"The NDA government abrogated Article 370. These people (opposition parties) say they will bring it back if they come to power. After making such statements, they dare to ask for votes from Bihar? Is this not an insult of Bihar and the State which sends its sons and daughters to the borders to protect the country?"- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at an election rally in Bihar, on October 23, 2020, captured the ethos and mood of the families of those, who have selflessly sacrificed their Bravehearts, at the altar of nationhood, with this powerful quote of his.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its manifesto for the Assembly polls in Bihar on October 22, 2020, with the first promise in it, is the free distribution of vaccine against COVID-19 once it is approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who released the manifesto in Patna said, “As soon as COVID-19 vaccine is available for production on a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto.”
The announcement led to a storm of criticism of the BJP, by an intellectually and morally bankrupt opposition. Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP, the very erudite and savvy, Bhupendra Yadav, who understands Bihar better than most, clarified in a sharp rebuttal on Twitter, while responding to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, by tweeting: “Your attempt to twist Smt Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement reeks of desperation. All parties issue manifestos. Vaccines will be made available to all Indians at nominal costs. States can make it free. In Bihar, we will”. Clearly, like many immunisation programmes, the Centre will provide vaccines to all States at a nominal rate. It is then for respective State Governments to decide if they want to give it for free or otherwise. Health being a State subject, the Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Hence, there is nothing wrong with what the BJP has promised. Interestingly, after opposing the BJP's move, the Congress announced free COVID vaccine, in Puducherry, showcasing its blatant hypocrisy and duplicity.
The manifesto states: “Atmanirbhar Bihar Ka Roadmap 2020-25. Lakshya (objective) - Atmanirbhar Bihar. 5 Sutra – development of villages, cities, industries, education and agriculture.”In its ‘Sankalp Patra’, the BJP has promised 19 lakh jobs for the youth of the State and also expressed its commitment to turn Bihar into an information technology hub, given India's IT industry, which is worth over USD 177 billion. The manifesto also promised the appointment of three lakh teachers within the next year in schools and higher education institutions and one lakh jobs in the health sector. The promise to construct 30 lakh pucca houses for the poor was also made, after the spectacular success in having built over 28 lakh houses for the poor, in the last five years. Particular emphasis would be given to the information technology sector, as well as to the establishment of 13 food processing parks.
Under the New Education Policy (NEP), engineering and other technical education will be made available in Hindi in the State, which will be a massive help to those more comfortable in Hindi and not very fluent in English. A minimum support price regime will be put in place for pulses too in the State, to help farmers.
Key highlights of the BJP Bihar ‘Sankalp Patra’:
* Free COVID-19 vaccine
* 10 lakh agriculture-linked jobs
* 5 lakh IT jobs in next five years
* 3 lakh teaching jobs
* 1 lakh jobs in the health sector
* 15 new private and CONFED-based processing industries in 2 years
* Micro financing scheme to make other 1 lakh women independent
* Bihar to be developed as a next-generation IT hub
* IT infrastructure in Patna and Rajgir
* Free tabs for deserving students in classes 9 and above
* A sports university
* Digital counselling centres
* To operationalise Darbhanga AIIMS by 2024
* Houses for 30 lakh people in urban and rural areas
* Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for the kin if a migrant labourer dies suddenly in another state
* Job and Rs 25 lakh for the family of a soldier who lays down life for the nation
* MSP for lentils
* 4G and broadband service in all towns and villages
Moving away from the manifesto and looking at hard numbers, what stands out is the fact that at over Rs 7 lakh crore, Bihar's GDP has grown from just 3.19%, fifteen years back, under the aegis of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), to a solid 11.3% now, under the BJP-JD(U) combine, with an average growth of over 10% consistently, in the last three years. Bihar's GDP has registered higher growth than the national average in the previous three years. The per capita GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) of Bihar was Rs 47,541 at current prices and Rs 33,629 at constant prices. The main growth drivers of the economy in Bihar, which registered double-digit growth and contributed towards real growth of the overall economy of Bihar during 2018-19, are air transport (36%), other services (20%), trade and repair services (17.6%), road transport (14.0%), and of course, financial services (13.8%).
The fiscal deficit of Bihar was 2.68% of GSDP, revenue surplus 1.34% of GSDP, and the outstanding public debt liability of the State government was 32.34% of GSDP during the year 2018-19. What the fiscal numbers indicate is that the BJP-JD(U) combine has managed the State finances very consummately, without borrowing recklessly and engaging in high leverage, which many opposition ruled States are guilty of. Leverage is not necessarily a bad thing, but only as long as it is used for capital expenditure and not revenue expenditure.
The total revenue receipt of Bihar in 2018-19 was Rs 1,31,793 crore, and capital receipt was Rs 20,494 crore. The revenue expenditure and the total expenditures were Rs 1,24,897 crore and Rs 1,54,655 crore respectively. The revenue receipt increased by 12.2% whereas the revenue expenditure increased by 21.7%, but overall, the revenue surplus was a healthy Rs 6,896 crore.
Agriculture and allied activities which are the mainstay of Bihar's economy, contributing to 23% of the GSDP, have done tremendously well, in the last five years. Egg production had increased in the State from 111.17 crores in 2016-17 to 176.34 crore in 2018-19, and the total fish production had gone up from 4.79 lakh tones in 2013-14 to 6.02 lakh tonnes in 2018-19. Similarly, the annual growth rate of operational agro-based factories in Bihar was 16.4 % over the last ten years, higher than the national average. It needs to be noted here that agri-growth under an inept and corrupt RJD, in the pre-2005 era, was barely 2.5%. The significant employment generating industries for working males in the State of Bihar during 2017-18 were agriculture, forestry and fishing (44.6%), construction (17.1%), wholesale and retail trade, repair of vehicles (12.3%) and manufacturing (9.3 %). For female workers, agriculture, forestry, fishing and education, have been the significant employment generating industries.
The per capita consumption of electricity in Bihar has risen from 145 kWh in 2012-13 to 311 kwh in 2018-19, implying growth of 114 % in six years. The availability of power has increased from an average of 6-8 hours to 20-22 hours in rural areas and from 10-12 hours in urban areas, to 22-24 hours in both rural and urban areas. Under the "Jungle Raaj" of RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav, before 2005, just 22% of Bihar had access to electricity, but today that number is 100%. Similarly, access to pucca roads has gone up from 34% fifteen years back, to as high as 96%, today. This is the most significant payback of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwaas", the initiative has touched the lives of every common Bihari, thereby redefining the concept of inclusivity. The BJP-JD (U) alliance's flagship programme of "Jal-Jivan-Hariyali" to tackle issues related to climate change and environmental degradation have worked wonderfully well. Bihar has also improved its budgetary allocation and operational efficiency through CFMS (Comprehensive Financial Management System) since 2019, which aims at increasing transparency, by making all financial activities online and paperless.
According to publicly available data on Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), the growth rate of Bihar’s economy in 2018-19 was 10.53% (at constant prices) and 15.01% (at current prices). The GSDP of Bihar at current prices was Rs 5,57,490 crore at everyday prices and Rs 3,94,350 crore at constant (2011-12) prices in 2018-19. The resulting Per Capita GSDP of Bihar was Rs 47,541 at current prices and Rs. 33,629 at constant prices. Share of various sectors in the GSVA is as follows--(a) Primary Sector at 21.3%,(b) Secondary Sector at 19.7% and Tertiary Sector at 59%. The three relatively most prosperous districts based on Petrol consumption per thousand persons are Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gopalganj.
The three most prosperous districts in terms of per capita small savings are Patna, Saran and Buxar.
The fiscal deficit at 2.68% of GSDP is one of the biggest positives, showcasing how Bihar, under the BJP-JD(U) combine, has never indulged in wasteful fiscal profligacy.
The share of Bihar in the total shareable resource pool of the centre has increased from 9.67% to 10.06%, for the year 2020-21, yet again endorsing the fact that Prime Minister Modi's growth-oriented policies are responsible for Bihar moving away from the infamous Bimaru tag that the then RJD dispensation bestowed it with, to a State that is set to outperform.
In a significant development in 2018-19, Bihar made it mandatory for all the departments to make all their purchases through the GeM Portal.
In 2018-19, the share of social services expenditure in total expenditure increased by a good 200 basis points. The spending on three principal heads of the social services was Rs. 28,080 crores (Education, Sports, Art and Culture), Rs. 7318 crore (Health and Family Welfare) and Rs. 15,638 crore (Water Supply, Sanitation, Housing and Urban Development).
The contribution of agricultural and allied sectors to Bihar’s GSVA was 21% in 2017-18 and the share of the crop sector in the Gross State Value Added (GSVA), was 12.1%. Cropping intensity was 144% in 2017-18. The Modi government even conferred the "Krishi Karman Award" to the state in January 2020, for its achievements in production and productivity of Maize and Wheat. Livestock and aquaculture together contributed about 7.1% of GSVA in the agriculture sector in Bihar during 2018-19.
The BJP-JD (U) has been providing a subsidy of 90% on drip irrigation and 75% on sprinkler irrigation, thereby making farming cost-effective, lucrative and less dependent on monsoons.
In Bihar, 11 sugar mills are presently operating, spread across six districts.
The worker population ratio (WPR) for male workers in rural Bihar was 64%. Again,55.9% of males were self-employed in 2017-18. Interestingly, 75% of the total migration took place due to marriage in the last few years, compared to 46% at the all-India level in 2011, under a thoroughly incompetent Congress-led, UPA regime. Only 2.9% of the total migration from Bihar took place due to work/employment and business, which busts the fake plan that people from Bihar under the BJP-JD(U) alliance, have been migrating due to lack of employment opportunities.
Again, the growth in the transport sector was 11% during the period 2011-12 to 2018-19.
Implementation of road safety measures has ensured that the number of road accidents per lakh population was the lowest in Bihar (9.3) among all major Indian states during 2018. Bihar was the sixth highest state in terms of building additional road length (1,30,799 km), during 2008-2017. It was also at the third position among significant states of India in 2017, in terms of rail route per thousand sq.km. of area. Air transport has registered a massive annual growth of 36% in the State. Presently, the rural teledensity in Bihar is over 46 connections per 100 persons. The urban teledensity in Bihar is more than 149 connections per 100 persons.
The projected peak demand for electricity in Bihar was 5300 MW in 2018-19. The peak demand met, reaching 5139 MW during 2018-19. The power capacity availability in the State was 3889 MW in 2018 and increased to 4767 MW in 2019. The total generation capacity of power as of March 2019 for the State was 4767 MW. Out of this,
82% was from coal-based thermal power, 11% from hydropower and the balance 7% from renewable energy sources. The power capacity availability in the state was 3889 MW in 2018, which increased to 4767 MW in 2019 and to meet the increased demand for power. The State government has also planned for an additional capacity of 5335 MW from different sources, in a phased manner by 2021-22.
In recent years, the "JEEViKA" scheme has received recognition at both national and international forums for its excellent achievements. Satat Jivikoparjan Yojana’ (SJY), was launched in August 2018. JEEViKA has been designated as the nodal agency for implementation of SJY, with a budgetary outlay of Rs 840 crore for three years. The objective of this scheme is to provide sustainable income-generating assets to impoverished households, including those who were traditionally involved in production and sale of country liquor or toddy, before the imposition of liquor prohibition in April 2016.
In Bihar, the rate of urbanisation has been low compared to the all-India level.
At one extreme, the rate of urbanisation was as high as 43.1% in Patna and, on another; it was only 3.5% in Banka. Patna Metro Rail Project, with a total cost of Rs 13,366 crore, was sanctioned, over a year back. In this regard, the State Government has already constituted Patna Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (PMRCL) to construct 31.39 km of the metro to cover East-West and North-South corridors.
The banking infrastructure has increased in the semi-urban areas in Bihar at a higher pace than in the rural and urban areas in Bihar. The Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCB) has the most extensive presence in the state among all types of banking institutions.
With a share of 4.9% in 2019, Bihar is in the top 10 positions in terms of the percentage of branches of commercial banks.
Between 2011-12 and 2018-19, the level of Per Capita Development Expenditure (PCDE) in Bihar has grown at 14.2%, compared to the national average of 13.3%.
The expenditure on education in the state increased at an annual rate of 13.8%, which is higher than that of the all-India average of 12.8%. The spending on health also registered an annual growth rate of 20.8%, higher than the all-India average. The life expectancy at birth in Bihar in 2013-17 was 69.2 and 68.6 years for males and females, respectively. There was an increase of 14.8 percentage points in the literacy rate of Bihar, which has improved significantly from 47.0%, under a corrupt RJD regime in 2001, to 61.8% in 2011.
Bihar accounts for 11% of India’s total child population. The average child sex ratio has been healthy at 935 females per 1000 males, much better than many competing States. The practice of Child Budgeting started in Bihar in 2013-14, presenting the details of all schemes related to child welfare, which was missing under a thoroughly inept RJD dispensation.
Speaking of Bihar's natural topography and diversity, it has about 285 wetlands, with a total area of 3992 hectares, accounting for nearly 0.6% of the whole recorded forest area of the state in 2019. The entire forest and tree cover together in Bihar constituted about 9309 sq. km. in 2019, which is about 9.9 per cent of the total geographical area of the state." Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali", a flagship programme of the State Government which is intended to tackle issues relating to climate change and environmental degradation, has shaped up brilliantly. The Valmiki Tiger Reserve is located in an area of 893.73 sq. km. in the district of West Champaran, housing the Panthera Tigris. As per the estimates of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the tiger population in Bihar increased from 8 in 2010, to 31 in 2018. The Vikramshila Gangeya Dolphin Sanctuary, situated in Bhagalpur, provides habitat for the Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), freshwater fishes and turtles. Climate change and preservation have been at the top of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda, and this is amply reflected in the attitude of the BJP-JD(U) combine, too.
Nearly all the departments of the State government in Bihar have been running e-Governance programmes in the State. For example, e-Labharthi provides several e-services like social security pension, disability allowance, payments for dress and reading materials, and scholarship amount, etc. This, in some ways, is an extension of Modi's highly successful Digital India, campaign.
No discussion on Bihar is complete without elaborating on the "Jungle Raaj" of the erstwhile RJD regime and the disgraced RJD honcho, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was convicted and sent to prison, in the IRCTC scam. The CBI charge sheet included charges pertaining to criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420) and other relevant sections of the IPC. It is reported that the tender process was rigged and manipulated, and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party (Sujata Hotels). The charge sheet also reveals that Vinay Kochhar, in February 2005, sold commercial property in the form of three acres of land in Patna through 10 sale deeds for Rs 1.47 crore to Delight Marketing, in which Sarla Gupta, was a director, as a front or a Benami holder, on behalf of Lalu Prasad.
Between 2010 and 2014, this land was further transferred, to help Lalu. In 2001, it was decided to hand over the management of catering services of Indian Railways, including its hotels, to the IRCTC. Two such hotels — BNR Hotels in Ranchi and Puri — were also identified and an MoU was signed between the Railways and the IRCTC in March 2004.
According to the FIR flown by the CBI, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the then Railways minister, entered into a criminal conspiracy with the owner of Sujata hotels, Sarla Gupta, the wife of his close associate Prem Chand Gupta, then an RJD MP in the Rajya Sabha, and IRCTC officials for “undue pecuniary advantage to himself and others”.The probe agencies later found that BNR hotels were transferred to Sujata Hotels through a rigged and manipulated tender process managed by P.K. Goel, the then-MD of IRCTC. As a result, Sujata Hotels remained the only bidder in financial evaluation and was qualified, the CBI said, adding after the tender was awarded to Sujata Hotels, the ownership of Delight marketing also changed hands from Sarla Gupta to Rabri Devi and then to Tejashwi Yadav, between 2010 and 2014.
The IRCTC scam was limited it just to Lalu but extended to a vast network of RJD members and close associates of Lalu, showcasing political greed, avarice and corruption at its worst. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that the politically conscious electorate of Bihar will ever vote back the RJD to power, given its dubious record, infighting between Lalu's sons, a clueless Tejashwi Yadav who has no political acumen and is the bearer of the poor legacy of his father, who was indicted for corruption at the highest level and is serving a jail term. How can a party (RJD) deliver crime-free, good governance, when it's patriarch is behind bars after being indicted by the law of the land?
Coming back to the development plan of the BJP-JD(U) alliance, there is a lot of ground that has been covered in the last five years. The mega rail-cum-road bridge in Munger was completed at the cost of about Rs 2,700 crore in 2016, to ease travel for people especially from Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Khagaria and Munger. Prime Minister Modi also inaugurated two other major railway projects in Bihar in 2016, apart from the Munger rail project. One was a rail-cum-road bridge at Patna and another an additional bridge at Mokama over the River Ganga. The total cost of these three rails described above projects was over Rs 7,000 crore. Hence, those who falsely allege that BJP has been talking about development in Bihar only in 2020, with an eye on the Bihar polls, are completely oblivious to facts. The hard truth is, good governance has been an ongoing mantra for the BJP-JD(U), combine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, last month, dedicated the Kosi Rail Mega bridge to the nation and inaugurated rail projects such as a new railway bridge on the Kiul river, two new railway lines, five electrification projects, one electric locomotive shed at Barauni and third line project between Barh-Bakhtiyarpur in Bihar. “Today, new history has been created in the field of rail connectivity in Bihar. Projects worth about Rs 3,000 crore like the inauguration of Kosi Mahasetu and Kiul bridge, railway electrification, promoting Make in India in railways, new job creators and dozen projects have been launched. These projects will not only strengthen Bihar’s rail network but also strengthen West Bengal and Eastern India’s rail connectivity," the Prime minister said in a virtual conference, last month while inaugurating these projects.
Several parts of Bihar were cut off from each other due to a number of rivers flowing across the state, and four years ago, construction of two bridges started in Patna and Munger to solve this problem. Now due to the commissioning of these two rail bridges, the travel between northern and the southern parts of the State has eased considerably. As much as 90% of the rail network in Bihar has been electrified over the last six years, and more than 3,000 kilometres of railways have been electrified. While about 325 km of new rail lines were commissioned in Bihar between 2009 and 2014, about 700 km of new rail lines were commissioned in the State in the first five years of the National Democratic Alliance-led government taking over. Another 1,000 km of new rail lines are under construction. With the introduction of Hajipur-Ghoswar Vaishali rail line, Delhi and Patna will be connected by direct rail service, which will boost tourism in Vaishali and create many jobs.
Work on a dedicated freight corridor (DFC) is going at a faster pace, and about 250 km length of the corridor would fall in Bihar. After the completion of this project, the delay in passenger trains and goods' trains will also be reduced. Modi also launched initiatives related to animal husbandry and fisheries in Bihar, including Rs 20,050 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) and the e-Gopala mobile app, last month.
Of the 41 big river bridges in the state, 25 have been constructed during the NDA's 15-year rule while 16 were built between 1947 and 2005. Only 16 major river bridges were built over rivers such as the Ganga, Gandak, Kosi, Sone, Bagmati and the Phalgu in the 1947-2005 period.
The NDA government will take up the construction of another 21 bridges. While 14 bridges are under construction, the tender process for building two bridges has already been completed and another five are underway. The NDA has worked at a feverish pitch for the welfare of Bihar, transforming it from a "Bimaru" to a vibrant State.
Drawing a comparison between the work done under NDA's 15-year rule (2005-2020) and the RJD which was in the seat of power for 15 years till 2005, it is clear that RJD is no match for the superior performance showcased by the NDA. For instance, while the length of middle lanes in Bihar was 1,705 km till 2005, it has been increased to 5,654 km during NDA rule.
Similarly, 15 years ago, the length of seven-metre wide, double-lane State highway was 107 km, which has been increased to 4,429 km by the NDA government. Both the Central and State governments have allotted Rs 2,672 crore in the past three years for constructing a road network of 1,636 km and 75 bridges in five extremist-hit districts of the state. It needs to be mentioned here that under RJD, Bihar was a den of Maoist led Naxalism. However, the "Jungle Raaj" of fifteen years ago, has now given way to a Bihar that is aspirational, hungry for growth and is self-reliant in many vital areas, with the law and order machinery functioning pretty seamlessly, thanks to a disciplined leadership in the last five years, which has effectively married growth with equity and social inclusivity.
The NDA government has given priority to the poor in the time of coronavirus. At a place where the poor's ration was looted inside the shops, we are delivering ration to their homes. Where the money meant for the poor went into corruption, this government was able to organise free food for families in the middle of the pandemic."--This quote by Prime Minister Modi, on October 23, 2020, at an election rally in Bihar, sums up the mood of the electorate. While undoubtedly, every life is precious and counts, Bihar stands tall, in terms of Covid management. At about 1000 deaths, from a population of a little over 10 crore people, that translates into a ratio of barely 0.001%. The promised free Covid vaccine to Bihar, will further help the cause of "Jaan aur Jahaan" and give wings to the State in it's commendable, development outreach.
The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare--The Modi Dynamic’