‘Prospering’ Bihar presents poorer face

Seeking to be put in special category,state govt makes a case that contrasts its growth story

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Published: April 6, 2012 3:48:17 am

Bihar,that “model of growth” its government never tires of promoting,has at the same time been pushing for special category status on grounds of how poorly placed it is in comparison with other states.

“As per 2010-11 figures (of the Central Statistical Organisation),per capita income of Bihar (Rs 13,632) was about one-third of the national per capita income average (Rs 35,993) and was about one-fifth of per capita income of Maharashtra (Rs 62,729). The huge gap is a matter of serious concern and needs to be addressed at the earliest,” reads a government presentation to the Planning Commission.

This comes from a state that prides itself in having topped even Gujarat in the 2010-11 growth charts,its 14.8 per cent being a touch above the rival state’s. Gujarat,incidentally,has a per capita income of Rs 52,708,about four times that of Bihar.

The growth story the Nitish Kumar government has been selling is hinged largely on a comparison with the performance of its RJD predecessor. Successive RJD governments spent only Rs 25,000 crore in 15 years,a figure the current government likes to compare with Rs 28,000 crore,the budget for 2012-13 alone.

Other highlights include construction and repair of roads (170,000km in six years) bringing Patna within six hours of most towns,a boost to health and education by attracting more patients to hospitals and arresting the dropout rate,and tighter control of crime with highway robbers vanishing and criminals no longer assured policemen’s protection.

It is when the government extends the comparison to states such as Gujarat and Maharashtra that it finds itself challenged by experts. At the Bihar Global Summit in February,investors Bihar was trying to tap advised Nitish to ensure proper electricity supply first. And Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen rejected the growth story,saying it was only “nursery and catchment area” growth,and hence not sustainable.

Sen attributed the growth to a boom in the telecommunication and construction sectors. For the primary sector (agriculture,animal husbandry,forestry,fishing,mining and quarrying),it has been a roller-coaster ride with average growth fluctuating from -7.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 24.3 in 2006-07,-6.2 in 2007-08,11 in 2008-09,-8.2 in 2009-10 and 6.3 in 2010-11.

It is the secondary and tertiary sectors that have grown,Sen explained. Bihar has grown 11.3 per cent annually in the last few years,peaking at the 14.8 per cent of 2010-11,but that year the secondary sector averaged only 6.3 per cent to the secondary sector’s 19.2.

Construction,for example,grew 26.1 per cent in 2010-11. With investor confidence boosted by the improvement in law and order,growth of the sector has been generally steady since the 24.1 per cent of 2005-06. This has,however,been mostly Patna-centric,with the last six years having seen over 10,000 apartments built and taking construction nearly to saturation point with few residential plots now available in liveable areas.

Then,Nitish complained that Sen was only “finding fault and not suggesting ways out”. Now,the government’s own bureaucrats have meticulously compiled figures about what is wrong with Bihar.

The planning and development department’s presentation,“Bihar: A case for special category status”,shows how per capita income has slid consistently since the first Five Year Plan period (1951-56) when it was Rs 4,707 against a national average of Rs 6,858,the gap being between 30 and 35 per cent. By the 10th Plan period (2002-07),it had shot up to 67.7. In the 11th Plan period,it is 60.27 per cent.

The government admits there is no major industry in Bihar. Of a total 155,321 industries in India,Bihar had only 1,774 (1.14 per cent) in 2008-09. About Bihar’s power shortage,it says,“The per capita electricity consumption of Bihar (122 units) is about one-sixth of national per capita electricity consumption level,which is 778 units.”

On the human development index,Bihar is at the bottom of the list with 0.449 in 2011,despite the government having started over two dozen welfare schemes for women,the Scheduled Castes and minorities.

Bihar compares itself with the rest on per capita development expenditure: “The difference of per capita development expenditure in Bihar from the national average is Rs 2,137. This implies that even to reach the level of national average,we need to substantially step up development expenditure by Rs 23,016 crore per year.” This expenditure in 2009-10 was Rs 8,179,compared to Rs 16,540 of Gujarat,Rs 22,299 of Andhra Pradesh,Rs 31,785 of Himachal Pradesh and Rs 17,996 of Maharashtra. The state government has sourced these figures from “A study of budgets of 2009-10,RBI”.

Bihar’s per capita plan outlay is Rs 1,931,compared to Gujarat’s Rs 4,645,Haryana’s Rs 4,743 and Karnataka’s Rs 5,594.

Even when compared to the 11 states already enjoying special category status,Bihar has the highest concentration of people living below the poverty line. The Centre accepts 65 lakh as the number of BPL families in Bihar,which claims it has as many as1.45 crore.

Pluses

* 14.8% growth rate in 2010-11,top among all states

* 60,000 criminals convicted in 6 years

* 4 cr schoolchildren get health cards under special scheme

* 3.5%dropout rate,down from 12

* 25 lakh students given school uniforms in 4 years

* 20 lakh bicycles distributed

* 1.7 lakh km roads built or redone

Minuses

* 14.8% growth was propelled by secondary sector boom,hence not sustainable

* 1.45 cr BPL families,highest in country; Centre goes by 65 lakh

* 1/3 of national average,per capita income; consistently going down since First Five Year Plan

* 1.14% of industries in India

* 1/6th Bihar’s electricity consumption as a fraction of national consumption

* Bottom on human development index

* Lowest per capita development expenditure

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