The Idea of Bihar is historical, cultural, and quintessential in the making of New India envisioned by the prime minister. In the current scenario, the attainment of a developed state is an impenetrable dream for the people of the state under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, a Chief Minister who not only has failed to write the growth fable for Bihar but also has failed in governance assessment in terms of almost all sustainable development goals, rule of law and inclusion.
Foucault said that authority is a network of relations that transcends constitutionality and legitimacy, such as economic, class, or collective interests. Nitish Kumar is a perfect case study to understand how the loss of authority and appeal are directly proportional to an inefficient government and anarchy. The government has not only failed in transforming and revamping the means and modes of achieving either human or holistic development in the State but has made a mockery of human livelihood in several contexts such as health, education, law and order, and necessities of life.
The demography is, at present, both an impediment and an asset for the State as to how it can be managed. Subsequently, it was the responsibility of the State government and the leadership to ensure the maximum dividend out of Human resources and demography. But, on the contrary, we can see that the institutional and systemic support by the consecutive government has failed the people of Bihar consequently. The transformative governance has remained a mirage for the people. There was a ray of hope that augmented with Nitish’s rise to power, defeating the idea of ‘criminalisation of politics multiplied by social support, especially that of women, but the transformation was never achieved in substantive aspects.
There is a strident disjuncture between the aspirations of the people and the antiphon of the Nitish government, which has mostly been arbitrary or vague. The distribution system, along with management, has been a complete botch as it has failed to both create opportunities and enhance the capabilities of people in the State. The ardour and diligence of the CM were remarkable during the first term (2005-2010) as he focused on inclusion, participation, and representation at the grassroots. He occupied the central theme of Indian politics, and people voted for him not only to change but to lead the deprived and disadvantaged to empowerment.
The credit for building an impeccable social coalition goes to Nitish Kumar during his tenure as CM but what is more readable today is the social disconnect in terms of both policies and governance. There is a time when ‘political arrogance’ and ‘political ignorance’ precede all leaders’ decisions and can prove to be pernicious for both leadership and the party. The JDU is heading toward losing its spatial’ and ‘electoral’ ubiety, and preeminently after Nitish, it will run out of leadership because the JDU never aimed at cultivating for the future or building a base of young leadership. The ambiguous decision-making and eremitic internal approach towards own party members is a stark contrast to the promise of a socialist association that is compounded to harness the progress, growth, and advancement of Bihar.
The education and public recruitment sector have shown no cue of enhancement under the umbrella of ‘Sushashan’ over the last 17 years of rule. A structural and policy deficit has riveted opportunity, enrollment, and prosperity of the people of the State.
The government schools have failed to address the issue of basic education and primary teachers; there is an institutional crisis coupled with the truancy of political will to convalesce. According to ASER reports (rural) released in November 2021, 73.5 per cent of Bihar’s enrolled students take tuition, compared to the national average of 39.2 per cent. Enrollment has been an issue that haunts Bihar since Independence, and currently, the unenrolled percentage of children between the ages group 6-14 is 6.7 per cent which is higher than the national average. Digital access to education is also the lowest in the State as only 10 per cent of the enrolled students can study digitally with a very small percentage of students having a smartphone at home.
The wanton issue of cheating, admission gates, paper leaks, and administrative corruption is not only a predicament but also an indication of how the State has been unable to come out of its past. As per the Performance Grading Index (2019-2020), Bihar is among the lowest ranking in terms of educational infrastructure. The present situation of higher education and institutions of the State needs clamant intervention and reshaping. There are about 32 states who perform better compared to Bihar when it comes to the gross enrolment ratio in higher education (2018-19). Similarly, 35 states are better than Bihar in the matter of ensuring girls’ toilets in government schools were at least 10 per cent of government schools lacked separate toilets for girls (2016-17). The unabated unemployment rate, which is more than 17.23 per cent statistically, is more complicated at ground level, where all data face a defeat every day given the topsy-turviness.
In Niti Aayog’s fourth edition of the Health Index (2019-2020), Bihar was ranked 18th on the overall performance of health among 19 large states (Second last rank). Bihar is the worst-performing State even on the indicator of people served by a government doctor.
There are 15 states ahead of Bihar in the life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rate. For instance, only one-third of the respondents of the Lokniti Bihar Pre-Poll Survey (2020) consider that the condition of government hospitals has improved and almost equal respondents say it deteriorated; almost 42% of respondents say that the condition of government schools has gone down significantly.
If we look at the Sustainable Development Goals- India Index, Bihar was among the worst five performing states (2020-2021). Among the 16 goals fixed by SDG like education, health, climate, environment, economic growth, gender, etc, it is astonishing that Bihar fails to appear in any of these 16 indicators. Similarly, in Human Development Index performance (2019), Bihar performs the lowest. As popularly known, HDI takes three aspects into account- longevity and healthy life, literacy, and standard of living. Bihar stands dismally on all these indicators. At least 33.7 per cent of the State’s population falls under the poverty rate, and 29 states are better than Bihar.
The story of the economic growth and development of Bihar is neither tempting nor adorable as there is an apparent stagnation of industries and MSMEs. Bihar figures somewhere in the middle-ranking among states in terms of FDI inflow (2021), much behind Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, or Bengal. Uttar Pradesh has an FDI inflow of 224 million US$ figuring in the top 11 states, whereas Bihar has 150 million US$ in 2021. It is important to underscore here that way back in 2011-12, Bihar ranked 15th in terms of FDI inflow proposals. The new industry minister of Bihar, though has a different approach, as he has been rigorous in engagement with all scales of industries and is writing a separate history in the field of ethanol economy. The investment and inflows of the State are directly proportional to law and order, whereas Bihar is going back to the jungle raj with an increase in broad daylight murder and loot. According to NCRB (2020), the State witnessed the second-highest murders and dowry-related cases; the highest number of land and property-related disputes, attacks on police and government officials, ATM fraud, second highest cases of attempts to murder, atrocities against S.C.s, and rioting. Bihar was 9th in the recorded incident of crime against women as it increased from 8,091 in 2004 to 18,587 in 2019. The overall crime rate increased to 211 per lakh population in 2020, ranked 23. Bihar contributes 5.2% of the total crime in the country, according to NCRB data.
The State awaits transformation and amelioration, unlike an ordinary policy change which can only be imagined when certain fundamental aspects are addressed effectively, like education, health, infrastructure, and economic growth. There are limitations of governance without such foundational intervention and progress. Unfortunately, we have witnessed a saturation on these scales of development in Bihar in terms of both governance and leadership. The aspiring youth is on the streets, the public employees are in a muddle, industrialists are in a quandary, farmers wait spurned, and people looming up as ‘Bihari migrants’ across the country. It is time for the leadership to adopt political humility in approach and look beyond staying in power. A blueprint for comprehensive and holistic development of Bihar is the need of the hour, along with a strong political will to transform and resuscitate the growth story.
‘The imperious shall fall’