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.