PATNA: Thousands of men, women and schoolchildren trooped on to the roads all over Bihar and stood holding hands for 45 minutes on Saturday to form what the state’s Nitish Kumar-led government claims to be a historic, record-setting human chain, reflecting the people’s support for prohibition. Nearly two crore people were supposed to participate in the human chain, whose proposed total length was 11,292 km, and initial, unconfirmed estimates said the turnout was not far off the mark.
The panoramic view created on all national highways, state highways and other rural roads was captured by two ISRO satellites, especially roped in by the state government, four trainer helicopters and 20 drones, all fitted with cameras. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar himself formally announced the event’s commencement at 12:15 PM by setting off bunches of colourful balloons at the historic Gandhi Maidan in state capital Patna. Then he himself stood in a line of thousands of people.
His main ruling ally and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was beside him and the two men were holding hands. Significantly, the massive statewide event remained incident free. Only minor incidents of schoolchildren falling unconscious at a few places and provided medical help were reported. The sunny weather and absence of the winter chill helped the huge turnout. The overwhelming bulk of participants in the human chain was schoolchildren above class V. In many places, more than 90 per cent of the participants were schoolchildren.
The Bihar government’s education department was the nodal agency for this event, a pet project of Nitish Kumar, and the department’s order to schools to mandatorily send children for the programme earned a rebuke from Patna High Court on Thursday.
The government announced on Friday that participation of people of all ages was voluntary. “With such huge turnout of people, we have managed to achieve a world record,” said the principal secretary of the education department, RK Mahajan, after the event came to a close at 1 PM. Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said: “More people than expected participated in the event. Even roads in various districts that were not officially earmarked for the human chain saw men and women of all ages voluntarily coming out and standing in line holding hands”. “The human chain programme was successful. It reflected the people’s resolve in favour of prohibition,” said CM Nitish Kumar. RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav also said the event was successful and appealed to people to shun alcoholic drinks.
A team from Limca Book of Records is already in Patna and engaged in assessing the event to include it in its list of world records, said officials. Leaders of parties in the ruling alliance - JD(U), RJD and Congress - organised the human chain on roads in front of their party offices in Patna. The state’s main Opposition BJP described the event as a “needless exercise to embellish the government’s image”. BJP leaders, who were assembled in the western town of Siwan for the state executive committee meeting, also formed a human chain in support of prohibition.