The recently released poverty data by planning commission once again
brought poster boy of media Nitish Kumar into dock. The report
revealed that in last five years five million more poor have been
added in the state population despite a continuous double digit growth
rate. Globally media highlighted the turnaround growth story giving
all credit to current political leadership.
The state recorded marginal decline in the percentage of population
below the poverty line, from 54.4 per cent in 2004-05 to 53.5 per cent
in 2009-10 whereas at the national level 7.3 per cent poverty reduction was recorded between 2004-05 and 2009-10. The stagnancy in
poverty reduction finally added five million more poor in the state
At the national level 7.3 percent poverty reduction was recorded
between 2004-05 and 2009-10 but Bihar has now once again become the
poorest state in the country after a remarkable improvement in poverty
reduction in Orissa which was, once, on the last ladder with the
highest poverty ratio. The reduction from 57 percent to 37 percent in
that state made it a fit case for researchers to do a case study.
With 56.5% the poverty ratio for Muslims in urban Bihar is highest in
the country whereas in rural Bihar and Chhattisgarh, nearly two-thirds
of SCs and STs are poor. In states such as Manipur, Orissa and Uttar
Pradesh the poverty ratio for these groups is more than half.
But the moot question is why this great turn around story failed
miserably in tackling the issues related to have-nots?
“The development in the state is largely construction centric fuelled
by the public investment that didn’t have much impact on rural
poverty” explained Shaibal Gupta an economist and General Secretary of
Asian Development Research Institute..
But the extent of urban poverty is marginally better than rural
poverty with 39.4 percent living below poverty line just above Manipur
46.4 percent. Nitish’s slogans of good governance and reforms too
failed to contain poverty in urban centre despite construction boom
particularly in the capital city Patna where real estate prices are
matching metropolitan cities like Mumbai and New Delhi.
“The 90 percent population is totally dependent on agriculture and
there is complete stagnancy in agriculture sector in last five years.
This led to a major downfall in the per capita income in rural areas.
Even its share in state GDP declined considerably”- explained Patna
University senior Professor N K Chaudhary. “The increasing population
too compounded this problem as the state registered one of the highest
fertility rate.” Chaudhary added further.
Abhijit Sen, in a recent seminar in Patna, openly raised the point
that in spite of high growth rate, the persistent high poverty is a
cause of concern. The rampant diversion of PDS food grains and dismal
performance in employment generating programme like MGNREGA where
state utilized only 7.38 percent, fund lowest among all the states,
are clear cut example of failure of delivery mechanism.
“Simply pumping money in different social security and poverty related
programmes without any effective monetary system resulted in leakage
to a greater extent in most of the areas. Panchayat representatives
are more interested in purchasing SUVs than implementing government
programmes” said Shashank, an IITian who runs an organization
Farms-n-Farmers in Vaishali district.
The high growth rate and high poverty ratio not only exposes the claim
of inclusive growth by the government but also indicates the exclusive
growth of microscopic urban elite class. It is happening in the state
with strong roots of socialist politics.
The poverty figure also puts a question mark on the claim of Nitish
Kumar that there has been a sharp fall in the distress migration. If
poverty scenario particularly in rural areas is so grim, can any one
stop distress migration?
Courtesy: Sunday Standard