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Bihar to tap into its NRI base

By George Iype in Hyderabad
January 07, 2006 18:10 IST
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Can Non Resident Indians help Bihar become the most happening destination for foreign investment?

This is a question that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will ask the Indian Diaspora who have gathered in Hyderabad for the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

All these years, Bihar has had the reputation of being the most lawless and the poorest state in India. But Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants to change the state's poor image.

No, he does not want any image consultancy to do the job. Nitish Kumar is leading a high level delegation of Bihar officials to attend the NRI conclave.

His task: woo the NRIs, and convince them that Bihar is also an ideal place for investment like other top foreign investment destinations like Maharasthra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

This is the first time that the Bihar government is attending the annual PBD.

Bihar officials who have done the spadework for networking with the PBD delegates say Chief Minister Kumar has been personally in charge of preparing the state government for the meet.

"We want Bihar to be a happening place in the Hyderabad meet," Ajay Kumar, a Bihar government official told

In December, Kumar convened a meeting of all Bihar cadre Indian Administrative Service officers on central deputation to discuss the salient investment attractions that Bihar can offer in Hyderabad.

During the meeting, Kumar drew up an action plan to woo foreign investments in the fields of agriculture, health, IT, tourism and infrastructure sectors.

Already, the Chief Minister has established a State Investment Promotion Board to bring the economy of Bihar on par with other developed states.

The Board has been assigned powers to accord initial approval to investment proposals likely to be received during the NRI meet.

Officials say Kumar has also initiated a series of reform programmes to accelerate the structural, fiscal and legal reforms for creating an enabling environment for investment in Bihar.

It is for the first time that the Bihar government is taking this kind of a serious attempt at changing the poor image perception of the state to attract investment.

Years back, the former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav undertook a foreign trip to woo NRIs. But not only did nothing come of it, over the years, Bihar has remained the poorest destination for any foreign investment into India.

During his Hyderabad stay, Chief Minister Kumar will hold special meetings with the large numbers of NRIs who trace their roots to Bihar. They reside in Britain, Canada and the US, besides the Middle East.

"I want to meet Nitish Kumar and tell him that he should make Bihar the most happening state in India," says Suresh Jha, an NRI settled in Canada.

"I love my state, but when people ridicule Bihar, I feel bad and sad. I want the image of Bihar to be changed, and the living and investment conditions in the state transformed," Jha said.

NRIs like Jha are eagerly waiting to meet the new Chief Minister Kumar, whom they say would transform the state into another, vibrant, and IT-savvy state in the country.

And inspiration for Chief Minister Kumar to turn Bihar into an investment-savvy, development-oriented state has come from none other Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Inaugurating the PBD on Saturday, Singh said when he visited Mauritius in 2005, he was truly impressed by the remarkable contribution of people of Indian origin to the modernization and transformation of Mauritius.

"Many enterprising citizens of Mauritius trace their ancestry to Bihar. I then invited them to come and help transform Bihar," said the prime minister.

Chief Minister Kumar is networking among the NRI/ PIO delegates to see how overseas Indians tracing their roots to Bihar can help him transform the state.

Complete Coverage: Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006

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George Iype in Hyderabad