Nitish Kumar has been CM of Bihar for a nearly unbroken 15 years (with a brief interval in which Jitan Ram Manjhi replaced him). Between 2005 and 2015, he presided over an NDA regime. The NDA was trounced in the 2015 polls, and Nitish Kumar became CM in a Mahagathbandhan government with the RJD. But the NDA stole the mandate with Nitish Kumar allying with the BJP which the people of Bihar had so comprehensively rejected. Now, with Bihar facing Assembly Polls, the NDA has little to offer except the claims of ‘Sushasan’ (Good Governance) under Nitish Kumar as CM. This ‘Sushasan’ myth has been carefully crafted and marketed since 2005, with the NDA claiming that Bihar before Sushasan Babu Nitish Kumar’s rule was a “Jungle Raj” under Laloo Prasad Yadav and the RJD.
On every parameter (crime, education, employment and distress migration, farming, healthcare, wages) however, the facts on the ground belie these claims. Below are excerpts from well–researched articles examining various aspects of development in Bihar. Ed/
Schooling and Higher Education
A news report in the Times of India (‘School education: Bihar 19th among 20 states’, Fariyal Rumi, October 4, 2019) noted that Bihar had “emerged as the second lowest in the ‘School Education Quality Index’ (SEQI) report released by NITI Aayog. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), World Bank and education experts conducted the survey and decided the rankings. The outcome category is based on parameters like learning, access of students to school, infrastructure and facilities and equity outcomes (treating students equally).
In infrastructure and facilities, Bihar has secured second last position with 10.9%, Bihar has scored 42.9%, 41% and 57.7% in access to schools, learning outcomes and equity, respectively.
As per the rankings, Bihar has witnessed a sharp decline of 9.3% in access to schools category. Around 35.9% children are still out of school in Bihar.
Bihar has the most illiterate people in India, but spends the least per elementary school student
(Excerpts from a January 2017 piece by Khushboo Balani, Indiaspend.com)
Bihar’s classrooms are India’s most crowded and have the fewest teachers. Yet, India’s sixth-poorest state spends the least money per student, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data.
Bihar has 37.3% fewer teachers than it needs in elementary school (Class 1 to Class 8), and is short of 2,78,602 teachers, according to our analysis based on Right to Education Act criteria, which stipulates a pupil teacher ratio of 30:1 in primary schools (Class 1 to Class 5) and 35:1 in upper primary school (Class 6 to Class 8).
Of six million teaching positions in government schools nationwide, about 9,00,000 elementary school teaching positions and 1,00,000 in secondary school – put together, a million – are vacant, as IndiaSpend reported last month (i.e December 2016) according to an answer given in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament). Of these, at least 2,00,000 vacancies are in Bihar’s government elementary schools.
Bihar is India’s third-most populous state, with 99 million people; its literacy rate (61.8%) is the country’s lowest; and the female literacy rate (51.5%) second lowest, according to Census 2011.
Reading levels in Bihar government primary schools declined over five years and improved in private schools, according to the Annual Status of Education Report–Trends Over Time Report (2006-14); not an encouraging sign, since 90% of all Bihar schools are run by the government.
62% primary students do not complete education
Nearly 5% of children from Bihar aged six to 14 years are estimated to be out of school, according to this 2015 human resource development ministry education profile. Of those out of school, 55% children were never enrolled and 25% dropped out of school.
Of those in primary school, barely 85% made it to upper primary school in 2014-15, the third lowest proportion in India after Nagaland and Uttar Pradesh, according to Unified-District Information System For Education data.
No more than 38% students enrolled in Class 1 complete their secondary education (Class 10) in Bihar, according to the Bihar Economic Survey 2015-16.
Not enough classrooms, teachers
With nearly 28% of its population aged five to 14 (28.9 million), Bihar reported 23.4 million students in elementary school in 2015-16 and 46,7,877 teachers (even including schools where primary, upper primary and secondary levels co-existed, and teachers on temporary contract), according to government education data.
Bihar should have 746,479 teachers in elementary school, according to the pupil teacher ratio criterion of 1 teacher for every 30 students in primary school and one teacher for every 35 students in upper primary. The teacher shortage is mostly in primary school, with one teacher for every 36 students, India’s lowest rate after Uttar Pradesh, according to the U-DISE Flash Statistics 2015-16. The Indian average pupil teacher ratio in primary school is 23.
Bihar has a teacher pupil ratio of 24 in upper primary, higher than the all-India ratio of 17, but lower than the prescribed guideline of 35.
While teacher absenteeism has declined in the state from 39% in 2003 to 28% in 2010, as this 2014 study reported, it is still higher than the all India average of 24%.
Bihar also has India’s worst count of students per elementary school classroom, 51–which includes grade I to grade VII–according to U-DISE (2015-16) data. The ratio declined from 65 in 2012-13 to 51 in 2015-16 but continues to be higher than the national average of 27.
Lowest per-student expenditure on elementary education
Bihar has India’s second largest population aged five to 14 (Uttar Pradesh is first), but the government spends little per student.
Bihar recorded India’s lowest per student expenditure on elementary education, Rs 5,298 in 2014-15, according to this commentary in the Economic and Political Weekly. The best-performing state (among the 18 surveyed), Himachal Pradesh, spent Rs 39,343 per student in 2014-15–or nearly seven-and-a-half times as much.
Bihar has improved its student-teacher ratio by employing contract teachers – called para teachers – at lower salaries than teachers with permanent jobs.
Para-teachers in the districts of Nalanda and Purnea, for instance, are paid Rs 6,400-6,800 per month, while regular teachers earn Rs 23,000 - Rs 28,000, according to this 2013 survey by Accountability Initiative, a think tank based in Delhi.
In 2015-2016, Bihar allocated 5.75% of its total education budget on school infrastructure – inadequate in a state that has an average of 51 students in a classroom.
NIRF Ranking Exposes Bihar’s Higher Education Truth
(Arun Kumar, Hindustan Times, June 12, 2020)
The ranking of institutions across the country released on Thursday by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is a reality check for Bihar institutions of higher learning and an indicator of the reasons behind mass exodus of students outside state in search of better education.
None of the state universities or colleges figure in the overall list of top 100 institutions. The only institution that figures in the overall list is IIT, Patna, ranked 54th. It is ranked 26th among the top 100 engineering colleges, a big drop since 2016 when it was ranked 10th in the country. Even in 2019, it was ranked 22nd.
The only other institution in the top 100 list of engineering colleges is the NIT, Patna, ranked 92nd, though it is not in overall list of 100 top institutions. It was ranked 87th in 2016.
There is no medical college from Bihar in the list of top 40 colleges of the country. In the list of law colleges also, none from the Bihar finds place.
However, the biggest let down, though not expected after poor showing in the accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), has been that there is no state university or college in the list anywhere.
Ailing Healthcare: In The Covid Mirror
A recent study of Indian states’ preparedness in the wake of the Covid pandemic found that Bihar had the lowest bed-population ratio. (The Hindu, ‘How prepared are India's States in health infrastructure to tackle COVID-19’, Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Sumant Sen, March 25, 2020)
Bihar is also the worst equipped to detect Covid cases. Bihar’s doctor-patient ratio is also abysmal. According to WHO, there should be one doctor for 1,000 people. However, in Bihar, one allopathic doctor serves 43,788 people.
The death rate among doctors due to Covid is 9 times more in Bihar than the national average. (Hindustan Times, August 20, 2020) Senior vice-president of IMA-Bihar Dr Ajay Kumar said, “Doctors account for 0.5 per cent of the total deaths in India due to Covid-19. However, in Bihar, the percentage of doctors’ death is 4.75 per cent, which is nine times more than the national average.” The reasons for this startling and grim statistic are obvious. Dr Ajay Kumar said, “In other states, doctors doing duty in Covid-19 wards are quarantined for 15 days after 15 days of continuous work. This arrangement is not followed in Bihar, as a result of which our doctors remain exposed to Covid-19 patients far longer than in other states. In fact, in Bihar, doctors are working continuously at a stretch since mid-March, without even an off day.” This state of affairs is clearly due to the already prevailing low doctor-patient ratio.
Moreover, doctors and health staff in Bihar are forced to work with substandard protection kits. IMA-Bihar secretary Dr Sunil Kumar told the HT, “Protective gears available here are questionable. Fifty percent doctors in public sector are 60-plus and have co-morbidity, yet they have been drafted for Covid-19 duty despite our requests not to engage them. However, given the shortage of doctors, with 60 per cent posts vacant as compared to their sanctioned strength, the government allowed elderly doctors no relief.”
Bihar: Four Claims Made by BJP in Its Campaign Video on Crime That Ring Hollow
(Excerpts from a report by Umesh Kumar Ray, The Wire, 2 September 2020)
The Bihar unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has uploaded a video on its Facebook page, as part of its digital campaigning efforts ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, claiming that the law and order situation in Bihar has improved drastically during the National Democratic Alliance’s regime.
The video claims that not only has there been a drop in criminal activities, but communal violence too has stopped.
Compared to other states, Bihar’s crime numbers place it at the bottom of any list, the video claims. It also claims that since the NDA government took over in 2005, crimes have gone down when compared to the 15-year rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav.
The claims made in the video appear distant from ground reality. In many cases, the figures have been misinterpreted.
Claim 1: Bihar’s rank in crime
In the video, it has been claimed that when it comes to overall crime figures, Bihar is currently at number 23, whereas ‘earlier’ it was at number three. The video does not say which year or time the BJP is considering as the base year but mentions that the data was obtained from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Analysing the statistics published by NCRB, The Wire found that Bihar has not been ranked 23rd at all. Bihar is at the fourth position in overall criminal cases registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If the criminal cases registered under the IPC and the local laws of the state are combined, Bihar is at the seventh position.
NCRB has made data public till 2018. The figures for the year 2019 is yet to come. NCRB data for 2018 show that 1,96,911 (6.3% of national) criminal cases were registered in Bihar under the IPC. Only Madhya Pradesh (2,48,354), Maharashtra (3,46,291) and Uttar Pradesh (3,42,355) have more criminal cases than Bihar.
At the same time, if criminal cases filed under IPC and local laws of the state are combined together, then a total of 2,62,815 cases were registered in Bihar. Only Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are ahead of Bihar.
Claim 2: Only 222 people in a lakh are victims of crime
In the video, BJP has claimed that only 222 people among each lakh in Bihar are victims of crime, while at the national level the figure stands at 383 people.
This claim by the BJP is correct if one looks at the NCRB figures, but it cannot be considered as an achievement by any means. Bihar is the most populous state in the country and the number of crime victims per one lakh people is calculated on the basis of population.
An official at the NCRB told The Wire, “We used the data of the National Commission on Population’s technical group, which falls under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The technical group had estimated Bihar’s population at 11.83 crore. We used this figure to calculate crime victims per lakh population.”
Since Bihar has a large population, even if the crime rate is high, the number of crime victims per lakh population will be a relatively low estimate.
Claim 3: 34% reduction in criminal incidents
BJP said in the campaign video that there has been a 34% reduction in criminal incidents in Bihar since the NDA government came to power.
The NDA government in Bihar was formed in 2005. The state-wise crime figures for 2004 and earlier years were not available on the NCRB website, but data from the State Crime Record Bureau show that Bihar has seen an increase in criminal cases year after year.
During Lalu Prasad Yadav’s time, BJP and Janata Dal (United) had been calling the regime a ‘jungle raj’. JD(U) and BJP leaders have kept up this refrain and allege that crime had been unbridled at that time.
However, data from the years 2001 to 2019 available on the website of the State Crime Records Bureau show that criminal incidents have increased every year. A total of 95,942 cognisable offences were registered in Bihar in the year 2001, which increased to 1,15,216 in the year 2004.
However in the year 2005, it decreased by about 10,000.
A total of 2,69,095 cognisable offences were registered in Bihar in the year 2019, which was 1,53,880 more than the year 2004.
Recently, in response to a question, DGP Gupteshwar Pandey attributed this to the fact that earlier fewer FIRs were lodged. “Now all the police stations are instructed not to ignore the complaint of any person, thanks to which more criminal incidents are being recorded in Bihar,” he said.
The statistics of the NCRB too confirm that criminal incidents have been increasing in Bihar. According to the data, a total of 1,89,696 cases were registered in Bihar under IPC and state laws in 2016, which increased to 2,62,815 in the year 2018.
Claim 4: Riots and massacres do not happen in Bihar
In the video, the BJP has claimed that there are no riots and massacres in Bihar, but NCRB data refutes this claim too. Ironically, the data shows that Bihar is at the top position when it comes to communal or religious violence.
NCRB used to publish only figures of riots earlier, but since the year 2017, it has been releasing separate figures on communal and religious riots. According to the data, Bihar ranked first with 167 communal/religious riots in the year 2018. Around 339 people were affected by these riots. There were a total of 10,276 riots in Bihar that year, which was more than in any other state.
In 2018, during the Ramnavami celebrations, communal violence had erupted in nine districts.
Last year in February, communal violence had taken ugly shape in Sitamarhi where a Muslim man was lynched and set on fire by a mob in broad daylight.
In October last year during Durga idol immersions, too, communal violence took place. One person was killed in the clash. Many shops were looted, most of them belonging to Muslims. The violence was allegedly erupted after a rumour spread about stone pelting targeting the idol in a Muslim populated area. Talking to The Wire, the station house officer of Jehanabad town Satendra Sahi had said, “Neither were stones pelted on idols, nor were idols damaged.”
Victims had then blamed the state machinery for not taking stringent action to stop the violence.
BJP has also claimed that “massacres” have not been happening in Bihar, presumably using the word to indicate caste-based violence. It is true that during the NDA government no massacre has happened but caste-based violence has taken place. According to NCRB data, Bihar has reported 87 cases of caste-based violence, which affected 142 persons.
Bihar is at second position in the country, when it comes to caste-based violence.
Bihar unemployment rate double the national average
(Reuters, June 16, 2020)
Bihar, one of India’s largest and poorest states, posted a steep rise in unemployment in the year ended June 2019 to record nearly double the national jobless rate, only months out from elections.
The latest state unemployment data released on Tuesday is a lagging indicator and the current jobless rate was expected to be much higher as millions of unemployed labourers return home due to a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Unemployment in Bihar rose by 3 percentage points to 10.2 percent during the year ended June 2019, government data showed, even as the country’s overall unemployment slowed to 5.8 percent, compared with 6.1 percent a year earlier.
In Bihar, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be unemployed. (IndiaSpend Team
September 11, 2015) Although Bihar has one of the lowest proportion of young people, unemployment for them (15- to-29 age group) is higher at 17.5% than the national average of 13%.
Desperate Search For Jobs Drives Migration
(The Wire, June 22, 2020)
In 2005, Nitish Kumar had promised that Bihari people would not have to migrate outside the state. However, little has changed since then.
The occupational structure of Bihar suggests that 56% of the labour force is engaged in agriculture (India 44%), 8% in industry (23% India) and 36% in services. Employment elasticity of output in agriculture is already close to zero or negative.
Further, increasing informalisation and higher costs of living in urban areas over time have led to a gradual increase in circular migration. In 2017-18, the share of casual labour in Bihar (32.1%) was significantly higher than in India (24.3%). At over 10% growth, Bihar has registered higher growth than India in the last three years, however, one-third of its population is below the poverty line.
Further, nearly 40% of Bihar’s youth had no jobs and the unemployment rate had jumped to 7.2% in 2017-18 from 2.5% in 2011-12.
Post-COVID-19, several newspapers have reported that around 25 to 30 lakh migrant workers have returned to Bihar. A CMIE survey pegged unemployment in Bihar for April 2020 at 46.6% (or 20 percentage points above the national rate). NSO’s PLFS (2019) unemployment rate in Bihar (7.2%) was already higher than the national average (6.1%).
Bihar Did Not Meet Even 1% of its Wheat Procurement Target
(The Wire, 15 September, 2020)
Data made available by the Centre shows that the government managed to procure wheat from only 1,002 farmers in Bihar. Less than 1% of the wheat produced in Bihar was procured by the Central and state government agencies in the rabi marketing season of 2020-21, data obtained by The Wire through the Right to Information Act (RTI) show.
Farmers in the state were projected to produce 61 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of wheat this year, but the government has procured only 5,000 tonnes, or 0.081% of total estimated production.
That is also less than 1% – or 0.71% to be precise – of the Bihar government’s target to procure 7 lakh tonnes of wheat. In fact, chief minister Nitish Kumar had increased the target from the initially set 2 lakh tonnes citing the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties being faced by farmers in selling their produce.
In 2018-19 for instance, 17,504 tonnes were procured from farmers in Bihar and in 2017-18, 20,000 tonnes were procured. These quantities too are less than 1% of the total wheat produced in Bihar, but they are higher than the quantity procured this year.
In 2019-20, government agencies procured even less, at 2,815 tonnes, than they did this year.
A key factor has been the decline in the number of procurement centres in the state, which stood at around 9,000 in 2015-16 but dropped to 1,619 in 2019-20. As a result of the lower number of procurement centres, only a very small fraction of the total farmers in the state are able to sell their crop at the minimum support prices (MSP) announced by the Centre.
“We can’t rely on government procurement in Bihar. There are private flour mills and biscuit manufacturers who normally buy our produce. But this year, even that was not possible because of the lockdown. So, we had to sell at rates as low as half of the MSP,” said Rajesh Yadav, a farmer who grows wheat in Madhubani district of Bihar.
APMCs abolished and what the future could hold for the country
Another factor to note is that Bihar had abolished the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act (APMC) way back in 2006 and perhaps provides an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what the future could hold for the country, as the Centre has recently introduced an ordinance to override state APMC Acts, which has caused a major stir with farmers opposing the move.
Writing for The Hindu Business Line in May this year, food policy expert Devinder Sharma explained how the repeal of the APMC Act in Bihar has not benefited farmers.
“Take the case of Bihar, which had revoked the APMC Act in 2006. The idea was to attract private sector investments in marketing infrastructure where efficient markets were expected to provide for better price discovery. Unfortunately, nothing like that happened,” Sharma wrote.