Friday, 6 July 2007

Bihari Mindset and Economic Development
by Prabhat Kumar Sinha
Montreal, Canada

February 23, 2005

The year 2005 has quite an eventful start especially in the context of India. Let me summarize a few events that thrilled me.

1) The Republic day on 26th January was as usual in celebrations but unusual in when a big tricolor appeared on NASDAQ wall emphatically underlining the growing importance and recognition of India on world economic map. And it was not just limited to this symbolic recognition as it became evident when our...

2) Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was invited to a G7 Meet of finance chiefs held in London on Feb. 4 to present India's role and expectations in international economy. It was India's debut at a G7 meeting. Others debutants were Brazil and South Africa. China attended for the second time. The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Britain. This is a recognition that India is an emerging (economic) power.

3) Another interesting announcement came from Korean steel giant Posco that it is going to invest $10 billion in Orissa, up from it's earlier plan of $8.4 billion (amidst rumor of it going to Brazil).

4) A recent report states that India would be an economic super power by 2025.

I felt myself lucky for the fact that I am a growing man in a growing nation and I am witnessing this great transition from a struggling country to a growing economy of the world. This is something I had never imagined during my school/college days.

But next moment I was a sad person. My happiness vanished in thin air as my thoughts crossed over my native place Bihar. Thanks to the ongoing election in Bihar, national media, intelligentsia and many others are taking keen interest in the affairs of state of Bihar. Most of the analysis/debate/discussions on Bihar boil down to one thing - deep rooted casteism (and hence caste based politics) as the root cause of backwardness of Bihar. So unless and until we root out this evil, we (Biharis) cannot progress.

Somehow I do not agree with this approach. Let me ask you a few questions. Have any of the developed states (in India) not suffered from this menace, or do they have found the solution? NO (otherwise we could have borrowed the solution)! As during the relief work in tsunami affected areas, prevailing casteism was very well evident in a developed state like Tamil Nadu (someone rightly said that even tsunami could not wipe out this social evil). Take Haryana, for example. You will witness more feudalism in Haryana than in Bihar, yet Haryana is a far better developed state than Bihar. Developed states in country have neither removed casteism nor found a solution to it. They have progressed well despites this social evil.

Take another point. Don't we remember that till start of last decade, huge population of the country appeared a very big (among many other issues) obstacle in the path of our journey of development? "Population explosion" and its impact on our future appeared very scary. Significant amount of government and public energy went into this debate. Not to say that this is no more an issue but the same population is now viewed as huge market and work-force by the entire world. There were many issues which added to our woes whenever we discussed/debated our development path. Corruption, criminalization of politics, rapid degradation of moral values of society in large, huge amount of debt on government etc. were such things that haunted all of us across the nation. With all these, no one imagined that we would see India as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. They (problems and issues) are still there but India still progressed a lot. When we were hit by tsunami, our economist PM Mr. Manmohan Singh refused to take any help from any country instead it extended all sort of help to tsunami affected other countries. It did not surprise me because it is during the same Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister, when India had abandoned its earlier plan to take a new $7-billion loan from the IMF, Instead, it repaid $1.13 billion to the IMF ahead of schedule. India had also told the World Bank that it did not want any more fast-disbursing loans (where it gets upfront cash in return for policy changes). Did any one imagine that we would achieve this in short span of economic reforms? NO.

When India embarked on its economic reforms in 1991, critics claimed the doors were being opened for the re-colonization of India by a new version of the East India Company. But the experience of 14 years of economic reforms is clearly proving otherwise. Even change in govt. at centre did not reverse this trend. Many Indian companies across different sectors have successfully faced the challenge and grown to become multinationals. There is significant decline in urban and rural poverty. Success of a state government is now measured in terms of number of investments it has attracted. Even left front-led West Bengal government and Socialist Mulayam-led U.P. government is not shying away from inviting investors. State government are competing with each other to attract investors. Only recently when my company (an MNC) decided to have a presence in South India, Bangalore appeared the obvious choice but then the CEO received a call on his cell phone directly from Chandrababu Naidu to have a discussion to consider Hyderabad. Needless to mention, clever Naidu succeeded in convincing the CEO by offering all sorts of help and now the MNC is in Hyderabad instead of Bangalore.

The role of state is reducing to that of facilitator. This is significant diversion from its earlier role as mai-baap. All sectors (Banking, Insurance, Pharmaceuticals, Automobiles, Steel, Power, Oil, Telecom, Aviation, IT & ITES, and manufacturing) are registering impressive growth during last many financial quarters. Both export and import are witnessing unprecedented growth. India has become a favored nation for foreign investors world wide. The reducing role of government and increasing role of private sectors in our daily life is changing the social dynamics in a big way. Even basic phone was luxury for many parts till few years back where as now mobile phones are found in the hands of carpenters, electricians and small businessmen as a helping device in their business. Small shops using computers to maintain their accounts are a common site even in non-metro cities and towns. Do we hear anti-computerization rhetoric any more? NO. Someone rightly termed it as revolution of the mindset.

Even today a vast majority of population still live below poverty line (BPL) struggling for basic needs of life but there is no denying that aspiration to have better living standard is increasing across different sections of society. Reports after reports are suggesting this. And people are not looking towards government to achieve this. All this happened in a short span of 14 years of open economy.

Let me share you one first hand experience - Once I was traveling in a general bogey of a train from Mumbai to Patna. The general bogey was full of poor people mostly laborers. When TTE came, he asked me "Sir! Ticket please" in a polite manner while the same TTE asked a poor person "chal ticket nikal" in a rude manner. The TTE did not know our caste. But from look, I definitely appeared better off to the TTE. Now there may be two approaches - 1) Bring change in the mindset of the TTE so that he does not discriminate or 2) Bring change so that the poor is no longer poor.

Now you decide which one is objective and which one is subjective.

Subjective is changing the mindset of TTE and objective is brining a change so that poor is no longer poor. - Vinod Sinha 02/23/2005


The slight changes which you are visualising in the trains, buses, use of mobile phones, landline phones etc are mere reflection of the economic development as well as technological development of the country. Mobile telephones and landline phones are nowadays prevalent every where in most of the houses and streets of the urban Bihar. In Rural part of Bihar, it has not yet reached to many of the household. Why? Not because of the awareness but because of their social and economical condition. Since 15-20 years, I have not seen any dramatic change in the conditions of these villages, only people are somewhat in better condition, people are still hand to mouth, means they can't save money for the future use.

I admit that changing mindset is a slow process and depends upon the real development of the individual also but in Bihar, "Padhe likhe logon ka bhi mindset change nahi ho raha hai" because of our social structure, caste-based wrong, shameful politics and discrimination that divides rich and poor, upper caste and lower caste. Even leader becomes "leader of a particular caste". This is more or less everywhere in India but Bihar is intensely affected by these deadly viruses.

Caste-based society and culture is not wrong but its implication and interpretation for hatred and discrimination is affecting Bihari mass comparatively more than other states. We can learn from other developing and so-called called developed states of India. - Bibhuti Bikramaditya 02/25/05


Any nation can never bloom without its states. What Bihar is looking for is an aspiration for the quality of life that might include opportunity to freely choose profession and life-style, right to receive full and fair education, strong rural economy and transparency and freedom from political oppression.

Fortune and all other efforts in favour of our beloved Motherland are sure to re-establish our pride in being Indians and Biharis across the globe.

Yes, it's true that we are going to see, feel and experience, very soon, the vision of India as a super Power in reality. - Soni Tiwary, Patna 02/25/05

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