[Reader-list] Bihar - review

A. Mani a.mani.cms at gmail.com
Fri Jul 13 05:21:49 IST 2012


The Tenuous Story of Bihar's Development under Sushasan
Wed, 2012-07-11 10:46 — chirashree

Just when the failed policy ensemble called ‘good governance’ had run
through its course nationally both under the NDA and the UPA, Mr
Nitish Kumar’s NDA government in Bihar breathed new life into it.
Though similar patterns of growth were visible in Uttarakhand, Orissa,
Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the same period, Bihar’s recent growth
spurt is attributed to NDA’s sushasan, citing improvements in law and
order and increased public expenditure. Fifty percent reservation for
women in panchayats and an initial stepping up of development
expenditure reinforced this faith. The article of faith in
sushasan-led-growth in Bihar became entrenched among professional
opinion-makers across political divides. Seven years into sushasan,
there are gaping holes in this faith based lore.

Crime and Punishment
Cognizable crimes under the NDA increased to 3.8 percent per annum
which was 1.8 percent between 1998 and 2004. Crimes against women and
dalits showed an alarming increase since 2004. The annual trend growth
in rape of dalits (15 percent); kidnapping of women (18 percent);
arson against dalits (22 percent); and in atrocities recorded against
dalits and adivasis (24 percent) indicates the change in the social
base of crime victims after 2004. Under sushasan, the safety and
security of the propertied and the affluent was secured at the cost of
the oppressed and exploited in Bihar.

59 percent of MLAs in the 2010 Bihar Assembly have criminal charges
pending against them compared to 35 percent in the previous assembly.
116 out of 141 MLAs with pending criminal charges belong to the NDA.

The same government which had earlier claimed the credit for
fast-tracking the judgment against the perpetrators of the 1997
Lakshmanpur Bathe massacre, is presiding over a law and order regime
that perpetrated the Forbesganj firing, and has enabled the acquittals
of the accused in the 1996 Bathani Tola carnage case, the
assassination of the key accused Ranvir Sena leader Barmeshwar Mukhiya
immediately after acquittal; and the violence, sexual aggression and
arson unleashed by the Mukhiya’s ‘supporters’.

Clearly, the NDA’s law and order interventions have facilitated the
reassertion of the terrorizing power of Bihar’s traditional upper
caste feudal patriarchy.

The Growth Story

Between 1993-94 and 2000-01, Bihar’s economic growth at 6.09 percent
was higher than the national average of 5.75 percent. The ‘economic
shock’ of bifurcation in 2000 brought this to a halt. Since then,
Bihar saw a fluctuating pattern of growth, caught up again with the
national average in 2004-05, and overtook it in the subsequent period.

Growth acceleration in Bihar preceded the NDA’s tenure. It started
from 2002-03 and became pronounced between 2003-04 and 2005-06. The
design of the first set of ‘reforms’ under sushasan started from
January 2006. The highest period of economic growth was between
2005-06 and 2007-08. The period 2006-07 to 2008-09 – the three full
years of NDA rule, shows a relative decline.

The growth patterns since 2000-01 is a continuum of 3-year cycles. The
years 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2006-07 are periods of more than 10 percent
growth in this cycle. Thus Bihar’s growth since 2002-03 is the
resumption after bifurcation of a long fluctuating and volatile
movement towards a higher growth continuum which started from 1994-95.

74 percent of GSDP growth since 1999-2000 is in agriculture and allied
activities; construction; communication and; trade, hotel and
restaurants. Agriculture accounted for 17 percent of GSDP growth
between 1999-2000 and 2004-05. After 2004-05, this fell to 6 percent.

The acceleration in trade started at least six years before the NDA’s
interventions. Trade was the single secular driver of growth in Bihar
till it caught up with the 'communication boom' in 2004-05 and the
subsequent spurt in construction with the rest of India.

Bihar’s growth since 1994-95 followed from the diversified patterns of
accumulation through the agency of new entrants. Land struggles and
the aspirations for social justice that emerged from caste oppression
were decisive in changing the political economy of accumulation in
Bihar since the 1990s and led to the economic diversification into
trade after social empowerment of sections of the 'backward castes'.
The recent politics of alliance reflects attempts to reconcile
conflict through power sharing arrangements between the traditional
upper-caste landed ruling classes and the emerging contending factions
of the ‘backward’ upwardly mobile nouveau aspirants who combine a mix
of agrarian and mercantile capital. So Bihar’s economic growth and the
constituents of Mr Kumar’s government are both continuations of the
political developments of the last two decades.

Labour productivity does not show any improvement in this long period
of accelerated growth. Mr Kumar himself has consistently argued that
even the revised estimates of the Tendulkar Committee grossly
underestimate poverty in present-day Bihar. The distributive impact of
Bihar’s growth is thus a moot question.

Public Finance

The share of development expenditure in the state government's total
expenditure increased since 2005-06 to peak at 65 percent in 2007-08,
but fell to 48 percent in 2008-09 and subsequently has fallen further
to 2001-02 levels. Post-VAT, there has been a negative impact on
elasticity in all but  three districts  of Bihar with significantly
volatile tax collection patterns. Even after the ‘tax reforms’, not
only did tax elasticity decline in all but three districts, but the
tax-GSDP ratio remains stagnant around 5 percent. Due to the failure
of tax mobilisation under NDA-style sushasan, Bihar’s vulnerability to
onerous conditional devolution from the central government has been
reinforced despite high growth.

The NDA’s acquiescence to fiscal fundamentalism in Bihar made
expenditure compression the norm after the inherited revenue surplus
from the previous government ran out. The basis of distinction between
revenue and capital expenditure has been questioned by economists, as
both are overlapping in their functional purpose. Nevertheless, the
capital outlays in plan and non-plan budget are exclusively geared
towards creation of new infrastructure and resources. In the non-plan
budget, the disproportional priority on policing in the state has led
to falling public investment in public work and almost insignificant
allocations to major irrigation . In a state ravaged flood and
majority of impoverished lives and livelihoods entirely dependent on
monsoons, the low priority accorded to new investments in ‘major
irrigation’ in the lasts even years reflects the inherent
methodological lacunae of the ‘inclusive growth’ agenda. The trend of
decline in public work also reflects the low priority given to
developing arterial infrastructure which is much more relevant in the
sustaining of livelihoods and improvement of living conditions than
point-to-point large scale infrastructure projects which accentuate

The gaping holes in the sushasan armour reveal the lop-sided nature of
the regional, sectoral and social outcomes under the NDA in Bihar.
This is in keeping with the recent trend of led lopsided and highly
volatile economic growth in its regional dimensions.

Both in terms of state-society relations and in terms of the nature of
economic development, the NDA's 'sushasan'  is taking BIhar back to
the turn of the century social quagmire from where it started after a
decade of the neoliberal growth juggernaut's antiquated 'tandava'.



A. Mani

A. Mani

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