Bihar: Champion athlete does not need steroids

At a massive Delhi rally, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar boasted of the state’s major achievements after he assumed power, and proclaimed a Bihar model of development for others to follow. If we view development as a sort of Olympics, Bihar would win several gold medals. It’s a champion athlete.

Yet Kumar insists that Bihar is a terribly poor, neglected state that needs special subsidies and massive cash transfers from New Delhi to keep growing. This is like a top athlete demanding steroids to keep sprinting. No Olympics allows this, not even if an athlete is poor or historically deprived.

Bihar has registered GDP growth of 12 per cent per year for eight years, the fastest among major Indian states. This is awesome. Some argue it is easy to grow from a low base. Sorry, but if that were generally true, the poor and backward would be sprinting everywhere. Nitish’s 12 per cent growth is utterly remarkable. It also proves, however, that a poor, backward state can become a champion athlete through good governance, without special subsidies or political favours.

Bihar’s social progress has been remarkable too. Literacy in the decade 2001-11 rose 17 percentage points, the highest in India. Female literacy improved even faster, by 20 percentage points, probably a world record.

Bihar used to be far worse than the national average in social indicators, but in 2011 Bihar equalled the national infant mortality rate of 44 per thousand births, and bettered the national average in rural areas (45 per thousand against the national 48 per thousand. Bihar’s life expectancy is now 65.8 years, just short of the national 66.1. Bihar’s death rate is down to 6.7 per thousand persons against the national 7.1. This reflects huge progress in immunization.

There remain dark areas. Bihar has among the lowest rates of Plan spending and social spending per capita. It is India’s poorest state. Rural poverty in 2004-09 declined by just 0.4 per cent, against the national 8.2 per cent. However, this was only because of a major drought in 2009. A new poverty survey for 2011-12 is being finalized, and will surely show a dramatic drop in rural poverty. Slowing out-migration is tangible evidence of growing prosperity.

Bihar has long been among the worst states in family planning and population growth. Its population expanded 25 per cent in the last decade against the national 17.6 per cent, and its women have on average 3.7 children against the national 2.5. This has depressed its per capita income. But can this be a reason to demand more cash, which will come at the expense of states that have controlled their populations and hence improved per capita income? Should Tamil Nadu and Kerala subsidise Bihar’s bedroom profligacy?

Historically, Bihar’s fertile soil and ample water made it among the richest areas in the world, the seat of mighty empires. Unlike Assam it is not a historically backward area but a world leader that retrogressed, thanks mostly to incompetence and corruption. If Biharis repeatedly chose to elect Lalu Yadav, who declared that economic development was useless, why blame the rest of India?

Lalu asked, why build roads which will help only rich car-owners , who will then run over poor folk’s cows? Today, Nitish Kumar has reversed that policy by becoming a champion road builder. This has helped produce record GDP growth. But if Biharis voted Lalu to power for 15 years, should they suffer the consequences, or the taxpayers of other states?

Bihar provides only 2.8 per cent of national income but gets 8.6 per cent of central funds. That’s misleading, says Bihar : we account for 8.8 per cent of the population, and it is the poorest 8 per cent, so we deserve more. Once again the question arises, should successful family planners have to pay more to the unsuccessful? Bihar’s Plan spending (net of book adjustments) has shot up from Rs 1,000 crore per year under Lalu to Rs 16,000 crore today. This contradicts Nitish’s complaint of “step-motherly treatment” by Delhi. Rather, it shows how deeply self-inflicted were Bihar’s wounds under Lalu.

Nitish has demonstrated that, despite historical problems, Bihar has enough going for it to become a growth champion. It needs to shift massively from agriculture to industry and services, and Nitish wants Central tax breaks for this. But Bihar’s industrial output (including construction) in 2010-11 and 2011-12 grew 17 per cent and 18.4 per cent respectively, and manufacturing grew by 8.5 per cent and 8.9 per cent. These rates were much better than the corresponding national growth rates. Bihar badly needs more electricity and big industries, but is far from stagnant. Nitish may have the political muscle to get Bihar declared a special category state after the 2014 election. But this will be a victory of the politically powerful, not of the deserving weak.

7 thoughts on “Bihar: Champion athlete does not need steroids

  • 2013.Oct.13 at 13:37
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    Mr. Swaminathan, for your kind information, I reproduce below what Mr. Nandan Nilekani wrote about the regional imbalance in India. Regarding other issues raised, Bihar is not getting anything undue. Whatever fund are being released is as per Gadgil formula and as per Bihar re-organization act. I will refer to CD ratio also which has been kept lowest in Bihar. Regarding population growth, you know it is directly linked to other factors like poverty, illiteracy, etc. We should not oppose efforts being taken to improve these factors which in turn will bring down population growth there. I would request you to please comment on what Mr. Nandan Nilekani wrote on the reasons of regional imbalance in India in his book, ”Imagining India” which I am reproducing below :-

    ”Regional Imbalances in India – I would like to quote Mr. Nandan Nilekani. Here is a excerpt from his book ‘Imagining India’, Para-2 of page-266 (name of topic is Our Regional Imbalances) :-
    ”Other policies created massive problem of regional inequalities in India. The priorities of India’s five year plans – such as their focus on energy and steel production – diverted large investments to states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat. One particularly ill-considered policy was the Freight Equalization Act, which kept freight costs the same no matter where the goods were transported from. This act was a body blow to India’s mineral rich eastern state and relocated resource markets closer to the port cities. Bad policy is nearly always the result of powerful lobbying, and Dr. Vijay Kelkar notes, ‘The Freight Equalization Policy was at the insistence of the industries located in Gujarat and Maharashtra, who found themselves shut out from cheap resources, once import substitutions came in.’ As a result states on our east coast which had dominated industrial growth in colonial India, saw their fortunes slide both as a resource center and as an industrial center through the 1960s and 1970s.

    I will add only one point to above description, that this Freight Equalization Act was not applicable on cotton. Freight on cotton was charged as per distance only. Now, we should not complain if people from these states have awaken to their rights and if they are demanding compensation against exploitation done by lobbyists from other states, as well explained by Mr. Nandan Nilekani in his book referred above.”

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  • 2013.Oct.13 at 13:17
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    Entire eastern India suffered due to wrong policy of central government. One such policy was ‘freight equalization policy’ which was brought at the behest of lobbyist from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Economic strangulation of Bihar is now know to everyone. Now, time has come to compensate this state. Mr.Swamy, when you write against Bihar, you sound more as Bihar hater than an economist.

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  • 2013.Apr.06 at 12:49
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    Dear All,

    Since very long whole India is saying Bihar and Biharis are very very Backward then whats wrong if it would be declared officially.
    I can understand what wrong would be…once it will be declared backward officially then this state would start getting other benefits
    to catch up to the rest of the world.
    Now problem with few people is…why this state should get extra share…..and the fact is very clear…..
    todays bihar is not only because of Laloo 15 years misrule but Bihar decline started way back when britishers started ruling this country…
    for them bihar and other eastern states were the land for raw materials and to sell the finished goods they looked to port cities and hence mumbai, kolkata
    and other cities got developed as commercial capital of India not even delhi became commercial capital of India which is a beautiful political capital of India
    it is beautiful today because its a union territory with Special Status tag means it is made beautiful with extra fund allocation from center….
    after Independence Indian Govt. followed the same path which britishers did and intrduced freight equalization policy…which means very mother land of eastern India
    especially bihar being fucked up to produce minerals and these minerals transported to so called todays developed cities to develop and prosper more…..
    so question is where these guyz were who are now saying bihar is beggar…why these guys didnt say that time we dont need produce of some other state
    on marginal cost due to wrong policy of center which is only looking to develop the developed states by britishers…..
    and for them who are saying backward tag is a shame, let me tell you….to be shameful of getting backwrd tag is just an “Emotional Term” it does not hold
    good in practical and realistic world…..
    even corporate indusries are begging to get tax free land and other facilities to set up their shops…
    todays Punjab is not developed by its own…it has got too much of centers fund and still getting on the name of Separate Khalistan and Minority Funds……
    So summary of the Story is only few of the Indian states has developed on its own without any extra help from center, without any wrong policies of center
    due to their gegrophical condition and offcourse due to able leadership as well and Historical Bihar is one of that State
    rest all were beggars at some point of time and today sitting at the top….
    let bihar to be beggar this time….Its TIME FOR BIHAR now… And Its worthless to compare NaMo and NIKu….NaMo is fighting to rule India…NiKu is fighting to
    develop Bihar…and offcourse to rule and to serve they need their Position occupiied and hence they need to play some kind of politics…and political circus are
    being designed looking at their opponents..Chess Board is not same for all the players it is designed as per their opponents…NiKu is against NaMo not because of
    Modi popularity but because of his counterpart in bihar should not take undue advantage of his relationship with NaMo on the name of Secularism.

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  • 2013.Apr.05 at 00:04
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    No state should be give undue favors, this creates favoritism and nepotism. Guess to whose advantage – Party ruling the center.

    I have started to doubt the credibility and integrity of Nitish after this. A spirited leader like Modi would have never done so, who lives by his words and beliefs.

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  • 2013.Mar.29 at 14:26
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    Narendra Modi should not become an anathema for Nitish Kumar.Those who have a vestige of doubt about his ability to pull minority votes on the basis of some aberrant happenings in Gujarat know too well what is happening in everyday life how the majority are pestered. Nitish Kumar has gained because of BJP’s blessings. Once he severs ties in Bihar his real size will be visible nowhere.

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  • 2013.Mar.25 at 17:03
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    Sir,

    You have rightly pointed out the valid reasons of Bihar not deserving a special category state, but you haven’t brought out one important point what Nitish Kumar addressed in rally in Delhi. He said not only Bihar, all the deserving backword states should get special benefits. And what’s the use of the growth and prosperity acheived only by some grown states like Gujarat, Maharastra etc. Don’t we see that in real life the strong help out the weak guys? In Nitish’s words “Dont we deserve to grow like others.” Most importantly, he has achieved all the famed growth rates by his limited resources and instilling a self belief in Biharis like me. Earlier I used to feel ashmed for it, but now I proudly say I am a Bihari. Don’t I deserve to say that?

    Raghavendra.

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  • 2013.Mar.25 at 16:52
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    But Mr. Swami, it is very well known “secret” that without the drugs, you are NOT going to win any Olympic or World medals in many of the events. Many of the top athletes’ have coaches who are more knowledgeable about “nutrition”(aka drugs) than the games! So you need to be good at the art of dodging the dope tests.

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