Bihar: it is Future Tense

article

the state has been in transition for long, with casteist politicians behaving like a bagful of crabs dragging each other down, and there has been no iconic leader like jyoti basu or yb chavan

TRIDIB RAMAN

TRIDIB RAMAN

Tridib Raman is a senior journalist with over 35 years experience in Print, Broadcast and Digital Media. As a political journalist he has closely tracked politicians and politics of every kind, educating readers to nuances. He has founded Parliamentarian magazine with the sole objective to encourage pro-people politics.

THE more things change, the more they remain the same. This exemplified by Bihar. A state with the extremely rich heritage of the Mauryan Empire and the Nalanda University, where Sher Shah Suri ruled and constructed a highway from Dacca to Peshawar, could never have been backward. Yet, today it is just too backward and seems almost determined to stay so, or at least, the greed and power politics of its leaders since Independence seems to be directed towards that end. Under Congress rule in the mid-fifties, sugar and vegetable oil industries were flourishing sectors of undivided Bihar. Until the mid-fifties, 25 per cent of India’s sugar output was from Bihar, 50 per cent of horticulture products were from here. Rice and wheat were around 29 per cent and Bihar was truly an agriculture power house in the days after independence. Yet, the statistics render a sad song for the state. And there are serious reasons for that. Bihar has never been an industrial state, though undivided Bihar had some of the richest mineral deposits in the country. As of 2012, agriculture accounts for 22 per cent, industry 5 per cent and service sector 73 per cent of the economy of the state. One of the most fertile states in the country, Bihar’s agriculture – along with much else – is ruined every year due to invariable and massive floods. Another reason for Bihar’s poverty is migration. Biharis have been migrating for a very long time. The educated class from the state goes to other cities for good jobs but do not send back money home. The poorer folk who ply rickshaws or run tiny shops outside the state do send money home, but that all goes to run their own large families. The MNREGA has over the past few years seen thousands of labour return to the state, but they prefer to work on construction projects and not agriculture, because that is less remunerative. Interestingly, migration itself can actually be a boon, as seen in

Kerala and Gujarat, communities that go out and send back money for investment. In fact, thousands of Keralites went to work in the Gulf Countries and either sent back or returned with what became popular as Gulf Money. No wonder, the state has been able to fund its education, health and tourism. This is one reason that Bihar has stayed poor for decades. In 1960, Bihar’s per capita income was Rs 215, whereas for Maharashtra, it was Rs 409. In 2014, the PCI for Bihar was Rs 25,801, but for Maharashtra, it was a massive Rs 1.13 lakh. Then there is scattered growth. Bihar has the lowest GDP per capita in India, but there are pockets like southern Bihar and capital city, Patna, where per capita income greater than that of Bangalore or Hyderabad in 2008. All this has happened because Bihar never had good political leadership, and down the ages, caste has been sole the instrument of politicians. The next turning point for the political mobilisation of caste was the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. The upper castes in Bihar seemed to return to the BJP -- but so did some Yadavs, following the breakdown of the Janata Dal. The winning combination for the Congress had always been an amalgam of upper castes, especially Kayasthas and the Dalits. Karpoori Thakur, chief minister of Bihar after 1977, began the process by introducing reservations for backward classes in government jobs. This caused the upper castes to return to the Congress During the election year of 2010, Nitish Kumar launched a slew of government schemes to woo mahadalit voters. He even foisted mahadalit leader Jiten Ram Manjhi as the chief minister, so he could rule from the backseat. Given such equations, no leader works for Bihar, but only for himself and a bit for his caste people. Unless this changes, nothing will in the land where Bhagwan Buddha attained Nirvana and where Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa, the pure.

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