Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
News Source: newindianexpress
The results of the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections are out, and the new government – dubbed the ‘Grand Alliance’ has won the majority in the House. This article is not an analysis of voter trends or an opinion piece on why the NDA lost or how the Alliance scripted its victory. This article is about the current challenges that Bihar is plagued with and a reminder that the new government’s job has only just begun, and that it should not fail the trust of the Bihari people. These are by no means the only problems, but 5 of the major obstacles faced by Bihar.
1) Youth unemployment.
27% of the population of Bihar is between 15-30 years old. But half the youth population is employed in agriculture and low-paying jobs. Furthermore, in spite of several development projects in the past decade, Bihar hosts less than 2% of the nation’s industries. The trend of industrial growth has been steadily increasing in the past few years. The State government needs to hasten this growth and expand Bihar’s industrial sector – particularly the agricultural sector. This will curb unemployment and increase GDP per capita.
2) Electricity deficit.
Data shows that less than 26% of rural Bihari households are electrified – a very serious problem. Bihar has a power deficit problem which it needs to address by allocating proportionate budgetary funds to ensure that every Bihari house and factory enjoys regular electricity.
3) The crime rate.
Bihar accounts for 10% of violent crimes in India. The number of crimes since 2012 has increased – mainly because the number of reported cases has increased, which is an appreciable trend. But having notoriety for being a ‘jungle raj’, Bihar still has a long way to go. This will involve modernizing police equipment, ensuring better law enforcement, ensuring women’s safety, expanding policing efficiency and outreach, and curbing corruption in the police, private and public sectors.
Bihar has a literacy rate of 64% – the lowest among all Indian states. The rural literacy rate of the state is 54% while the urban literacy rate is 82%. The 1960s saw several ambitious educational plans by the state government, but poor implementation. In the past decade though, drop-out rates have plummeted and literacy has increased, though there remains a serious mismatch between demand and supply. Also, Bihar has the worst teacher absence rate in India – about 37%. The new government must increase efforts to educate Bihari children, while at the same time balancing the gender gap in education (and birth). Clearly, there is a lot of room for development and obviously a state can develop only when it invests extensively in education. This will involve both building new schools and improving on the existing educational institutions.
Shockingly, 98% of rural households in Bihar lack access to toilets. Now that’s an abhorrent number. Bihar has less than 5% of India’s state highways. While urbanization is gradually increasing, it is increasing in a haphazard manner. The new government must make Bihar’s infrastructure modern and efficient. This will involve reviewing tax laws, cutting red tape, attracting foreign and private investment, connecting Bihar’s towns and cities and funding various projects.
Bihar faces several challenges, many of them similar to those faced by other Indian states. But due to its demographics and political make-up, Bihar will have to improvise better ways of tackling these problems. It has come a long way from being one of the BIMAROU states to boasting double-digit growth rates.
Bihar needs to sustain this development and grow its economy by building its urban regions, modernizing rural-based sectors like agriculture, expand its industrial sector while at the same time maintaining peace and communal harmony between its diverse communities. This can happen by various ways – mainly by attracting more foreign investment, and procuring more national investment too. The new government needs to let go of petty politics, refrain from exploiting caste and religious divides and work hard to improve the lives of every single Bihari.
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