Business Competitiveness, Bihar and Politics

Last issue of Business World was a special on the business competitiveness of the states of India. Maharashtra leads followed with Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhdra Pradesh, and Haryana among the larger states following it. Even among the prosperity level of the states, India has a huge gap. Interestingly, the per capita income of Maharashtra (Rs 48,171) is almost four times that of Bihar (Rs 10,286). However, I doubt if the per capita is based on truthfully provided data, and it has considered the contributions of migrant population of the state that one can find in every corner of the country perhaps more rightly the globe today, from Fiji to West Indies.

One clear cut reason for the gap appears to be the gross neglect of education by the state such as Bihar as it will be clear from the box below. Over the years, the state didn’t make any endeavour to create educational facilities as some of the other states, particularly of South did or today even UP at least in Western region is doing. A spark of hope appeared with many proposals for engineering and medical colleges appearing in the lists of investors, when the Nitish came to rule but nothing much has materialized. I don’t know why the investors are shy to invest in education in Bihar when the students from Bihar form a good percentage of the student population of the educational institutes in almost all states. Will some educationists of Bihar and its education ministry enquire into the reasons and the state take steps to remove the barriers for investment? I still feel the state must do serious and sincere introspection in the subject. Without creating sufficiently excessive capacity for professional education, the state can’t even dream of growth in per capita income. As I know most of the people from Bihar having acquired education get employment also outside the state and settle down there contributing to the domiciled state’s GDP.

I can understand Nitish Kumar’s agony when he expressed his displeasure for NRIs not investing in the state even after all the efforts made by him and his deputy. “The state government, as claimed, had spent millions of rupees on trying to attract NRIs for investments in the state, and also set up an NRI cell to facilitate investment in Bihar from expatriates. But till date, the state has not got a single big NRI investment.” Nitish must not lose heart. Indians are not the Chinese. Very few Indians are big entrepreneurs with sufficient cash to invest in India. The people of Bihar are mostly salary earners. With the breaking up of the joint family, the younger generation is not ready to part with their earnings even with family what for the state.

GDP per capita: Bihar’s GDP per capita is Rs 10, 286, the lowest among all the states of the country below even Orissa, Jharkhand, UP, and Chhatishgarh and the population is 91.63 million, the third highest after UP and Maharashtra.

Engineering graduates: Bihar produces hardly 6,376 engineering graduates per year that is lower than all the major states. Tamil Nadu produces the highest at 329,271 and even Orissa producing 45,357. Uttar Pradesh turns out 1, 03,573.

Road networks: Bihar has 81,655 kms, whereas UP has 248,481kms and Orissa 238,000kms.

Nitish Kumar has taken a lot many steps to pull up the brand image of Bihar against all odds, be it Lok Shahi (Rule of the People), by making public the mobile phone numbers of the chief secretary and a clutch of other top officials to make the officers more accessible to the people. But it goes to the officers how effectively they take it and make it effectively useful for the people. His scheme of loan to each agriculture graduate for setting up agriclinics and agribusiness centres is a great endeavour in right direction. But how will he motivate them to be master the subject that they are expected to advise the farmers with? The culture of getting certificate by any fair and foul means to prove once education standard and knowledge and getting the right for a job must improve if not end some day. Unfortunately, most of the employees in government consider getting job as their right once they get it and don’t consider taking the responsibility of the position as essential. Nitish must build in stick in the system and not provide only the carrot. Similarly, the idea of ‘the constructions of the so-called ‘e-bhawans’ at block levels in an attempt to improve the flow of information between the farmers and the government officials while offering other facilities to the growers including a soil test laboratory, conference room, phones and fax availability, internet connection and an information center’ is a wonderful one with lot of potential. I am sure Internet will reach each of the villages through some schemes such as e-Choupal. It will certainly make the technologies serve people.

Nitish Kumar has also announced the setting up at an agricultural university in Bhagalpur at an estimated cost of Rs. 350 crore to develop a vital research center in the state providing the farmers the kind of information that would help increase the production while at the same time raising the quality of the farm products. I only wonder it is not a political announcement for political gain in coming election.
Politics of development already has done a lot of harm to the state. Can the three biggies of the state politics shun that for some years? Let the people understand the close relationship between politics and economic outcomes.

I only wish the India Inc. or may be, the central governments don’t perpetuate the development apartheid of Bihar. The people of Bihar will not forgive that.

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