Dialogue  October-December, 2008 , Volume 10 No. 2

Point of Salience for the Development of A Limping State

Dr. Kumar Bimal*



It is difficult to encompass, in a shell, the vision and ideas regarding development of a limping State like Bihar. The thematic map of the desired development in Bihar, which was once rated as a metaphor for the ‘heart of India’1, is not yet clear, comprehensive and easily conceivable for many, inspite of frequent elite and scholarly discussions lost in polemics and interactive fiasco. Perhaps all the significant players in the development debate would agree that the issue of development should not be taken by the ruling parties or the opposition as a political ‘con’ and a sharp gouge or a vote-fetching measure. Implementation of development programme and projects requires a ‘real politik’ with strong will, determination and conviction. Presently there are certain visible endeavours in the State, desirous to give a new push to development with equity, distributive justive and well-knit trickle down mechanism. Undoubtedly there is a large untapped growth potential in ‘labour-rich’ Bihar and it has sufficient possibilities to maintain a higher rate of growth than at present. On the other hand, acute problem of law and order and the State politics aggravated by hopelessly caste-oriented political polarization since decades create hindrance in the smooth execution of developmental policies and projects.

     It is repeatedly said that Bihar is at the bottom of every economic growth indicator because of its poor infrastructure, lack of viable capital investment and murky law and order situation. We will have to identify the factors responsible for this Bihar syndrome, which has reduced   “the most cosmopolitan province of India” (in the words of Sister Nivedita)2 to the most ‘marginalised State’ of India at present.

       Broadly speaking infrastructure includes roads, railways, irrigation, inland water-ways, power, education, health care, posts and telegraphs, legal system and public works with equal emphasis on ‘protective’ works along with ‘productive’ works. There is a strong link between infrastructure and development. It is an established fact that infrastructure makes a pervasive impact on economic development and human welfare, provided it is supported by efficient, responsive, accessible and low cost service delivery. The infrastructure service should reach in equal measure both to the urban and rural sectors. Availability of efficient infra-structure service in rural areas played a significant role in reducing poverty in China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Hence sufficient increase in per capita provision of infrastructure services in the State, specially in the rural areas having numerous ‘less developed’ villages, is imperative and indispensable. So far infrastructure investment is concerned, Bihar should adopt least-cost approach to investment, maintenance and services.

     In this backdrop we need a developmentalist like Prasant Chandra Mahalanobis and a visionary civil engineer like Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya to make the limping Bihar a ‘possible’ and prospering State. Only the contractee measures would not suffice for the rapid and inclusive development of Bihar. Human progress and development made in the 20th century bear ample testimony to this fact that whenever an Engineer got an opportunity to occupy a position at the helms of affairs and to lead the society, he made valuable contributions in changing and shaping the development scenario of this country or State. The recent history of Japan and Guinea Bissau (previously known as Portuguese Guinia) testifies this assumption. Saburo Okita–an engineer-planner and Amil-Car Cabril–a hydraulic engineer played significant role in the development of Japan and Portuguese Guiana respectively. In this context, in India, specially in Karnataka, Dr. M. Visvesvaraya also deserves praiseful mention. His thoughts and works on ‘Planned Economy for India’, ‘Rural Reconstruction in India’, ‘District Development Scheme’ and ‘Nation Building’ are still relevant and enjoy a great deal of respect.

     To some optimists it seems that Bihar is on the move with a whirlwind of change and expanding development budget to meet the imperatives of public good. Hence to accelerate the pace of progress, measures may be taken to strengthen the public distribution system and speedy delivery mechanism and to gear up greater resource mobilisation along with an emphasis on increasing production in the priority sectors. Bihar must no longer wait for ‘tomorrow’. In the words of Gaston Berger, ‘tomorrow has to be invented’. Now the chapters of ‘blame-game’ and ‘pretend politics’ regarding development in Bihar must be closed and a strong ‘Resolutique’ for an inclusive development must be adopted without any further delay.

    A word of caution with due deference. This impression is gaining ground these days that the poor have ceased to be agenda items of development (‘upper crust development’ indeed!) prepared by the urban power elite, nincompoops, compradors and the local peddlers. Sincere activists and men of ideas are seldom given the floor to discuss grass-root development planning, macro trends, paradigm shifts, sectoral issues, specific development experiences of other States and recent development policy initiatives. Even in this age of adult suffrage, democratic decentralization through Panchayati Raj and rural upliftment, there is a vast gulf of cultural difference and economic affluence between urban India and rural India. Still rural rich, having a lower place in the social stratification, are unable to get cultural entry in urban society. The radical and the firebrand social thinkers hold the view that all the elite power centres are mutually interlinked and their conflicts and quarrels on the political stage are just like shadow boxing or ‘Noora Kushti’. It is a crude fact or painful tragedy that even during the last six decades of independence the traditionally deprived sector of our society, suffering from chronic poverty, has not developed its entrepreneurial managing capacity.

    Here I would like to quote C.M. Chipolla and C.P. Kindleberger as follows–”Entrepreneurial activity (in addition to land, labour and capital) is a necessary ingredient but not a sufficient one. It is the human vitality of a whole society which, given the opportunity, comes into play and sets loose the creative response of history.” The other point of salience indicates the importance of people’s participation,   Community initiatives and organizational practices i.e. ‘orgware’: a term coined by Gianni Fodella on the analogue with hardware and software–for achieving inclusive and even development.

      After the separation of Jharkhand, the topology of Bihar has changed a lot. Now remaining Bihar is mainly an agro–State destined to face repeatedly the fearful fury of flood and drought. The Adhwara group of rivers cause devastating flood in the rainy season. The Kosi Dam* is loosing its containing capacity due to silting and the Farakka Barrage–originally conceived by Sir Arthur Cotton and Sir William Wilcocs in 1853 and 1930 respectively–is sending back the sand and residue in the river bed of the Ganges in Bihar. More over, due to the increase of higher percentage of strain energy, strain accumulation and imbalance in the plate tectonics system, the major part of Bihar is prone to earthquake with varying hypocentres and with different depth ranges such as shallow, intermediate or deep. Hence as an irresistible result Bihar will have to depend on the development of its human resource and agro-industrial interactions. Danger of repeated occurrence of flood, drought and earthquake hangs like Damocles Sword on the head of Bihar.

    In the development context, it is imperative to locate the factors responsible for lower agricultural and non-agricultural growth rates in Bihar. To extricate Bihar from the club of the so-called BIMARU States of India, it is indispensable to abide by the determinants of the State growth rate as the growth performance of Bihar even in the post-reforms period is below the desired level.

        It would be better to benefit ourselves from the Kerala Model of Development and democratic decentralization along with other concomitant factors congenial for growth. Whatever be the type of model–Marxist Model, Gandhian Model, Nordic Model, Nehruvian Model, Mexican ‘Salinastroika’ Model, Ejedo Model or a Composite Model by assimilating all the types of multi-sector models mentioned before, Bihar should strive for inclusive Development by adopting an unorthodox perspective.

        To sum up, the following salient points catch our attention in the context of accelerating development in Bihar:-

1.     Promotion of Common Pool Resources (CPRs) and retrieval of resources from local elite capture.

2.     Availability of ancilliary inputs such as mechanical power, quality seeds, insecticides in the agriculture sector and irrigation.

3.     Utilization of Science & Technology, suited to local conditions, in rural development and eradication of rural poverty to make change in the economic environment of the State.

4.     Reduction of debt burden on the State, (if any) and endeavours to felicitate the growth of capital equipment from domestic sources.

5.     Equity in Health programme to bridge the gulf between health ‘haves’ and health ‘have-nots’.

6.     Development of the State capital as a Mega/Meta/Metro city because such cities are rated as the engines of sustained growth and growth acceleration.

7.     Dredging of Inland water ways passing through Bihar to make them more navigable.

8.     Pursuance of Land Reforms Programme, (specially in the agro-climatic zones) and promotion of agriculture-industry interactions with an emphasis on agriculture to enhance land-based activities, rural infrastructure and social sector development.

9.     Execution of Poverty Alleviation Programme and Reconstruction (not like cosmetic Perestroika).

10.   Improvement of slums and Housing for the inarticulate poor so that substantial reduction in poverty can be effectuated.

11.   Preservation of Ecology and judicious site selection for Mega Projects and technological expansions.

12.   Efficiency-enhancing subsidies meant to help out lower income household and the traditional rural industries so that they may face the problems aggravated by monetization and urbanization.

13.   Establishment of Institute of Rural Reconstruction in every Division/District on the pattern of ‘Sri Niketan’ established by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921 at Bolepur.

14.   Expanding the supply of electricity for productive use in the villages and the suburban areas.

15.   Simplification of ‘Procedures’ at different level in Govt. offices and lending agencies.

16.   Speedy amelioration of genuine public grievances.

17.   ‘Subotnic’ (Sabbatical) type weekly ‘Shram-dan’ on every Saturday by youngmen in groups for the betterment of their locality.

18.   ‘E’-Governance.

19.   Necessary fulfillment of the ‘Minima’ and the ‘Minimum needs basket’ of the needy citizens.

20.   Dissemination and standardization of Education at all levels (Primary, Secondary, Higher, Medical, Technical etc).

21.   Tightening up ‘Development Administration’ by the State Govt.

22.   Impetus to tourism, Interlacement of Tourist Circuit and Renovation of archeological sites.

23.   Setting up an alert and well-equipped Agency for speedy Disaster-Management after preparing a State Register of Risks and Disasters.

24.   Expansion of rural and urban road-map to increase the road transport capacity in the State.

25.   Removal of bottlenecks in growth and egalitarian redistribution.

26.   Strategy for availing the benefits of the sub-national lending policy and state-level loans launched by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other aid-providing agencies.

27.   Adherence to Village Reconstruction and Village Movement with indigenist theme as conceived by Mahatma Gandhi Rabindranath Tagore and J.C.Kumarappa for the development of far-flung remote rural areas.

28.   Employment Generation Programme for guaranteeing employment.

29.   Investment on local development of new knowledge, technical training and skill developmenspecially in rural areas related with crop-cultivation, storage techniques, marketing, credit and local institutional arrangements.

30.   Governmental and moral control on continuous deterioration in the quality and integrity of public services and low level business ethics of the traders and industrialists.

31.   Distribution of edibles and kerosene to BPL families for their subsistence through PDS at regular intervals on the basis of anually revised list of BPL families.

Mainly the basic issues like supply of water, irrigation, power, electricity, fertilizer, road construction, flow of investment by reputed entrepreneurs, improvement in frowzy sanitation system, agrarian reforms, land development and industrialization deserve priority in the development programme of the truncated Bihar, which has no notable mineral wealth.

Let us see whether the desired development of Bihar-often obstructed by political catapulting and knavery-is achieved even now or it still remains an Eldorado and Sangrila for us.              



Vide: 'Bihar, the Heart of India' by Sir John Houlton, Orient Longmans Ltd., Bombay, 1949.

2. footfalls of Indian History by Sister Nivedita (Margaret E. Nobb), Rupa & Co., New Delhi-2, 2002, page 56.


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Astha Bharati