The most crucial constituency parties would look to target in the Bihar polls is its rural population, constituting a huge chunk of the total.
However, an analysis of the numbers for MGNREGA, the most crucial government welfare programme for the rural poor, shows the state has consistently performed worse than an already dismal national average on key parameters in the last five years.
As per the Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011, 88.82 per cent households in Bihar are rural, second only to Assam. MGNREGA promises 100 days of employment every year to each rural household.
MGNREGA data with the Ministry of Rural Development shows Bihar has remained below the national average in parameters such as average days of work provided to households in a year, timely wage payments and women’s participation. Since data up to 2012-13 was collected in a different format, not all figures for 2011-12 could be found.
In terms of the average person-days of work provided to each household, the state has had 39, 45, 42, 34 and 28 person-days in the years 2011-12 to 2015-16 (till now) as against the corresponding national average of 43, 46, 46, 40, 29.
The Act stipulates that wage payment be made within 15 days of work completion, but huge delays have been a key concern across the country. In Bihar, the proportion of payments made within 15 days from 2012-13 to 2015-16 has been 29.8, 26.8, 17.4 and 23.3 per cent, compared to the corresponding national average of 50, 50, 27 and 48.5 per cent. In women’s participation, although Bihar is again below the national average, it is above the mandatory requirement of ensuring at least a third of the beneficiaries are women.
The disappointing MGNREGA figures come in a state where 71 per cent rural households earn less than Rs 5,000 a month and 65 per cent own no land (SECC, 2011).