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Panel 1: Inclusion: The Progress and Challenges for Bihar




Alakh N Sharma

Director, Institute of Human Development


As Bihar has made a remarkable turnaround, posting high growth in recent years, social commentators are asking if it is inclusive. “The complexity of producing high growth rate and be inclusive at the same time brings challenges. Bihar, too, is facing the same challenge,” said Alakh N Sharma, director of New Delhi based think tank Institute of Human Development.

Sharma pointed out that growth has not percolated to various groups. “The national sample survey data of 2004-05 to 2009-10 has not shown any significant poverty reduction in Bihar,” he said.

However, he gave reasons for growth not reaching common people. “We have high fluctuations in the growth rate (in Bihar). Also, there is enormous pressure on the land and natural resources in term of population. The density of population is 1,100 as against 382 for the country.”
Another reason that Sharma cited is that 63 percent of the state’s workforce is still employed in agriculture while together they make just 19 percent of the state’s income. This shows that the growth has not been inclusive. “There are large numbers of tenant farmers in the state. They hardly get loans from the banks though the Reserve Bank of India has given clear-cut guidelines,” he added.

He also made a point that the state needs resources to make inclusive growth that can touch the common people. “Only 11 percent of the state is urban. Unless people move to urban areas or in rural areas move to non-agriculture sector and opportunities are created in that direction, inclusive growth will remain incomplete.”

Sharma was critical of the banks’ role. “The loans provided to marginal section of society by the banks are still very low. Banks are hesitant to come forward,” he said.

Quality education and health sector remain a challenge in the state despite high enrolment in schools and improved medical facility. “Quality of education is still poor in the state and higher education, of course, is the worst in the country. In health sector too, we have big challenges. For this all, you need strengthening of institutions and governance. This has happened in Bihar but still there is gap that needs to be filled,” Sharma said.
 

 


Pratyaya Amrit

Secretary, Road Construction Department, Government of Bihar


From a far away destination in Bihar to reach Patna still takes considerable time. But all that is going to change soon. You can reach Patna from any place in Bihar in less than six hours by next year. “Next year by September, we will achieve our target. We are trying to build more roads and bridges to achieve this mission,” said Pratyaya Amrit, secretary, road construction department, government of Bihar.

Connectivity, he said, was the key to inclusive growth. Amrit is credited with dramatically improving road connectivity and building bridges in the state in the last five years. “In 2005, when roads of Bihar were subject of ridicule, we are now talking about investment in roads,” he added.

Amrit said that sustaining development for longer period of time can’t happen without change in the mindset of bureaucrats. “If we have to maintain the tempo, the mindset of bureaucracy, which also includes engineers, has to be changed. The efforts should be made at the earliest,” he added.

As the network of roads is increasing, Amrit is also focusing on two key areas – road safety and maintenance of roads. The state has drafted a maintenance policy regarding roads. The Bihar government is also establishing a state-of-the-art training institute in Mokama for engineers. “Capacity-building of engineers is also very important. It should also cater to engineering fraternity at large. We want to make it the best in the country,” the secretary told the gathering.

In the last few years, the state government has given special importance to national highways, state highways and district roads. “In the national highways sector, Bihar perhaps is only state in the country which has spent Rs. 969 crore from its own plan for maintenance and upgradation of the national highways in the last five years,” Amrit said.

Not only in roads, Bihar also improved connectivity by building bridges. “From its inception in 1975 to 2005, Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam had constructed 315 bridges. In the last six years, the organisation has constructed more than 1,300 bridges,” said the secretary.
 

 


Amarjit Sinha

Principal Secretary, Education, Government of Bihar


At a time when Bihar is growing at more than 10 percent, the real challenge is to combine financial inclusion with social development. “Inclusion doesn’t mean only financial inclusion; it should also lead to social development. You can’t have financial inclusion or any other form of economic inclusion, if you have not addressed fundamental issue of social inclusion and social development,” said Amarjit Sinha, principal secretary, education, government of Bihar.

Sinha said, while the private sector is getting praise for the country’s economic growth post-1991, it has not led the path of social development in the country. “The private players may be engineers of economic growth in the last two decades, but they cannot be engineers of social development. Social development requires public system. Let’s us not forget the public system. In social development, you cannot get away from the public system. Therefore, the challenge before us is how we revisit the public system,” he said.

According to Sinha, “Merely looking at cash transfer, conditional cash transfer and public private partnership is not where the focus is required as far as social development is concerned. We have to find schools, hospitals and development in such a manner that they should provide services. This is how 90 percent of the world has moved on.”

He said that the CM’s initiative has also led to a growth model where aspirations of poor are arising. “At a place where a plumber’s son becomes a plumber or a carpenter’s son becomes a carpenter, this can only be challenged with progressive institutions which allow dreams to be chased.”
In several human development indicators, Sinha pointed out like in infant mortality and death rates, Bihar has caught up with the national average. “This shows that healthcare has improved. But in the tertiary care, it has a long way to go. For one major surgery, we all take the train to Delhi. We need to develop such infrastructure in the state,” said the principal secretary. He has earlier served as joint secretary in the health ministry.

The state has set up mission Manav Vikas which is a cabinet sub-committee on human development where the CM and 15 ministers monitor the progress on 15 key indicators – education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation etc. “The answer to inclusion not only lies in economic growth but very firmly in social development, crafting credible public system which can deliver quality services,” he added.

(Sinha’s book on inclusive development, ‘Revisiting India and looking at Public Systems’ will be launched in October)
 

 

 

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