[Excerpts from a comprehensive survey report prepared and released by the Bihar State Committee of the CPI(ML)]
Development is the biggest buzzword of contemporary politics in India. The more official policies are dedicated to promoting privatisation and inviting FDI and the more soaring prices and all-pervasive corruption define our everyday reality, the louder becomes the cacophony of development. In Bihar the official rhetoric of development is always tempered with the slogan of justice. Lalu Prasad ruled for fifteen years ,talking of social justice; Nitish Kumar has been more specific in promising development with justice to ‘mahadalits’, ‘atipichhdas’ and ‘pasmanda’ Muslims even as he shared power with the BJP, dismantled the Amir Das commission and dumped the reports of Bandyopadhya and Muchkund Dubey commissions recommending land reforms and the common school system.
The promises are accompanied by tall claims. Bihar government has been claiming unprecedented growth rates in recent years. The growth, we are told, has not only led to improved infrastructure but also resulted in a decline in poverty and migration and increased access to education and healthcare. As long as the BJP shared power in Bihar, Sushil Modi served as the Finance Minister and chief statistical propagandist for the BJP-JDU government. Now that the BJP is out of power, it has begun disputing the claims of the JDU government. The RJD and Congress which were earlier seen to be questioning the performance of the Nitish Kumar government have now become devoted defenders of the regime.
To a people grappling with the injury of everyday deprivation and denial of rights, the high-sounding claims of government statistics only come across as an added insult. Complaints against exclusion from BPL list are rampant in every corner of Bihar. Our survey reveals that large numbers of people are also excluded from the electoral roll. The socio-economic census conducted late last year and early this year virtually made a mockery of the actual living conditions of millions of people. Perhaps for the first time we saw widespread agitation in Bihar against the irregularities of a census operation.
Against this backdrop, comrades in Bihar decided to collect some first-hand data from the people to get a better grasp of the prevailing socio-economic conditions and the administration of various welfare legislations and schemes. The survey was called ‘gaon ka sach, logon ka hak’ (the rural reality and the state of people’s rights). Between July and October 2014, data were collected in 23 districts from a total of 200,106 rural households spread over 1314 villages in 826 panchayats in 168 blocks and 6634 urban households spread over 45 wards of 9 towns on the basis of a detailed questionnaire. Hundreds of CPI(ML) activists and local youths took part in this rigorous exercise with great sincerity and enthusiasm. The data collected have been locally presented before the people through more than 500 panchayat-level and block-level public hearings.
The sample chosen for this survey has been predominantly from among the rural and urban poor. More than 60 per cent of the rural families surveyed are absolutely landless and a little more than another 30 per cent have tiny land holdings of one acre or less. In caste terms, nearly 45 per cent families belong to various dalit castes, another 25 per cent are from among extremely backward castes, and 15 per cent from other backward castes and a little more than 10 per cent are from the Muslim community. In other words, the sample has been drawn precisely from among the target groups that are supposed to benefit from the host of welfare legislations and schemes of the state and central governments.
We are now presenting this survey report to the people of Bihar. The panchayat-level public hearings have already been followed up by popular local agitations to secure some due rights of the people. We hope this report will help us develop an alternative direction and agenda for equitable development and also lay the basis for a broad-based movement to secure the basic rights of the people. For many comrades involved in this survey campaign this was the first experience of its kind. We hope it will encourage more and more activists to develop the Marxist habit of seeking truth from facts, of making a systematic study of the reality around us and waging a determined battle to transform it in the interests of the people.