Bihar: Caught between development and politics ?

Bihar is an Indian state considered to be a part of eastern, northern, and north-central India. It is the thirteenth-largest Indian state, with an area of 94,163 km2 (36,357 sq mi). The third-largest state by population, it is contiguous with Uttar Pradesh...

Key Facts

Capital: Patna

Area: 94,163 km2

Population: 103 million

GDP: USD 46 billion

Literacy Rate: 64%

Languages: Bhojpuri, Hindi  

Largest city: Patna  

Statehood: 1950

Background

Bihar is an Indian state considered to be a part of eastern, northern, and north-central India. It is the thirteenth-largest Indian state, with an area of 94,163 km2 (36,357 sq mi). The third-largest state by population, it is contiguous with Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, the northern part of West Bengal to the east, with Jharkhand to the south. The Bihar plain is split by the river Ganges, which flows from west to east. Three main regions converge in the state: Magadh, Mithila, and Bhojpur.

On 15 November 2000, southern Bihar was ceded to form the new state of Jharkhand. Only 11.3% of the population of Bihar lives in urban areas, which is the lowest in India after Himachal Pradesh. Additionally, almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, giving Bihar the highest proportion of young people of any Indian state.

Since the late 1970s, Bihar has lagged far behind other Indian states in terms of social and economic development. Many economists and social scientists claim that this is a direct result of the policies of the central government, such as the Freight equalisation policy. The state government has, however, made significant strides in developing the state. Improved governance has led to an economic revival in the state through increased investment in infrastructure, better health care facilities, greater emphasis on education, and a reduction in crime and corruption.

After the 2011 Census, Bihar was the third most populous state of India with a total population of 104,099,452 (54,278,157 male and 49,821,295 female). Nearly 89% of Bihar's population lived in rural areas. The density was 1,106. The sex ratio was 918 females per 1000 males. At 11.3%, Bihar has the second lowest urbanisation rate in India. As of the 2011 census, population density surpassed 1,000 per square kilometre, making Bihar India's most densely-populated state in the country.

Profile

Bihar’s resurgence as a regional economic powerhouse is underway by the largely constructive state policies by the incumbent government. However, India’s most densely populated state is grappling with many crucial issues, starting from healthcare to corruption. Our assessment establishes the following risks Bihar faces today which should be the talking points for voters before the Elections in May 2019:

1) Education: Bihar’s young population deserves an education and modern facilities for extracurricular and co-curricular activities in order to outperform students from neighbouring states. It is no surprise that Bihar’s enterprising students form the largest contingent of successful UPSC candidates.       

2) Sanitation: Bihar still has a large proportion of its population which practices open defecation due to inadequate sanitation facilities. The central government’s “Swachch Bharat Abhiyan” has greatly reduced the rate of open defecation in the country but Bihar’s hinterland still needs more facilities.

3) Employment: One of the biggest, if not the biggest risk is the slow rate of employment generation for local residents in Bihar, which forces a large-scale migration of daily labourers to other states. Bihar’s youth population is yearning for education, employment and basic facilities. Voters in the state must actively push local administrators and elected officials to keep good on their promise for better jobs and the upcoming General Election could be a perfect platform for the public at large to express its views on the ongoing administration, both at the state and central level.

4) Tourism: Bihar houses one of Buddhism’s most revered sites as well as the ancient Nalanda University, often referred to as the first organised university in the world. Bodh Gaya and Nalanda should be the main attractions of the state government tourism initiatives and not enough has been done to promote the state’s natural wonders. Although the state pulls in 6 million tourists every year, concerns regarding tourist safety, modern facilities and organised redressal systems are prominent.

Assessment

Our assessment is that Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats have been instrumental in stitching together Union coalitions but the state suffers as the MPs work to appease the coalition partners instead of their constituents. We believe that for the upcoming elections, Bihar will stay with the NDA but as CM Nitish Kumar faces a tough choice before the state elections in 2020 if the NDA falls short of the magic number in May 2019.