Bihar of today is hardly industrialized. Unfortunately, the potentials for industrialization are also limited. It may have one big enough manufacturing unit for agricultural equipment of all sorts including small tractors, as Bihar will provide a ready market too. But the agriculture will remain the mainstay. Except for districts like Rohtas and some more, the state, particularly the north and western regions, still lacks irrigation facilities.
In every monsoon, the north Bihar remains under the threats of devastating floods affecting millions of people, mostly poor in rural areas. Unfortunately, hardly a major task has been taken up during last 60 years of independence. It would have attracted the minds of planners of the nation. Some major innovative projects of water conservation and storage would have been undertaken. But the priority perhaps skipped as Bihar gradually went out of the development politics. Floodwaters come and go; and soon draughts follow in the same regions. Should not the present government take up major projects to avoid the misery forever? It requires a special agency something like DVC that can take up all the necessary measures including all feasible river-interlinkings that has been abandoned by the UPA government at the centre.
Another way-out may be to create thousands of small dams, check dams, and waterbodies in the regions to store the rain and floodwater under all the schemes of the central government in a planned manner.
Gujarat may be taken a model to emulate. Gujarat is today the highest producer of oilseeds in the country. It has enhanced its agricultural production by almost one-and-a-half times in the last five-odd years through a multi-pronged strategy: efficient agro-management based on conservation of surface water, providing scientific information to farmers through the medium of Krishi Rath, and disbursement of a soil health card to every farmer. Under a soil health card policy, the scientists attached to the four agro universities in the state go to every farm and test the soil quality. The card helps the farmer provide the right nutrients to the soil, thus saving on wasteful expenditure. Around 17 lakh farmers in Gujarat have already received such cards. No wonder productivity has gone up. Can’t the universities in Bihar, particularly those having agricultural science department be made to do something on the pattern of Gujarat?
However, the most significant is Gujarat’s achievements in rainwater preservation for bad time of draught. It has happened by building 1.77 lakh farm ponds and 1 lakh check dams in public-private partnership, and deepening 5,000 village lakes, which has sent the water table soaring. Bihar must try to emulate Gujarat so far the creation of irrigation infrastructures are concerned.
Another success story from Gujarat is known world over as white revolution and credited to Kurien. It is something that can be emulated by all Indian states more so by Bihar. Its impact on rural economy will be significant.
Consider the economics: one buffalo gives roughly 5 litres of milk each day; people earn, depending on the fat content, Rs 15 to Rs 25 per litre. Even the poorest – one-buffalo owners – can earn. An infrastructure to collect and distribute the milk from the rural Bihar must get priority. The state must have a dairy in all blocks and collection centers that can cater to all prospective cattle owners all over the state.
There are many other things to emulate from other success stories. But one important change must come in the cultivation priorities of farmers in Bihar. As Punjab and Haryana switched over to high-value farm commodities, such as fruits, vegetables, milk, poultry products, meat and fish, Bihar must also do that.
Bihar must also increase its forest cover and encourage plantation of commercial trees. In good old days, we could see huge mango orchards in every village and even on the both sides of major roads one could see the fruit trees. All have gone. Can’t the state create a situation that can bring back that greenery?