for the sons of the soil.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar. He can be contacted at]


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