The Continuing Scourge In Bihar || actual meaning of poverty in Bihar

Someone sitting in Delhi or Mumbai could never imagine the actual meaning of poverty in Bihar.

The article “INDIA’S CORNER OF MISERY – BIHAR’S POOR AND LAWLESS” of New York Times was published on April 27, 1987.

But the question is, have the things changed for Bihar in 33 years?

As per the report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation of (2018-2019), Bihar has the lowest NSDP per capita. The MPI for Bihar is close to least-developed countries’ like the Democratic Republic of the Congo ( A country in Central Africa).

Bihar is amongst the poorest northern states of India, and even in normal times more than half of its children are undernourished. Millions of Biharis rely on jobs in the Gulf states and those who cannot afford often leave the state to find work in other states like Gujrat, Mumbai, Delhi and so on. Someone sitting in Delhi or Mumbai could never imagine the actual meaning of poverty in Bihar.

A large part of the population in Bihar suffers from floods almost every year. For them, their life begins afresh every year, as they lose everything to the floods or to the disease that invariably follows the flood. 

So why is Bihar so Poor?

It’s a puzzle with many pieces missing, and many got exchanged with the other puzzles.  Therefore, It is almost impossible to solve this mystery.

However, these current destitute situation is by no accident. Bihar didn’t become this drained overnight; it’s a result of historical policies and mistakes committed by the Indian Government and British rule.

As a blogger, I felt there are four main reasons which are responsible for the current scenario of Bihar:-

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1. UNEQUAL LAND DISTRIBUTION- In 1793, the Zamindari System was introduced by Cornwallis through Permanent Settlement Act. It was introduced in provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Varanasi. According to the Zamindari system, The Britisher’s imposed with high levy fixed taxes for zamindars to pay so that they could acquire the land permanently.

What role the zamindars played??

They used to mortified poor peasants and collected high taxes from the peasants so that they could pay tax to the British Government within a specific time.

The collected amount from the peasants would be divided into 11 parts. One part of the share belonged to Zamindars, and the rest of the share belonged to East India Company. The Zamindari system in Bihar also sowed the seeds for deep-rooted caste-based hatred and politics. Poor peasants were immensely exploited and tortured by the Zamindars. The condition of the peasants became deplorable. Lately, this Zamindari system was abolished in 1947. Still, It never quite got implemented with full zest in the first decade, due to the hand-in-glove zamindari and bureaucracy systems, Courtesy to ” the Britishers”, British left, but Zamindar didn’t.

The Britishers created a culture of rent-seeking and nepotism. And hard work was seen as a trait of the poor. In (2002 – 2003), 33% of household in Bihar were landless, and more than 15 % of the household had less than 400m sq. Of land.

2. GEOGRAPHICAL CONDITIONS

Bihar is a Land Locked state with the neighbourhood of UP in West, Nepal in North, Jharkhand in South and West Bengal in East. Bihar is a state, having no Coastal line nearby and any port like Kerala, West Bengal and Maharashtra. So, Bihar has no access to water transportation-related export/import and transport facility. That’s why, for industries, Bihar is a little bit costlier than other states. Because of this, Bihar faces remarkable challenges that limit their potential gains from trade and restrict their resources for investing in development, and this is the main reason Bihar is still struggling with poverty.

3. FREIGHT EQUALISATION POLICY

The introduction of freight equalisation policy of 1948 made the situation worse for Bihar. The central Govt. Followed the British in resource allocation to the states and put Bihar in negligence. Freight equalisation policy was adopted by the Government of India to facilitate the balanced growth of industry all over the country. This policy meant a factory could be set up anywhere in India, and the central Government would subsidise the transportation of minerals. The policy was introduced in 1952 and remained in force until 1993. Under this policy, North, South and West India benefited while the eastern Indian states suffered.

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It hurt the economic prospects of the mineral-rich states like Bihar. It lost their competitive advantage of holding the minerals as the factories could now be set up anywhere in India. The policy did not allow the state in developing manufacturing and value-added activities. It also destroyed all incentives for the industry like Bihar since they could purchase all inputs at the same price in other states as well Tatas would set up Jamshedpur in the 1920s in Bihar because the iron ore and coal were there. But with freight equalisation, it didn’t matter where the factory was because the cost of the raw materials was the same anywhere in the country.

If the companies had set up in Bihar, overall employment, the development would have changed the face of Bihar.

4. POLITICAL PARTY

In my view, I think politician are also one of the biggest reason behind these scenarios. Bihar has had 23 different Chief Ministers in its 70 years history. The very first Chief Minister of Bihar, Sri Krishna Sinha, was regarded as an architect of Modern Bihar. Jagannath Mishra had three terms during these 70s and 80s decades. He was a lecturer and professor of economics before joining Bihar politics. Even though Bihar saw bursts of high growth in these two decades, it continued to lag behind.

In 90s Lalu Yadav ruled on Bihar, in this decades the social problems of Bihar got exacerbated. Crime grew without check, corruption went through the roof, and from being economically backward, it transitioned to being dangerous. 
When a party wins by the caste-politics, then there is no incentive and obligation for development. This action is partly due to lack of urbanisation, and these caste-based politics resulted in the decline of well-established institutions which impacted adversely in critical areas like education and health.

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Since 2000, under the leadership of current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, Bihar has experienced some progress on socio-economic fronts. He brought attention to Bihar’s development but Bihar after years of apathy and inertia is still in the deep darkness that it becomes impossible to pull up the entire state by bootstrap into the light.

So What are the solutions to Bihar’s problem?

I am confident that after 2–3 generation, Bihar will shine and eradicating the poverty tag from them. But for this change, Bihar will have to have to focus on these changes: –

1. Increase Land security-
This would make people invest more in their land
2. Support from the Central Government

According to the report – from 1951 to 2012, Bihar received half the funds of the all-India average. The Centre should understand that they have to give extra attention and resources to the Bihar, but if they started ignoring then the condition further worsen instead of improving.

3. Focus on industries-

This will be done by improving the investment atmosphere and Law & Order. The future of India is inextricably linked with the future of Bihar, which in turn depends on the quality of governance, political stability and the template of inclusive development. Bihar will not come out of its terminal crisis unless the Government of India puts its heart into the job. The task is much too large to be handled by the state alone.

All we need is new thinking on poverty eradication, which, if achieved, can anyway ensure a New Bihar, without poverty. Without such an effort, the state will continue to pull back the nation’s development and impact its standing as a developed nation.

So nothing is impossible, if people and Government want and try, we can witness the best.

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