Railway loco pilots in Jharkhand get Lasik surgery to get clerical jobs, says probe report

Source: newindianexpress.com

RANCHI: Ranchi Rail Division under South Eastern Railway has found that some of the loco pilots, in order to avoid running trains, underwent Lasik eye surgery so that they automatically could get declared unfit for the job and shifted to some clerical post while they continue to get the benefits being provided to them earlier.

As per the Rail manual, a loco pilot, undergoing Lasik eye surgery cannot be given running duty as there are chances of eyesight problem after some years of surgery.  

The matter was revealed during the periodical medical examination of the loco pilots a few days back in Ranchi, during which 17 such cases have been identified so far, while others are also under scanner. Interestingly, all those loco pilots were appointed by Khadadgpur Rail Division and most of them are from Nawadh district of Bihar.

“We have identified 17 such cases and have been slapped major charge sheets. Meanwhile, further investigation is being done by constituting a medical board… had their intentions been clear, first they would have got their cases referred from a railway doctor first and then had consulted any private doctor said Senior Divisional Operations Manager Neeraj Kumar.

All these people underwent Lasik surgery at private eye clinics within 3-4 years of their joining and managed to get them declared unfit during the periodical medical examination, he added.

According to railway officials, if a loco pilot is disqualified for performing a running duty, he is roped in for some clerical job but he continues to get incentives given to him as a loco pilot.

Perks of getting disqualified from running duty

A loco pilot after being shiftd to a clerical job upon disqualification still gets perks which amount to around 30 percent of his salary. Others working in the same capacity, however, get 30 per cent less than those who are disqualified from the running duty.

Labourer dies as building collapses in Masjid Bunder

Source: asianage.com

Mumbai: A labourer died when the a building in Masjid Bunder area collapsed on Friday. The labourers were demolishing the dilapidated Sayyad building as it was extremely damaged due to the fire that broke out on August 3. The incident took place at 5pm.

Five labourers appointed by the contractor were trapped under the debris. Reportedly, three of them are safe while two suffered head injuries. The two injured were taken to the state-run JJ Hospital, where one labourer Farid Khan (45) was declared brought dead while; Abdul Shaikh (24) was receiving treatment at the hospital.

As per the disaster management report, “The building was owned by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) and the Mumbai Fire Brigade had directed the state body to pull down the mostly woo-den structure. The Mhada had appointed a private contractor to demolish the building. However, during the demolition the entire building came crashing down.”  

Mhada spokesperson Vaishali Gadpale said, “Mhada had appointed a contractor and the demolition work was in process when the building came crashing down. To know the reason behind the tragedy, we will definitely investigate the matter.”

Chief fire officer P.S. Rahangdale said, “Mhada was directed to demolish the building after the August 3 fire.”

On August 3, a major fire had engulfed the ground floor of the building but was confined mainly to electrical fittings and appliances. While several people were rescued, firemen battled the blaze for nearly two days before it was extinguished.

The fire brigade control room received a call at 4.24 am on August 3 and the fire was extinguished at 8.55 am on August 5. The fire brigade personnel safely rescued a man and three woman stranded at the upper floors of the ground plus four-storey commercial cum residential building

The building had large quantity of combustible material such as leather purses, plastic sheets etc.

Woman held for lifting male child from hospital in Jharkhand

Source: devdiscourse.com

A woman has been arrested for allegedly lifting a two-day-old male child from a government hospital in Jharkhand’s Hazaribag district, the police said on Friday. The woman was in Hazaribag Sadar Hospital to assist a relativewho gave birth to a girl on Wednesday.

She lifted the male child and left the hospital early on Thursday as the relative wanted a boy, police said. “The woman was arrested on Thursday after the missing child was found at her residence in Harhad village under Mufassil police station limits,” Officer-in-charge of Hazaribag Sadar police station, Neeraj Sinha, said.

The boy, who was born on Tuesday, was stolen early on Thursday when her mother was sleeping. At around 4 am, she noticed that her son was not on the bed and raised an alarm. During investigation, it was found that the woman who was assisting the girl’s mother was not in the ward, Sinha said.

The boy who was found along with her at her house was later handed over to his mother, the police officer said. Both the woman and the girl’s mother were booked on the charge of kidnapping.

After her arrest, she was remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody by a local court, the police officer said. The girl’s mother was yet to be arrested as she is nursing her newborn child, he said..

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Momentum Jharkhand likely to generate 70,000 jobs

Source: dailypioneer.com

At least 70,000 jobs are likely to be created in Jharkhand through a total of 504 ventures for which the State has performed ground breaking ceremonies so far since its maiden global investors’ summit held in February 2017, officials from the State Industries Department said on Thursday.

Addressing media persons here on Thursday, Industries department Secretary K Ravi Kumar said that the State performed ground breaking ceremonies for at least 504 ventures from May 2017 to December 2018. These ventures are expected to bring an investment of Rs.50627 crore to the State and generate 72,682 direct jobs, he added. The projects will also provide around 1,90,000 indirect employments, a document released by the department said.

“We organised several branding and promotional events for luring investors to Jharkhand since 2016. At least five national and three international road shows were organized to spread awareness about the scope of investment in the State,” said Kumar, highlighting the achievements of the incumbent Government in boosting investments here.

Some of the major investors among the companies include Adani Power, Hindustan Urvarak & Rasayan Ltd, and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), he said. The Government expects Adani Power alone to generate at least 2,000 jobs and two NTPC projects to generate 1,200 and 1,000 jobs respectively.

In a bid to facilitate investments in the State, the Government here also introduced sector specific policies, said Kumar, adding that at least seven policies were framed in Jharkhand since 2015 for making the investment process easy and present a clearer picture of returns to the investors. In 2015, the Government introduced the Jharkhand Industrial Park Policy, Jharkhand Export Policy, Jharkhand Feed Processing Industry Policy and Jharkhand Food Processing Industry Policy. In 2016, the State framed the Jharkhand Industrial & Investment Promotion Policy, Jharkhand Automobile & Auto Component Policy and Jharkhand Textile, Apparel & Footwear Policy.

“Our sector specific policies have helped encourage investments in the State. Ranchi, for example, is fast developing into a hub for textile, apparel and footwear sectors,” Kumar said.

Under the food processing policy, at least 73 food processing units were set up in Jharkhand with an investment of over Rs 500 crore, Kumar added.

Jharkhand has more than 40 per cent of the country’s mineral reserves and has been on a mission to utilise the resources to bring development through industrial growth. The State is also among the largest producers of Tussar silk and the Government has taken several initiatives in the recent past to boost and streamline production of Tussar here. In year 2017-2018, Jharkhand produced 2217 metric tonnes of Tussar. Around 7000 silk farmers were provided professional trainings in the same year.

In the past four years, Jharkhand also became the first state in India to constitute a council for Corporate Social Responsibility. The Jharkhand State Corporate Social Responsibility Council (JSCSRC) monitors and utilizes CSR funds for development of State, said Kumar.

Jharkhand student alleges sex abuse, commits suicide

Source: hindustantimes.com

A first-year engineering student from a college in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district allegedly committed suicide earlier this week after leaving behind a purported suicide note that claimed he was sexually tortured by senior students who also extorted money from him, police said on Friday.

The body of the student, who went missing on Wednesday evening from the college hostel, was recovered by the police from Mahulsai lake in Chaibasa on Thursday. Three students named in the six-page suicide note have been arrested, including the boy’s roommate. A special investigation team (SIT) has been set up to probe the case.

Indrajit Mahatha, West Singhbhum superintendent of police, said the three have booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code on charges of forced unnatural sex and extortion on the basis of the suicide note and a complaint filed by his family. “We have seized five mobile phones, three note books and a CD,” he told reporters.

“We have seized the original copy of the six-page suicide note, which was posted by the victim on the hostel’s WhatsApp group on Wednesday. He has accused his roommate… of forcing him to have unnatural sex and demanding money. The victim’s family has charged the college authorities with not properly informing them about the suicide note. The SIT is probing all allegations,” he said.

A top college official denied any fault on the part of the college management, saying the boy had attempted suicide in May this year too. He said the hostel in-charge had been suspended for dereliction of duty pending completion of the college’s internal inquiry.

“The boy went missing around 7pm on Wednesday evening after posting his suicide note on WhatsApp. The hostel in-charge did not notice it that day and informed me on Thursday morning. We immediately informed the local guardian, his uncle and the police,” he said.

Bihar Likely to Declare 22 Districts Drought-Hit After August 15

source: newsclick.in

Patna: A long dry spell during the ongoing “shrawan” month is worrying Dinesh Mahto and Nagendra Yadav. Both the farmers are disappointed with the poor monsoon so far, as they are yet to transplant paddy saplings due to lack of water.  Both Mahto and Yadav are marginal farmers in Paliganj of Patna district and are fearing another drought this year. “We are certain of another sukha(drought) because the rain god is giving us sleepless nights this time like last year.”Mahto said.

Yadav said this has become an annual problem as farmlands turn dry due to lack adequate water for transplantation of paddy seedlings. “We are still hopeful of rainfall,” he added.

Mahto and Yadav are among millions of farmers, nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s population of 10.5 crore, who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

Not only that, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains .For most of the state’s population, therefore, a good monsoon is often the difference between life and death.

The Bihar government has targeted paddy cultivation on 33 lakh hectares this year. But till date, paddy transplantation has been reported on less than half of the target.

Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar on Friday expressed concern over the drought like situation in 22 of 38 districts of the state. “The state government has so far not declared any district drought-hit. If the dry spell continues till August 15, the government will decide whether to declare the number of districts as drought-hit”, he said.

He said the government will hold a meeting on August 18 on the drought situation. “We are keeping a close watch on the drought-like situation this time like last year”, he added.

Kumar said “if there is no rainfall in next five to six days, the government will prepare to face drought and will declare the state drought-hit any time after August 15”.

An official in chief minister office told NewsClick that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had instructed top officials to prepare data to declare the number of districts drought-hit, as it has become a stark reality.

Bihar’s is facing a drought-like situation because of a peculiar situation, as monsoon rainfall has remained confined to 16 districts, resulting in floods, while there is deficit rainfall in 22 districts, according to officials.

Agriculture and weather experts have advised the government to wait till the end of second week of August for rainfall before declaring the state as drought-hit.

Like millions of farmers, the state agriculture minister is also hopeful that Bihar may receive rainfall in the next 48 hours in view of the cloudy weather and reports of light rains in few places in the past 24 hours.

According to officials of agriculture department, poor rainfall had affected paddy sowing and plantation, triggering fears of another drought.

Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s domestic product, according to the state government’s figures. About 76% of Bihar’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood. 

Reports reaching in Patna said unlike in the past, there was no water for irrigation in the canals. A large part of central Bihar is irrigated by water from the Sone river, brought in through canals.

Meanwhile, a few farmers have managed to save paddy crops transplanted last month by pumping ground water and others, too, are trying this for now.

Forced to leave Srinagar, migrant workers from Bihar face uncertain times

Source: thehindu.com

Told to leave Srinagar by security forces and forced to go by local landlords and employers, a group of migrant workers from Bihar found themselves outside the Jammu railway station on Thursday facing an uncertain two-day journey back home.

Ahead of its announcement revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and carving the State into two Union Territories on Monday, the government had begun moving out tourists, pilgrims and outstation workers. With large parts of Jammu and Kashmir under curfew-like conditions since Monday, the group of workers from West Champaran district of Bihar said they were unsure of ever returning to collect their unpaid dues.

Lal Babu Shah went to Srinagar for the first time about a month ago, hoping to stay for four to five months working in construction.

“I used to sell vegetables back at home, but this time the crops had failed, so business was down. I thought I would be able to make some money by working in Srinagar for a few months. I was working in a mosque, laying tiles,” he said.

At 3 a.m. the previous morning, the group of about 30 men said they were all asked to leave their accommodation. They then made their way to the bus stand in Srinagar, where long lines for tickets awaited them.

“The bus tickets were being sold in black by the government officials for a higher amount. The private cab operators were demanding ₹2,000 per person for a trip to Jammu that is usually ₹700. Our employers did not even clear our dues because they said the work was incomplete. We were able to scrounge enough for bus tickets. Now, we don’t know how we will buy tickets to Bihar,” said Lalji Kumar.

Spending six months a year in Srinagar working construction jobs, Mr. Kumar said he was able to make ₹60,000 to ₹70,000 a season, the highest rate anywhere in north India. Now, he said he was leaving with ₹3,000 in unpaid wages.

Support to PM

Having gone through a harrowing few days, both men said they supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir.

“In two years, the way life is in Jammu, that is how we will be able to live in Srinagar,” said Mr. Kumar, adding he was not sure if he would return.

For Mohammad Arif, who has been going to work in Srinagar for the past 10 years, this time was different. During the violence and curfew after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016, he said the situation for migrant workers was not as bad as now.

“They used to hurl insults at us, but now they are telling Biharis to leave. We heard that some people beat up a Bihari worker in Soura,” he said.

Another member of the group, Bhola, said locals would taunt him by saying “come back with a passport”.

While these workers and others like them worried about how they would be able to get back home, the government has announced special trains for them.

Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said in a tweet on Thursday that special trains and coaches had been arranged from Udhampur and Jammu “in view of large number of workers including those going home on Eid”, which is on August 12.

City girl to represent India at Miss Tourism Worldwide

Source: dailypioneer.com

She’s a die-heart Virat Kohli fan, would love to make her Bollywood debut opposite Ranbir Kapoor and is all set to represent India at an international beauty pageant. It’s a matter of great pride for Jharkhand as Ranchi’s beauty 19- year- old Samarpana Singh is going to represent India at Miss Tourism Worldwide, which will be held in Singapore from September 17 to September 23.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to represent India at an international platform. I am really honoured and at the same time also very emotional to serve my country at this stage,” said an ecstatic Singh.

Singh has been crowned as the first runner up at Mr. & Miss India Charming Face, which was held on November 24, 2018 in Jaipur. “I got to know about this contest through a friend. It was a great experience participating and competing with 30 contestants from across the country. For this pageant, participants are not selected on the basis of looks, height or complexion but on their confidence and ability to win hears,” recalls Singh.

She has also won INIFD Best Model 2018, Aqua face of the year 2017 and was adjudged the second runner up as the Princess of Jharkhand in 2017.

The aspiring model started her modeling career in Ranchi in 2017 and since then there has been no looking back. “When I got the first opportunity, I had no idea about this field. But I was very keen to learn as former Miss World Aishwarya Rai has always been a great source of inspiration to me,” said Singh.

The young model gives all the credit to Jazpreet Kaur- National Director of Aster Fine Arty Education for giving her this life changing opportunity. Gearing up for the upcoming pageant, Singh is concentrating on her overall personality development including on how to walk the ramp, choreography and personal interview.

Singh is putting her best foot forward to win the title and start her acting career. Facing a lot of hardships because of her height, she feels she has reached this far with sheer perseverance and hard work.

Born in Ranchi, Singh completed her schooling from DAV Public School Gandhinagar and is currently pursuing her graduation in Bachelors of Commerce. She is a yellow belt holder in Karate and is also learning Nunchuk- a Japanese form of martial arts.

Being the only child, Singh feels she owes all her success to her mother Dr. Sheela Tiwari who has been her biggest supporter. “She has raised me single handedly while going through a lot financially and emotionally. She has been my real life inspiration and I just want to thank her for all her love and support,” she further added.

Cut to the future, five years down the line Singh sees herself as a successful actress inspiring million others like her. “For all those who want to enter the modeling industry, just believe in yourself as nothing else matters,” remarked Singh.

Once a Child Labourer, Ranchi Man Has Rescued 4000 Women & Kids From Trafficking!

Source: thebetterindia.com

The stage was set. And the prey was within reach. A call from an informer confirmed that he had arrived with promises of a better life. Baidnath Kumar smiled in anticipation as he closed the net that he had been weaving for five years around the monster. Within minutes of tipping the police, Kumar saw in satisfaction as Panna Lal Mahto accused of selling 5000 children, mostly tribal girls from Jharkhand, was arrested.

Helping the authorities bringing such fiends to justice is what Kumar has dedicated his life to. For the last 10 odd years, the crusader has been rescuing women and children and so far, he has rescued more than four thousand victims.

Having been physically abused and forced to work for the better part of childhood, Kumar became that helping hand that he was not offered.

Born in Samastipur district of Bihar, Kumar was sent to his uncle’s house in Ranchi, Jharkhand at the age of seven as his parents could barely afford to give him food, let alone an education.

What his parents did not know was that the financial situation was worse in the new home they had entrusted their son with. Though Kumar was enrolled in a government school, he was forced to join a local eatery as a waiter. This was in the early 90s when phones had not made inroads in the country’s villages. His parents remained in the dark about the state of his new life.

For the next decade Kumar studied and switched jobs.

An encounter with a few UPSC students in 2000 helped him to a large extent.

The discussion encouraged him to talk to the other 14 boys working at the same place to raise the issue. Soon, a senior police officer intervened in the matter and while the owner was not given any punishment, the minor boys were told to go home.

When Kumar turned 18, his job at a Xerox centre close to a Civil Court changed the course of life. He met many lawyers and some became friends. He also came across people with bleak eyes waiting for justice that they had lost hope of getting. In the eyes of these people, Kumar saw the same helplessness he had felt as a child.

He solicited legal help from his lawyer-friends, and started an NGO—Dita Seva Sansthan in 2004 with the aim to help underprivileged women and children get an education.

Kumar started out with no connections, money and or even a place to work and the state child welfare department and panchayat committees did not trust him enough to provide financial help.

Overtime, Kumar gained the trust of the authorities and showed them his honest will to help people, especially children caught in the clutches of child labour.

He helped underprivileged women access Self Help Group-Bank Linkage Programmes and simultaneously, he also taught more than 1,000 kids in ‘Bridge Schools’

“When a child drops out of school, government-run informal bridge schools help them complete that year’s academic syllabus instead of repeating the year. The district panchayat of Ranchi had given me a small room to teach the dropouts,” says the 35-year-old.

His foray into saving children from trafficking began when he saw his students dropping out of the class. “I visited their houses and then found out that they had gone missing.

A little more digging opened Kumar up to the horrors of the rampant child trafficking in Jharkhand.

In early 2012, Kumar searched about anti-trafficking laws and started sending mails to Jharkhand’s Anti-Trafficking Unit about minors going missing from the school where he taught.

“Since most of these areas are naxal-affected, parents are often scared to visit police stations. So I gave my number to the villagers. My work was soon noticed by the department and they soon asked me to collaborate in raids,” he says.

One of the collaborations helped Suhani (name changed) reunite with her parents. The girl had been lured by Rajvir (name changed), a man who sold girls to a kingpin in Delhi, in December 2016. A resident of Ramgarh district, Jharkhand, the daughter of daily wage labourers could not comprehend why the man who had promised to marry her, had sold her to someone in Delhi.

Rajvir had sold her for Rs 1 lakh and she was forced into prostitution. She served 18-20 customers per day and was starved if her customer’s feedback was not good. The girl was kept chained when she cried or protested.

Meanwhile, her parents had registered a missing complaint with the police and then contacted Kumar.

On tracing Suhani’s phone, the entire mystery was unravelled.

Baidhnath, says that the social media frenzy has made trafficking business less risky in recent times and in most of the cases it becomes nearly impossible to trace the victim as the sim card and phone is destroyed.

In one year, the trafficking unit managed to register 240 FIRs with Baidhnath’s help. He also prepared a list of 200 placement agencies who could be potential traffickers. The activist was even sent to Delhi to get training from Delhi Police Force on how to conduct raids.

Giving an insight about the process of raids, Kumar says that there are two ways to nab the kingpins.

“One way is to visit railway stations and bus stands from where girls are transported to other states. I go around midnight and inspect the areas. In case of any suspicious movements, I call the police force and anti-trafficking squad and nab them on the spot.”

In the second process, Kumar poses as a customer and joins the WhatsApp groups with a false identity. To gain the trust of kingpins, Kumar often transfers money to their accounts.

Post rescue operations, the victims are either sent back to their parents’ house or rehabilitated by Child Welfare Committees. Girls are often sent to Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, government-run schools for weaker sections of society.

Baidhnath’s job does not get over after raids. For his personal satisfaction, the braveheart follows up with parents and girls for a few months to prevent them from falling back into the rackets.

Due to his work, Kumar has been threatened innumerable times and he has also seen days where he thought he would die, “My fear of death ended at a very early age and that has been my biggest strength to carry out the kind of work I do. Everyone is going to die one day and I want to exit the world doing some noble deeds. Threats cannot stop me from carrying out my job,” he signs off.

Walking the Path of the Buddha in a Neglected Corner of India

Source: newyorker.com

Buddhism was born under a giant fig tree, which, today, grows at the center of the remote and unbeautiful town of Bodh Gaya, in India’s destitute northeastern state of Bihar. The tree is about three crooked blocks from the Be Happy Café and a few minutes’ walk from a used book store where a middle-aged Krishna devotee from Iowa, named James, works, reselling old paperbacks by Hesse and Murakami.

The sacred Bodhi Tree is surrounded by a wall and guarded by police. (Islamic extremists bombed the site in 2013.) At dawn, before pilgrims begin their daily perambulations around the tree’s massive trunk, local children forage under its sprawling canopy—some branches are propped up by iron columns—to gather fallen leaves. Pressed inside clear plastic, the leaves are sold to visitors from Bhutan, Myanmar, and Manhattan, and to outposts of Buddhism around the world. The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, a reputed prince from what is now Nepal, is said to have achieved nirvana while meditating under the tree, in the fifth century B.C. The Awakened One purportedly spent seven weeks under under the Bodhi Tree after achieving liberation from the wheel of suffering that binds humankind to selfhood, aging, disease, and death. So Deepak Anand told me.

Last winter, I met Anand not in the Be Happy Café but at one of its competitors, the Tibet Om Cafe. The menu offered a staple comfort food of Western spiritual seekers in Asia: banana pancakes. Anand, who was forty-five, didn’t eat. He was tall, pin-thin, had a shaved head, and was so intense and talkative that he ordered a cup of tea but forgot to drink it. Anand is a self-taught cultural geographer. For the past twelve years, he has analyzed historical texts and used G.P.S. technology to chart what he says are the pathways walked by the Buddha as he spread his philosophy of mindfulness across northern India, about twenty-four hundred years ago. Anand hopes to promote this spiritual legacy by reviving a network of “Buddha trails” for pilgrims and tourists to walk in Bihar, the cradle of the world’s fourth-largest religion. Yet Buddhism largely vanished from the region centuries ago, eclipsed by Hinduism and Islam. Today, farmers plow up stone effigies without realizing that the sculptures are antique representations of the sage. “People long ago tore down the stupas and built their homes using the old bricks and stones,” Anand said, referring to Buddhist monuments that once dotted the Ganges River plains. “They simply didn’t know.”

To test his ideas, Anand suggested we hike from the Tree of Enlightenment, in Bodh Gaya, to the ruins of the Nalanda university—an important center of Buddhist learning, which was razed by Turkic invaders in the twelfth century. The four-day trek effectively spans Buddhism’s rise and fall in the subcontinent—many scholars believe the university’s destruction contributed to the religion’s decline. No one in recent times, Anand assured me, had retraced the Buddha’s footsteps along the fifty-mile route.

The Buddha’s only concession to hiking kit was a begging bowl. He sometimes strode through the villages of Bihar with a large crowd of followers in tow. Our own walking party numbered four: the Bangalore-based journalist Bhavita Bhatia carried a Free Tibet flag in her rucksack; Siddharth Agarwal, a river conservationist from Kolkata, lugged a leaden hardback copy of “Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River”; I packed the electronics needed to transmit stories from the trail. Only Anand practiced Buddhist non-attachment. All he brought was a light sweater. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he said, when we caught up with him on the trail, after he repeatedly surged ahead. “I’m a high-energy person.”

In the Buddha’s day, northern India’s religious landscape was in a time of spiritual crisis and social upheaval. Disillusioned, rudderless, Siddhartha renounced his gilded life—a childhood with thirty-two nursemaids, a kingdom with seasonal palaces and private gardens, and his princess wife and their child—to join other ascetics meditating in forests along the Neranjara River.

Today, plastic trash spangles the river’s sandy banks. Miles of rice fields steam where giant trees once threw blue shadows. “British records reported a leopard at the train station as late as the nineteen-thirties,” Anand said, wistfully. “It’s all gone.”

A carload of sightseeing Malaysian monks stopped to ask us directions. They ended up debating Anand about the location of Ratnagiri Rock, the site sometimes identified as the place where Siddhartha finally abandoned the hermit life, broke his fast with a bowl of gruel, and invented a “middle way” to transcendence that rejects both extreme sensuality and extreme austerity. Anand informed the monks that he had geotagged the exact coördinates of Siddhartha’s epiphany. The monks smiled in polite silence. “There are so many sects in Buddhism,” Anand said. “It’s impossible to convince them all.” We walked on. We passed the mountain cave where Siddhartha was said to have mortified himself for six years, by some accounts sleeping on a bed of spikes. And, after that pilgrimage stop, Bihar became just Bihar.

Chronically listed as one of India’s poorest states, Bihar isn’t usually associated with spiritual revival. Its news cycle instead tallies droughts, floods, fatal encephalitis outbreaks, and the violent aftershocks of a failed Maoist insurgency.

Following Anand, we plodded through abandoned sand mines. We stepped over railroad tracks. Inert villages slipped by, hollowed out by urban migration. In granaries, families hand-cranked large mechanical fans to generate a breeze for threshing their harvest. The Biharis, though, are ritually kind. They offer a cup of well water, a spot of shade, a narcotic betel nut to chew on the way. A day’s walk from the global tourist bubble of Bodh Gaya, where lamas broadcast meditation tips on YouTube, the world grows so insular that young village boys, peering up at me, exclaimed, “Look at that face! Have you ever seen a face like that?”

“What our people and the government don’t realize,” Anand told us, in frustration, “is that they are living on top of a global treasure—inside a living museum.”

Anand isn’t Buddhist. He was a Hindu by birth and is an empiricist by nature. Mostly, he is a proud Bihari.

The middle-class son of a military father and a housewife mother, Anand studied engineering and hoped to become a fighter pilot. But his curiosity kept drawing him to the mounds of Nalanda. The grassy hillocks are rubble from the powerful Magadha empire, whose kings funded the world’s first Buddhist monasteries, more than two millennia ago. Anand began poring through early travellers’ accounts of his homeland’s largely forgotten past. His hero is Xuanzang, an adventurous Chinese monk who travelled to India, in the seventh century, to study the roots of Buddhism. Working as a pilgrimage interpreter and cultural consultant, Anand became an unlikely Buddhologist. An entry on his blog, announcing his purported discovery of Ratnagiri Rock, and citing a fifth-century Chinese monk named Faxian, contains paragraphs like this:

Anand has compiled hundreds of such waypoints in his Buddha-trail database. He is a keen admirer of his predecessors, the nineteenth-century British archeologists whose excavations proved that Buddhism was a South Asian idea. (Earlier scholars had maintained, based on curly-headed statues, that the Buddha was Ethiopian.) “The British were colonizers,” Anand said, “but they gave India the Buddha.”

“And they took everything they found away to London,” Agarwal, the river conservationist, said.

When we walked into a village called Lohjara, every household seemed to wave at Anand. He was hailed for pressuring the local police into investigating the theft of the village’s stone Buddha. The weathered statue, contemplating eternity in the lotus position, had been sitting in a local field for generations. In 2014, art thieves hefted the heavy sculpture into a car trunk and made off into the night. Two years later, acting on a tip, officers raided a nearby warehouse and found the Buddha packed for export. “We felt very bad those two years,” Rattan Pandey, a village elder, recalled. “We protested to the authorities to recover it immediately. We even blocked the roads.”

The restored Buddha was anchored with steel hoops beneath a village tree. The statue’s face was hacked off centuries ago, possibly by a Turkic soldier. Pandey worshipped the figure as Nakti Shiva, or Noseless Shiva, a mutilated version of the Hindu god.

We climbed the Jethian valley, plucking tart berries from jujube trees. According to the explorer-monk Xuanzan, a local man had tried to measure the Buddha’s height when he visited the place, but gauging the immense soul by any earthly means had proved impossible. In frustration, the skeptic had thrown down his bamboo yardstick—which sprouted to green life. Canebrakes still feathered Jethian’s high ravines. There were also faded village posters advertising Anand’s first effort at resuscitating the sacred landscapes of Bihar—a pilgrim’s walk organized with a charity from California.

A remote mountain road patrolled by rhesus monkeys led us to Rajgir, the former capital of the Magadha empire. The area was a bewildering Venn diagram of India’s singular spiritual history: Jain caves, Hindu temples, Muslim shrines, Ashokan stupas. Anand was well-known here, too. At Vulture’s Peak, a shrine where the Buddha taught his Heart Sutra—“Form is only emptiness, emptiness only form”—a crowd of touts, stevedores, rickshaw drivers, and cold-drink venders ringed Anand. They complained about being bullied by a pilgrimage mafia. He advised them to unionize.

On day four, we limped into Nalanda under clouds the color of polished lead. Anand showed us around. At its peak, Nalanda, in central Bihar, was the largest center of Buddhist learning in the world. It housed as many as ten thousand student monks. They argued about Buddhist doctrine and studied cosmology, astronomy, and art. Scores of villages nearby were dedicated to feeding resident scholars. Nalanda’s graduates helped carry Buddhism to Tibet and points along the Silk Road. “They used big mirrors to reflect light onto the Buddha statues inside temples,” Anand said, highlighting the monastic center’s architectural wonders.

But the manicured ruins felt comatose. Bhatia, the journalist, unfurled her colorful Tibetan pennant—the only touch of color on Nalanda’s barren squares.

How Buddhism ghosted away from its Indian source, between seven and nine centuries ago, remains one of the great mysteries in the history of religion. The Hindu nationalists now in power in New Delhi take an official stance: they insist that Muslim hordes from Central Asia—first Turkic invaders and later the Mughals—wiped out the pacifist Buddhists at sword-point. The general who razed Nalanda, Bakhtiyar Khalji, couldn’t even read the millions of Buddhist manuscripts he torched. But other scholars, Anand included, believe the reality is more complex. For centuries, Buddhism’s influence was waning in India. The monasteries created a brain drain, sapping innovation. The monks grew isolated from the people. Hinduism and Islam attracted more followers. It was as if Buddhism evanesced the same way that its master teacher did. The Buddha reputedly died, at age eighty, near what is today Kushinagar, in Uttar Pradesh. His ashes were taken from the scene of his life and scattered far across the Buddhist world.

According to some scriptures, the Buddha spent a week “walking a long way up and down in joy and ease” after attaining enlightenment. Our own little walking party sputtered to an end at the Nalanda bus stop. Bhatia left for Sikkim. Anand returned to his base, at Bodh Gaya. Only Agarwal and I slogged on—toward the Brahmaputra River. A dense ground fog hugged the fields, making navigation difficult. We stumbled along sodden canal trails. Crows appeared and vanished in the white. Anand had asked, before we parted, for endurance-walking advice. I’d forgotten to tell him that, on any long walk, he will get lost. And that being a little lost isn’t bad. It helps you stay awake. And being found is overrated.