What has gone wrong with Bihar after our independence? Why is it synonymous with backwardness? These questions are painfully present in the minds of all good thinking Biharis.
Let us look at where Bihar was at the time of independence and immediately after. It had undergone two centuries of subjugation under the British rule. In that sense, its exploitation was the longest and perhaps the most ruthless. After 1857, the Bihari elite along with the Bengalis, where shunned by the British as untrustworthy. The focus shifted to Punjab, and the Sikhs there, who had supported the British in 1857. The recruitment to the army and the myth of Sikh valour as opposed to passiveness and cowardly nature of Bengalis was willfully spread. The fact that British Indian army was now drawn from Punjab meant that British welfare measures such as advances in irrigation and agriculture were entirely concentrated in that region. This was to keep the village folks quiet, satisfied and even happy so that there brothers in uniform in the British Indian army did not get disaffected.
Bihar, on the other hand, did not receive any such benefits. Its exploitation over the period 1757-1857 through measures such as Permanent Settlement had helped British East India Company generate finances that was needed to conquer the whole of India through a scheme of outright annexation or subsidiary alliances. After 1857, new methods were introduced, some of which, for example, provided canon fodder for Gandhi’s Satyagraha experiment later in Champaran in 1916. This meant that in 1947 Bihar, along with Bengal and Orissa (that formed the old province of Bengal under the British East India Company) was the most drained (in the sense of “drain of wealth” a term coined and explained by Dadabhai Naoroji) and consequently the most impoverished region of India. Ruthless exploitation for 2 centuries had broken the will of the people. The elite was completely subjugated was either trying to ape the British masters or simply indulged in debauchery. There was no leadership available from this class. The old culture and traditions were allowed to be forgotten and lost patronage of the elite which took on to western pursuits. By 1900, the population in the region was perhaps the most docile and also the most eroded in terms of self respect and self esteem.