Friday, 6 July 2007

Bihar's Woes and Causes
by Prabhat Kumar Sinha
Montreal, Canada

April 8, 2005

Bihar is a backward state. All Biharis instantly agree. Other parts of the country is developing thanks to economic reforms started in 1992. 15 years ago, what Bihar is today to India, India was to the world. But in last 15 years, the gap between Bihar and rest of the country has become very wide. So Bihar's backwardness is more apparent or visible now. All type of Biharis (poor, illiterates, educated) are going to different parts of the country for rozi-roti, education, medical reason, and in the process, they are witnessing "development". Naturally they are desiring to see a "developed" Bihar. This again is bringing the "backwardness" of Bihar in the centre of our daily thought process. Most of us are concerned. A good sign in itself.

But the most vocal section of the society is urban middle class (educated, well employed, residing in urban areas of the country and abroad). They "appear" to be most concerned about Bihar. It is the most visible section who forms opinion, who writes in newspapers, who debates on TV and who demands and gets attention from authority or Govt. Ask anyone from this section of society, why is Bihar so backward, most answers will revolve around poor "law and order" and casteism. Most will point fingers towards current generation of politicians. But why in election, people vote to non performing politicians even with criminal background and a person with good clean background, educated and NOT of typical politician type loose election? Obvious answer is - casteist society vote on caste line. Let us analyze this:

Few years back, someone informed me that a new Mercedes showroom or workshop had opened in Delhi. This information did NOT enthuse or excite me because neither I have a Mercedes nor was planning to have it. It is beyond my dream. Similarly, when we talk about constructing roads in Bihar, will it excite a larger population of Bihar, when most of them don't even have a bicycle? Yes, road is useful for everybody BUT most of us (urban middle class who is reading this article) think of roads because we want to run our cars, scooters, motorbike. We want electricity because we want to run our electrical appliances and electronic items. We want good "law and order" so that we can enjoy our hard earned money. Nothing wrong about it. But what we miss in the process of thinking about development that we are NOT able to connect with rest of our
rural poor mass who have different priorities or need in life.

A poor person is migrating away from Bihar NOT for education, or good roads or certainly not because of poor law and order, they have been migrating from Bihar much before 1990 (but "we" never bothered about them and they don't write and read, so they don't complain also). They have been leaving Bihar, to get rozi-roti. They are poor and illiterates. But they are the one who bring Bihar very down on development parameters like literacy and poverty.

What is the solution you have for them?

You may say education. But tell me how come opening a school will help them. Why should they send their children to schools when they get to see many educated BUT unemployed youths roaming around, good for nothing. Even if the school is free and giving free lunch?? If you are uneducated then you can earn your rozi-roti by doing any job involving physical labor. But when we talk about development, we quickly relate illiteracy to poor development and one of the root causes of all ills including casteism and criminalization of politics. Lower the illiteracy rate, higher the development. (on the other hand, the more development may lead to better literacy rate).

Precisely for this reason, govt. schools are failing. Charwaha Vidyalay or Harijan Schools all failed and will always fail.

Another may say employment and for employment generation we have to get investment and it will come only when the "law and order" is good enough. And "law and order" will improve only when we elect good people. But, a society which is so casteist, will always vote on caste line electing criminals. So back to square one i.e., a vicious cycle.

The problem with most of "us" that there is big gap between our type of "development" and "their" type of "development". Precisely for the same reason, we never talk about issues like Flood, "Land Reform", "Agrarian reform", "Freight equalization"., change in attitude of educated and well employed resident Biharis like IAS etc.. Let us discuss few of the issues here.


Every year, entire North Bihar witness large-scale flood causing immense harm and hardship to poor people. I rarely come across a debate or discussion or article talking about cause and solutions of this issue. This issue never becomes a part of electioneering for even slogan purpose. Believe me, the discussion of flood itself deserve a full article running into many pages. But irony is, most of "us" don't bother about it. Is Flood issue going to resolve once we have good electricity, roads and good law and order ??????

Last year, we had tsunami in South India and all of us (including "us" Biharis are demanding a warning system to alert people residing at coastal region. Can't we have something like "disaster recovery plan" when we are very sure of flood every year?? How to take advantage of lands becoming very fertile afterwards of floods?? Does not this issue deserve an attention from central govt.?? Do we Biharis demand anything for this problem from the Govt.?? What does stop us ??

Land Reform:

This again deserves a full article running into pages. But I can give a pointer to assert it's importance and urgency. The term "Land Reform" is viewed as ultra pro-poor and thus implicitly it is viewed as ultra anti-rich. This extreme mis-conception about "Land Reform" is the biggest obstacle in it's success. It does have a goal to achieve "social equity" but productivity of agricultural land is the main outcome. This very important consequence is largely overlooked. It is a world phenomenon and it has been tried and retried in many countries as different as Japan, Russia, Philippines, China or many Latin American countries etc., to improve the productivity of lands and thus improve the opportunities of target groups to engage in economically sustainable productive activities. Do a Google search on "Land reform" and you will realize it's importance and relevance. It is NOT a communist phenomenon. It is NOT simply owning a piece of Land by all equally. NOT at all. The basic purpose or goal of Land reform is to increase the agricultural productivity of the land. If you are just a tiller who does NOT own the land, then he is almost helpless to increase the productivity. He is merely a labour BUT we think that he is a farmer. It has been proved beyond doubt that if the tiller owns the land, the productivity has increased many fold. It is world experience. Small farms have more productivity where the farmers are himself involved. In certain parts, it is legal restriction where a NON-farmer CANNOT buy agricultural land, precisely for the same reason. Land Reform is NOT employment scheme, it is rather "prosperity" scheme.

Increasing the wealth of a large section of poor population through agriculture. Apart from few landlords we have large section of non-farming population who have retained their right over farming land. They are not landlords, in many cases they are not even big farmers. This section doesn't take any interest in farming and the actual farming in this case is being done by "bataidars". Suppose if Bataidar needs credit to buy inputs like fertilizer and high quality seeds, he can not apply for the same because he can not give collateral guarantee to bank. Why? Because his right on the land is no way recognized. Then how can he take credit from bank and apply latest farming technology? Do you know one reason of Bihar's backwardness is low Debit- Credit ratio? That means we deposit more money in Nationalized Bank than we take credit in Bihar. In last budget proposal Chidambaram propose to increase the credit flow in agricultural sector. In which way this proposal is going to benefit the agricultural sector in Bihar??

Land reform should aim to strongly encourage and attract talented producers or farmers and in turn it must discourages those who want land for rent-seeking purposes only. Why give land to the poor (give health, education, money, but why land): You may suggest that give poor money and if they are really interested in farming they would buy land. ---- Giving land helps in population retention in the rural areas. Our cities are overcrowded and that the private benefit from migrating to the city substantially exceeds the benefit to society. Giving the poor assets that can only be useful in rural areas (unlike money) would be a way to stop them from migrating to cities. Other dangerous side effect of migration of poor to cities is AIDS.

Land can be a permanent source of income for a poor family.

Those who talk about the need of land reform are NOT anti-rich. I don't talk about redistribution of factories etc. In fact, even in corporate world, the concept of giving ownership of company to it's employees through equity or shares is aimed at increasing the productivity.

The increasing number of non-farmer landlords in Bihar (this trend is largely due to rush to metros) are making a large amount of land as very inefficient, a very detrimental factor for rural economy which has the ultimate potential to tackle poverty.

Land Reform is one such thing which can change face of Bihar. No doubt about it. It can bring lot of prosperity to rural poor mass. Bihar can witness "harit kranti". Without land reform, most of large land holders are having lands for the purpose of rent. Rent-seeking landlords are biggest obstacle in improving productivity of lands.

With changed priorities of central govt. (due to economic reforms) we are today at a juncture where land, mostly for the urban, educated elite, and who also happens to be the powerful decision-maker, has become more a matter for housing, investment and infra-structure building. In the bargain, the existence of land as a basis of livelihood -- for subsistence, survival and human dignity has largely been lost. Do we bother about this issue??

Freight Equalization Policy:

What is this policy? If you don't know then I am NOT surprised at all because most of us don't know about it as it does NOT fit into our "normal" thought process. Do a Google search on "freight equalization". Immediately after independence, the policy of equalization in the freight rates of the railway, in the matter of coal, iron ore or steel and cement, the most important mineral inputs for industrial development, had devastated the
undivided Bihar. Not only Bihar stopped becoming the destination for investment in spite of its locational advantage vis-à-vis mineral resources, it rather subsidized the capitalist industrial transformation of India at its own peril. In 1947, the Eastern Region was the most industrially developed section. The raw materials for the engineering industry are in the Eastern Region. This locational advantage was nullified by freight equalization policy.

After independence six All India financial institutions were set up. These are IDBI, ICICI, IFCI, UTI, LIC and GIC. The lion's share of industrial finance in India came from these bodies. IFCI was headquartered in Delhi and the rest of them were headquartered in Bombay. Do remember, that when these were set up, Calcutta and not Bombay was the Industrial Capital.

Have you heard of Industrial Development and Regulation Act? Under it (inter alia) a license was required for setting up most industries. This license was issued by Central Govt. The ostensible purpose of this act was to have a balanced development of industrial growth all over India. Now, look around and check for yourself whether you see a balanced industrial growth all over India. By a "judicious" applications of the licensing provisions industrial base has been shifted out of Eastern India to Western India.

Now after Jharkhand, Bihar has lost major sources of revenue and it should get a big financial package to compensate the loss. Do we hear anyone talking about this?? How are poor law and order, casteism stopping central govt. to give this financial package??? Kashmir can get it but Biharis can't even demand it.

Role of IAS and other educated people:

Whenever we talk about development, the most obvious culprit of present status of state of Bihar is - our politician. We never think about an important pillar of democracy i.e., executive. We Biharis take pride in the fact that Bihar is producing very large number of IAS or IPS officers year after year. None can deny this fact. Any office of importance or significance where decisions are taken, you are sure to find a Bihari IAS part of the decision making process. Yet, Bihar is denied it's share of cake.

Merit gets too much attention and status in Bihar. I have seen an old lady in Thane SDO office chiding the SDO for non-fulfillment of promise. Can you imagine this in Bihar? The DM has so much "akar" that even his peon shoos me away?? Why most of the people don't dare to meet DM and ask or question something? Why is DM maintaining so much "distance" from general people. We always find faults with everything BUT not with IAS.

An IAS has proved his "merit" by passing UPSC test. He does NOT need to go beyond that. He enjoys and basks in the glory of people telling his "virgatha". I am NOT talking about a very few IAS who are toiling hard and working despite all odds. But majority of them take shelter in the name of political interference. Tell me if one DM is transferred and the next DM also is upright then how come this political interference will succeed??

Go to any collectorate in Bihar. It houses hardly 500 staffs. The most important office of an important component of democracy (i.e., EXECUTIVE) is an example of most inefficient and unproductive entity. The "powerful" DM is most unprofessional person (even though well educated). If he cannot manage his own office efficiently and professionally, how come he will manage the entire district. Reason is simple :- He does NOT need to prove anything. He is "the meritorious" person in Bihar. He has attained "mokshha".

When IAS officers humiliating teachers, professors, we don't resent this. We think that "meritorious" persons should be worshipped by rest AND rest all are worthless.

Real development will start NOT due to spread of education, but it will start due to professional approach of educated IAS executives. Then only development schemes will be efficiently implemented including education and literacy scheme.

Most of the people or Biharis (of our generation) who are worried about Bihar are INNOCENT people. They have no vested interest in the "talk" of development. Most of these innocent people are very progressive. They are very receptive to progressive thoughts and ideas.

BUT they lack information or knowledge about root cause of issues and their solutions. Migration to different parts of the world is making them to desire for "development" BUT in the process, they get divorced from real issues of Bihar. Tell me, can a Mumbai guy understand the issues of Bihar? No way. Mumbai or Punjab has different or same issues and "different" solutions. Precisely for the same reason, most of us don't sing a song beyond "law and order", electricity, roads etc. We simply join the age old chorus song.

We don't even talk about flood because my Delhi friend or leader does NOT talk about it. But even Biharis were singing songs of tsunami, latur etc.

And the moment you go deeper and talk about issues like "land reform", you are branded a communist.

1) We need investment of knowledge in current generation (especially in urban middle class Biharis).

2) We need to make inroads in their thought process.

3) We need bridges to bridge gaps in the meaning of "development".

Doing all above are NOT very difficult. Here IT is playing a big role to spread the awareness.

We must continue our discussion or debate as there is NO obstacle in doing so. It is big and first step.

Comments are most welcome.

Dear Prabhat Sinha jee,

No need to comment on the issue raised by you which is by and large the facts, directly or indirectly responsible for deteriorating development in Bihar.

This article is creating awareness among mass about the real problem, not the solution. I am very much worried about only talking about problems; please come with solutions.

Yes, we all know that good governance must be there to clean all different types/categories of garbage; yes we all kow that Vinoba Bhave's Land reforms could not unfortunately be implemented in Bihar because of feudalism among us (in comparison to other states); yes we all know that most Bihari technocrats and bureaucrats forget to do some thing in Bihar, exceptionally few of them (IAS) are doing great but this problem is spread all over India, this is the common nature in Indian people.

The efficiency of an IAS or other govt officials depends upon the attitude and priority of the government and that priorities and attitude varies from govt to govt . For instance, in the present President's Rule, almost all officers are doing good, taking major decisions which would have taken 3-4 years before. Example: opening a BIT Mesra Center at Patna, Patna University as Central University (that it really deserves). Talks were going on since 10-15 years but no decision. Why? Certainly lack of good governance; opening good Netarhat-type school in Bihar in the name of Gautam Buddha etc.

I personally welcomed the decision taken by present Governor under the President's Rule, I think everybody agrees that but the thing is, why now only? Why not before? Reason is simple: lack of vision, lack of positive attitude by our silly governments. Casteism here does not apply. Land reforms also does not. Same bureaucrats can have the same efficiency as they are showing.

Nobody stopped us from opening good schools, reputed Engineering/Medical Colleges in Bihar as most of the Biharis who have enough money are going out of the state for studying but for others? They can't go outside because of poor family economical condition. Every year around 3-4 lakh students pass matriculation exams; how many engineering colleges, medical colleges, management colleges are in Bihar? Only brilliant, genius are passing the exam of IIT/IIMs,CBSEs/AIIMS, are others fool? In Maharashtra, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, almost every house is producing one engineer/doctor but in Bihar, hardly one or two in a village and that person is called "Engineer Saheb" or "Doctor Saheb". Now a days this has become a "dhandha" in other states to open engineering colleges and earn huge money out of it from the student particularly from Bihar, UP, MP, West Bengal etc.

Can we start this movement by opening engineering, medical, management colleges to preserve the talent? If yes, then the govt high officials or caste will not come in the picture. Please open engineering colleges by forming trusts, co-operative societies. This can also be one of the solutions.

Bihar is having talent, no doubt about it, it needs to be explored. We are educated people, we have also some responsibilities and that responsibility comes out only while writing such articles; not while doing implementation of projects.

No solution unless we do something. - Bibhuti Bikramaditya, Seoul, South Korea - Apr. 07, 2005

He (the author) has not just shown us his genius writing skill with emotions and eagerness to do something for Bihar by highlighting the awareness, but also has given key for the solution to some of the major obstructions in our road to success.

It is nice to see someone is there who can think beyond casteism and corrupt politics for degrading development of Bihar. - Soni Tiwari. Patna - Apr. 16, 2005


The author has very well brought the burning issues of Bihar out in the light. No offence meant, but do we all warm ourselves in the heat or do something about it? Issues are certainly massive be it - flood, land reform, etc etc, but as we all nod our heads on contributing to the development, do we think how? I have been to a few states in India and met Biharis there. It was shocking to note that most of them (believe me) did not admit that they are from Bihar. How do you expect them to extend their hand for the cause then? Let us all work on our attitude first. Remember, if we keep our fingers crossed, things are going to aggravate. - Julie Sarup, Ahmedabad - Apr 22, 2005

No comments: