Saturday, May 2, 2009

What is wrong with Bihar .... contd

Let us see now where Bihar was at the time of independence and in the first three decades after independence. People have the spectre of Bihar as a state in perpetual disorder – not just economically backward but plain and simple unruly, not ready to give in to Administration. But in 1952, Paul Appleby, a noted American academician and researcher of public administration, who was visiting India to advise Pandit Nehru on Administrative systems in the country, had felt that Bihar was the best governed state in India. Surprising to many who see Bihar at the bottom of the pit today, Bihar, then, even after two centuries of most intensive exploitation, had a per capita income 5% higher than the national average. I, myself, recall during my early school days in early 1970s, that while going to school early in the morning, I saw streets being swept and washed. The traffic lights on the road intersections seemed to work all the time and traffic seemed to be obedient and observed the traffic rules. Roads were not the widest in the world, perhaps, but were in good condition - it was possible to travel 300 Kms in less than 5 hours. Though I did not have exposure to other parts of India, then, I doubt that this was the case in many other parts of India then. Though Bihar had already slipped on most social and economic indicators by 1970s, it still had a decent education system in place. Patna University was highly respected and had an excellent faculty. So was the case with Ranchi University, then a part of Bihar. There were schools in Patna and Ranchi that produced students that were among the best in country. Of course, there was the ultimate model school located at Netarhat near Ranchi.

What went wrong then? Where did it yake the wrong turn? There were many turning points, all of which were in the reverse direction.

As I mentioned earlier, there was the fact that Bihar was subjected to most oppressive forms of exploitation and did not seem to get the benefits which came to some other parts of the country during the British period. However, worse was to come and this was neglect from our own national leaders. A comparison of Bihar and Punjab and government spending through five year plans during the period 1950-2001 would illustrate this:
  • In 1955, the total national outlay for irrigation
    was Rs.29,106.30 lakhs. Of this Punjab got Rs.10,952.10 lakhs or
    37.62%. Bihar, on the other hand, got only Rs.1,323.30 lakhs, which is
    only 4.54% of the irrigation outlay. Even if we were to take the expenditure on Bhakra Nangal Dam as a national venture, Punjab's outlay was still about 2.5 times that of Bihar.
  • Punjab has 5.036 million hectare of land out of which 4.288 million hectare is arable. Further, about 89.72% or 3.847 million hectare of this arable land is irrigated. Therefore, we can say that 76.38% of all land in Punjab is irrigated. In contrast, only 40.86% or 7.1 million hectare of Bihar’s total area of 17.38 million hectare is under cultivation. Of this, only 3.642 ,illion hectare or 51.30% is irrigated. Despite being almost 3.5 times larger than Punjab, it has less irrigated land than Punjab.
  • The per capita outlay of the five year plans administered by the Government of India have been consistently much higher for Punjab as against for Bihar. For example, in the 10th Five Year Plan, Bihar had a per capita outlay of Rs.2,536.23 while Punjab had a per capita outlay of Rs.7,681.10, more than thrice that of Bihar.
  • There were other benefits that came to Punjab and not in commensurate amounts to Bihar. With more than 50% of food procurement of GOI coming from Punjab, most of the government expenditure on food subsidy benefitted Punjab. Similarly, with highest consumption of fertiliser in the country the huge subsidies on fertiliser prices also benefitted Punjab more.

More later ............