Tuesday, October 4th, 2022 08:28:28

FUTURISTIC ECONOMIC ROAD MAP FOR BIHAR

By Satish Mishra
Updated: June 24, 2022 2:30 pm

NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) index 2021 adjudged Bihar as the worst performer and a backward state.The state has also emerged as the second-worst performer, just above Uttar Pradesh, in terms of overall health performance among the larger states in the fourth Health Index released by the NITI Aayog.

According to NITI Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), 51.91% population of Bihar is poor.

The reason for the pathetic state as cited by policymakers and intelligentsia is that Bihar is landlocked, it has a high density of population with scarce natural resources and is plagued by vicissitudes like drought and flood(in 28 out of 38 districts). Added to these disadvantages are variables like proneness to seismic activity and historicity. True. But, will any of the factors dissipate in near future?

The historical legacy of Bihar as cradle of Empire building, seat of centralized Mauryan state with vibrant economy and a prosperous region of Bharat (Indian subcontinent) are contrary to the harsh economic realities on ground since 18th Century.

Therefore, an innovative economic roadmap needs to be chartered to navigate Bihar and its people away from this undeserving situation.

Let us glimpse through some basic statistics: –

The Budget for Union of India in 2004-05 was ₹ 4,57,434 crore and in 2020-21 it is ₹30,42,230 crore. It has grown by 6.65 times. Bihar state budget in 2004-05 was ₹23,875 crore and in 2020-21 it is 2,18,000 crores. A rise of 9.13 times.

India per capita income has grown from a meager ₹ 12,416 in 2004-05 to ₹ 86,659 in 2021. An upward trajectory of 6.98 times. In case of Bihar the per capita income has increased to ₹7,914 in 2004-05 and to ₹50,555 per person by 2020-21. Acceleration by 6.41 times.

It can be seen that the spending in Budget has been more in case of State vis-a -vis India, however, the state needs to accelerate more on per capita income front to bridge the gap with All India per capita figure.

In case of Per capita Income Regional disparities are very stark.

To illustrate, Patna district tops in terms of per capita income with Rs 1.31 Lakhs ,Begusarai district is at the second place, whose per capita income is Rs 51.4 thousand. Sheohar stands at last with Rs 19.6 thousand. The gap between Patna (1st), Begusrai (2nd) and Shoehar(last) reflects that Islands of prosperity thrives even within the Ocean of Poverty in the State of Bihar.

The following measures are proposed for Economic realignment of Bihar:

Agriculture

As per Bihar Department of Agriculture 76% of its population is engaged in agricultural pursuits.

In Bihar Budget 2022-23 department wise allocation for Annual Scheme shows that Percentage Total Outlay for agriculture is 2.78. Consequently, Agriculture and allied sectors have grown at the rate of 2.1 per cent during the last five years. The growth rate of livestock and fisheries was 10 percent and 7 percent respectively.

Revisiting One District One Product (ODOP) and moving towards Superfood and coarse cereal promotion can be key for making Agriculture profitable.To illustrate, Bhojpur and Rohtas have been recognized for Peas and Tomato respectively under ODOP. This highly fertile Gangetic-Son flood plain can be assigned Agri. Products with significant economic value.

The success of Oat cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir, and rich economic dividend it has brought to farmers is worth adopting. Back home, in North Bihar, Makhana – a regional favorite has become a globally recognized Superfood with prices sky rocketing.

Other way out can be Organic Cultivation with bottom up approach.Making some Village-panchayat-Block-Subdivision within a district gradually completely organic by incentivization. It may be done in districts like Nawada and Jehanabad to grow coarse grain organically. These districts could reap the benefits of Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India(BGREI)

Farmers Producer Organization can be harnessed as an agency of Doubling Farmers income.

Value addition remains key to Augment farmers income and to bring LEWESIAN TRANSFORMATION (movement of labour from farm to factory).

Indigenous firms like Dabur, ITC, Patanjali, Sun Pharma to name a few can be facilitated to set up factories. The model of Agriculture Economic Zone (AEZ) may work. For example: Strawberry processing units in Aurangabad and Mentha Industry in Buxar will be in consonance with their One District One Product tag.

Jackfruit (Jamui ODOP) can be processed in powder form as done by Kerala. It will prevent wastage of this easily perishable product Further, this highly fibrous powder can be served mixed with wheat flour in Mid-Day Meal and PoshanAbhiyaan.

An agency Bihar State Fruit Corporation may be created to boost marketing of Litchi, Jardalu Mango, Strawberry, Banana, Papaya and Jackfruit.

The setting up of Ethanol units is a commendable state initiative.

Feminization of Agriculture and Realization of Poverty is evident in the landscape of Bihar. Smallest of the weapon in arsenal can be tested.Bihar has notified forest area of 6,764.14 sq km, which is 7.1 per cent of its geographical area.The Forest Survey of India(FSI)report 2021 put forwards a relevant concept of augmenting Tree other than Forest Resources (TOFR) to achieve multiple goals. TOFR will help in carbon sequestration, augment income in rural areas and make the state more resilient to climatic upheavals.

 

Infrastructure

The urbanization of the state has increased very rapidly in the last ten years. According to the 2011 census, the level of urbanization in Bihar was just 11.3 percent, which has increased to 15.3 percent at present. The growing trend in Urbanization needs Infrastructure for sustenance.

However, Infrastructure has remained the Achilles heel in Bihar’s development. Despite sincere effort for several years Investment Defect is significant. To bridge this Infrastructure deficit a novel idea is proposed.

Non Residential Biharis (NRB) may be given guaranteed return on investment made through a SPV(Special Purpose Vehicle). The rate of return may be fixed at par with Fixed deposit in banks. SPV should provide a provision to channelize the fund collected for Infrastructure projects in areas as desired by the investors. It will be a win-win situation for state and investors.

Education

Quality of Education and Outcome based learning is focus of New Education Policy, 2020.

The march from accessibility of education to quality education is long overdue in Bihar – which once housed seats of ancient learning like Odantapuri and Nalanda.

As per All India Survey of Higher Education (2019-20) the state has the lowest college density, i.e. the number of colleges per lakh eligible population (population in the age-group 18-23 years) varies from 7 in Bihar to 59 in Karnataka as compared to All India average of 30.

Thus, a concrete effort on qualitative and quantitative front is needed. Reputed private Universities can have MOU with state for extension campuses. For example: Indo-Dansih Tool Room (IDTR), Jamshedpur inaugurated a Patna Campus. Private Agriculture University remains indispensable to this Agricultural state.

Skilling

Area wise, Bihar is at number 12 among other states of the country, while population wise it is at number three in the country. Human Resource Augmentation is the need of hour. According to the economic survey with population aging in the South Indian states, Bihar will be main source of working age population in coming decades. Language and Etiquette plays a key role to enhance employability and social acceptance.

The government may make regional Language a part of curriculum, or Special Language and Etiquette Centers at Panchayat level can be opened. The pattern of labour migration can be taken as baseline for choosing Language.

For example: Telugu may be Imparted in Tirhut , Punjabi in Kosi and Marathi or Tamil in Sahabad region. The commissionarywise Language allocation will increase viability of scheme.

Further, to harness the opportunity a mindset change is sought. The prime aspiration of Youths in Bihar is Government Service. Unfortunately, this convergent career aspiration cannot be fulfilled for many as the demand- supply gap is magnanimous. Wisdom and sense of economy demands Human Resource Augmentation and multiple career options.

The demand of Human resource for Security Service is on rise. The youths from Bihar are often found in Security agencies. Realizing this trend, a Short-term Structured Training by State support in every district will push employability further.

Cultural Overhaul 

Moral education for transformation from law breakers to law adherents’ citizens, Imparting professionalism, a sense of duty and collaboration will make a better work force.

Health and Hygiene

Renowned hospital group like Apollo, Shankar Netrayal, Medanta may be facilitated to become Nodal Hospital for a cluster of districts. Getting tag of nodal district hospital will create financial viability for private hospital and economic sense for government.  This will reduce burden of travel for patients and prevent loss of state revenue on account of medical tourism. Pradhan Mantri Swastha Bharat Yojna will act as an enabler in this initiative.

The Har GharNal initiative is moving decisively. But, lack of well laid out drainage and sewerage in rural areas is something state need to reflect upon. The threat of vector borne disease led by Mosquitoes and flies is in monstrous proportion in all areas of Bihar. A top down approach and deliberation by policymakers is sought.

Industry

The post COVID world order provides opportunity for Bihar. The WORK FROM HOME CULUTRE has led to white collar work force returning to Bihar. Some Companies are working on Permanent work from home. Opportunities lies in retaining them. This can be done by creating office infrastructure in every district. Employees can avail this on rental basis. Retaining white collar professionals will lead to Brain Gain and their spending will boost local economy. The old age care and other family benefits are add on.

Other Industry like Beverages and Milk products and Apparel and Footwear will find raw material, market and labour in Bihar. The state need to make provision for land and capital (by convincing investors).

The success story of Bihar in achieving power surplus status by efficiently establishing multiple power plants in Barh, Auranagabad, Buxar can be used to alleviate concern of industry regarding industrial ecosystem. The state seems ready to welcome Solar, Pharmaceutical giants.

Toy industry looks feasible in state. 70 percent people are engaged in agriculture. The seasonal unemployment and over manpower in farms can be diverted to make Sikki Grass toys, STEM Toys with wood and clay. As the people become Vocal for local growth chances are fair.

To rejuvenate the Banking and for credit growth in Census and statutory towns; small loan for building/ house beautification can be granted by banks. Quite peculiarly, the buildings in state , including many multistoried lack plaster and paintwork. RRBs can adopt same model for rural areas Subject to proper house ownership rights.

In the era ofIndustry 4.0state driven initiative to set up DATA CENTRES in district of South Bihar which are not prone to seismic activity and flood is needed.

Governance: Harnessing of Digital means to maintain Service records of government employees. Andhra Pradesh serves as role model for integration of Blockchain Technology in record management, to prevent alteration and manipulation.

The recent move towards Biometric attendance is welcome. however, it needs universal implementation across the spectrum of employment with redundant feature to prevent it from disuse by work-elopers.

Brand building

Economic relevance and recognition build a conducive atmosphere for sustaining any artwork. Mithila Painting is a case in point.

Taking cue from this KHATWA art (in which pieces of fabrics in different shapes are sewn on a larger fabric to form a pattern)and SIKKI Grass work (Handicraft of a grass found in floodplains of Bihar) from Bihar, a lesser known GI products may be main streamed into Textile and Toy industry respectively.

Khatwa promotes reuse and Sikki provides an eco-friendly and affordable alternative to plastic toys.

Learnings from JHARCRAFT – set up in 2006 to augment demand by aggressive marketing and providing backward and forward linkage to the Artisans of Jharkhand can guide BIHARCRAFT in brand building and promotion.

Harnessing Corporate Social Responsibility through institutional mechanism:A structured state support to corporate sector through state agency and NGOs to meet Environmental and social goals along with fulfilling the legislative mandate under Companies act 2013 may be planned.

CSR Mela to update industry about specific requirement of state, build trust and improve quality of targeted deliveries. Companies that lack resources to adopt CSR initiatives may be encouraged by hand holding.

Migrants as Agent of Change

Moving beyond the remittance benefit derived from Non-Residential Bihari(NRB), the state may use them as an ambassador of cultural and social awareness. Their Credibility and influence in social set up can be utilized for dissemination of best practices in other parts of the world.

Bihar growth engine needs to fire at full throttle to make up for the years lost in oblivion.The state needs to move ahead from literacy to skilling and from food to nutrition. As Prime Minister on 75th Independence Day Speech said : “This is the time. Right time. And the valuable time.” Any time lost or initiative missed will be injustice to the coming generations.

 

By Satish Mishra

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