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The Rise of the Rest of India

How States Have Become the Engines of Growth

Yes, Minister: supporters of Naveen Patnaik, New Delhi, June 2013. Getty / Hindustan Times

When Nitish Kumar became chief minister of the dirt-poor Indian state of Bihar in 2005, kidnapping was said to be the leading industry in the capital city of Patna. People searching for stolen cars were advised to check the driveway of a leading politician, who reportedly commandeered vehicles for “election duty.” Although known for his soft-spoken manner, Kumar cracked down hard. He straightened out the crooked police, ordering them to move aggressively against all criminals, from the daylight robbers to the corrupt high officials. He set up a new fast-track court to speed the miscreants to jail. As Biharis gained the courage to go out on the street, even after dark, Kumar set about energizing a landlocked economy with few outlets for manufactured exports. He focused on improving the yields of Bihar’s fertile soil and ushered in a construction boom. Within a few years, a state once described by the

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