WHY WE DID THE STORY: Bihar was once considered the most corrupt state in the country. When Nitish Kumar took over as chief minister and made noises about cleaning up the system, not many took him seriously. But during his first term, he locked up more than 55,000 criminals to make Bihar almost crime-free. In his second stint, Kumar is aiming for a systemic overhaul. It’s a remarkable case study of a state, once known to be the worst-governed in the country, showing the way to more advanced states on innovative means to tackle corruption. It’s not easy to crack the whip on Bihar’s bureaucracy as the babus have been masters for several decades now. However, Kumar seems to be relentless in making the government servants accountable. He has also lent his support to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade. Hazare had praised Kumar for the steps taken to make governance transparent, which has improved the quality of life in rural areas. It’s history in the making and that’s why we did the story.
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WHERE THE STORY STANDS: Nitish Kumar’s attempts at reining in corruption have made a tremendous impact on the state’s administration. In 2009, special courts were set up to try corruption cases. Now, the state has made it compulsory for government servants to declare their assets. In March, the state government warned more than 70,000 officials that their salaries would be withheld till they submitted their declaration forms. More than 85 percent of over 4.5 lakh government officials, including Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service officers in Bihar, have submitted details of their assets. Kumar and his ministers have also put up their declaration forms on the state’s Web site. There is now palpable fear among government officers as they know that the government is in a proactive mode to tackle corruption. “It’s very clear that the administration means business and so the officers know that the pressure on the anti-corruption front would be relentless. One after the other, people are giving details of their assets,” says a government officer.