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Bihar has been accorded step motherly treatment by the central government
ARUN SRIVASTAVA | Issue Dated: March 16, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar | Seemandhara | Congress chief Sonia Gandhi | Lord Nicholas Stern |
 

When there is inequality between different groups in terms of economic resources and political power, it is easy for social elites who wield political power to capitalize on the abstract nationalist feelings of the people. Bihari society has never been uniform but multi-ethnic. Its chief minister Nitish Kumar has been trying to recapture the past glory of Bihar in the modern context through arousing feelings of Bihari sub-nationalism. His adhikar rally demanding special category status to Bihar aimed at arousing this sub-nationalism as it is linked to the future of the state and its people. By saying that the special status will change the destiny of the people, Nitish tried to make it a strong political agenda linking it with the Bihari pride.

Bihari sub-nationalism was aroused on a large scale in March 2011 when the state government observed Bihar Diwas on March 22 on completion of 99 years of the state’s separate identity.  Nitish Kumar had begun his 17 day-long ‘adhikar yatra’ on September 19 to garner support for special category status to Bihar to deal with decades of backwardness.

But his move has been stymied by the UPA government unwilling to accede to his demand. After making the state wait patiently for five years, the central government has now developed cold feet. While it granted special status to Seemandhara at the behest of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi it preferred to ignore suggestions and recommendations of the Raghuram Rajan committee on according special status to Bihar.

The campaign for a special status to Bihar has now acquired aggressive posturing with chief minister urging a ‘satyagrah ‘against the UPA’s ‘betrayal’ of not granting the state special status. It is an open secret that mechanism of conferring special category status has been a political weapon to force the states to fall in line and follow the dictates of the centre.
Without a special category status, the state would take at least 25 years to touch the national economic growth average. Bihar opting for a confrontationist path ought to be not construed as a retaliatory action. Kumar has made it clear that they have no problem with Seemandhra getting special category status but the same has been denied to Bihar despite a favourable recommendation by the Raghuram Rajan committee report.

It is sad that some people interpret Nitish’s latest action as a tactical move to gain benefit during the Lok Sabha elections. It would naïve to expect that a politician would not use a situation like this to his advantage. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and economist Lord Nicholas Stern also support special status as imperative need for Bihar’s development and growth. Recently Sen and Stern praised Bihar’s growth model, its infrastructural growth and lauded social sector investment in the state. They attributed the turnaround in Bihar to the investment in social sector. Both scholars supported continuance of its growth and also backed its demand for special category status.  Lord Stern had advocated for special status to Bihar during the release of the book ‘The New Bihar: Rekindling Governance and Development’, at Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 21.

With the Lok Sabha polls round Kumar has linked the issue of special status to development in the hope of his party JD (U) sweeping the state’s Lok Sabha seats. During his party’s sankalp rallies, he told people: “I am committed to rebuilding Bihar, but it will be possible only after getting special category status for the state. We need support in the shape of more Lok Sabha seats to forcefully assert our collective rights in Delhi for special status for the development of Bihar.”

The Raghuram Rajan Committee was set up after Nitish demanded ‘special category’ status for Bihar to fund its development needs. Appointed to select states which are far from the average growth rate in India, the panel had last year identified Bihar as one of the ‘least developed’. It was a victory for Bihar. But the lack of action on the report prompted Nitish Kumar to term this as an insult to the people of the state. He pointed out that Bihar’s per capita income, investments and electricity consumption are the lowest in the country and it also lags in all human resource indices.

There is little doubt that Bihar must not be denied its due share. Efforts should also be made to check the flight of capital from the state. Incidentally the index, developed by Raghuram Rajan committee  shows that Bihar is more backward than all the north-eastern and other hilly states to whom the centre has regularly accorded special support under various plan schemes. If the panel’s recommendations are accepted, it will translate into a larger share of central funds for these states.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017