Bihar, the poorest state in India, where social inequality, poverty, corruption, crime, colonial political scandals and all imaginable negative factors had taken tolls since ages, has seen a dramatic turnaround in the state affairs over the last six years. From being on the verge of a fiasco, the condition of the state has been reinvigorated. Bihar now is begging headlines for all the right reasons.
“Between 1990-2005, Bihar was in a serious hole, caste-based political scandals ruled the state, under Lalu Prasad Yadav things got worse, but in the last 6 years, things have changed,” said Blair Glencorse, specialist, Institute for State Effectiveness, who is doing a study on the transformation of Bihar.
Causes for development
The key reason for the transformation of Bihar has been the leadership. Although the preceding chief minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, did not set the bars too high, the works done by Nitish is laudable. When Nitish Kumar was elected the Chief Minister of Bihar in 2005, the state was in an insurmountable condition, but, Nitish changed the fortune of Bihar.
The government made panoptic investments in infrastructure, made education top priority and raised education budget to 25%. Government improved health facilities, primary cares and provided other basic facilities that people in Bihar never experienced before. Women are provided various rights and nearly half of the Bihar decision making personnel are now women.
Nitish-led government was able to spend 93% of their budget in key areas. “There is a catalytic effect between spending money and development,” said Blair. Bihar today has one the highest economic growth rates in India. Numbers are slowly turning in favor of Bihar.
During the last 6 years, the security of the state has been upgraded. Nitish publicly supported the police after they made high-profile arrests of criminals including MPs and MLAs from his own party. He put thousands of criminals in jail and offered jobs to criminals involved in less serious crimes and brought them into public service, offering more money than they were earning. He hired ex-soldiers, introduced fast track courts and improved the overall security of the state.
Nitish diminished the trend of over-centralized state powers, and decentralized powers to working officials. He updated archaic rules and established cabinet meetings as a weekly event. He ended the widespread patronage system and picked bureaucrats and public servants for their competence. He gave emphasis to anti-corruption and made systems automated and simplified to reduce corruption.
People have started feeling the changes. Residents of Bihar who were working away from the state are slowly returning to their native land. People once filled with pessimism and hopelessness are now living with the belief that optimism in life is possible.
Six years back, due to lack of security, people in the rural areas barely used to go out after sunset and people living in the city areas weren’t able to enjoy extravagance like luxurious cars as it would have attracted the unwanted attention of the extortion groups. But today the condition has changed. “People in the rural areas feel technically safe and don’t hesitate to go out after sunset and people in the city areas are enjoying luxuries,” said Blair.