JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, who was sworn in as chief minister for the fifth time on Friday, faces the big challenge of living up to expectation of the toiling multitudes which voted him to another term in office in the hope he will improve their quality of life.
One of the key challenges for the new government will be revenue and employment generation a much-needed boost to facilitate the revival of the state’s economy hit, among other things, by drought and apparent stagnation in the real estate sector.
Statistics showing a 9.3% growth rate and a contrast of over 40% people subsisting below the poverty line, besides a low per capita income, seem to indicate a contradiction in indicators of the quality of life.
Bihar also shows a huge disparity in per capita income between its various regions - with the per capita income being around Rs 60,000 in Patna and barely Rs 6,000-10,000 in some other districts.
According to Shaibal Gupta of ADRI, Nitish has been a very successful provider by bringing about a big improvement in sectors such as roads, bridges, education and health.
“He has also politically enabled the subaltern. Now he has to enable Bihar for increasing market engagement with a bottom-up capitalism. For this he has to take up the agenda of land reforms and backward and forward linkages of education to build a knowledge society and the economy,” he added.
Former director of Patna’s AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies DM Diwakar said the state would require to build upon the level reached in certain basic conditions for sustainable development.
“This will mean proper and optimal utilization of its strengths viz. fertile soil, abundant water and hardworking manpower, comprising mostly youth”, he explained.
As such, the task before the new government is clearly cut out. Bihar requires a fair dose of industrialization, along with boost to agriculture through some concrete measures like adequate irrigation facility to reduce dependence on rain.
According to a study, there has been a relatively modest growth in the irrigated land -from 16.65 lakh hectares in 2005-06 to 21.19 lakh hectares in 2013-14, which means over dependence on timely rain.
Besides, the study has found that around 20 lakh hectares of cultivable land in Bihar remained unsown.
“This irrigation covered agriculture land mass will have to be increased significantly as it has a direct bearing on productivity. At present, the cropping intensity in Bihar is barely 1.42. This shows that we are not able to have even one and half crop”, Diwakar said.
If there was improved water and land management, productivity would improve to have a positive bearing on the state economy,” he added.
Education is another area, say experts, which will require the new government to move ahead from the primary stage and think beyond infrastructure development to give top priority to the quality of education and skill development.
Deficiencies in this sector hurts the poor - irrespective of caste and creed, the most and leads to huge out migration, which in turn causes outflow of crores of rupees every year from a poor state that is Bihar.
Due to the poor quality of education in government schools and colleges, a parallel ‘private’ education system has flourished in the state over the years which only the rich can afford.
Real service to the poor can be only through quality and nondiscriminatory education to all and with a big mandate behind him, the government would require to take some concrete steps for the lasting good of the underprivileged sections of the society.
Bihar has a huge youth population having growing aspirations. They have the energy and drive, but not necessarily the skills, to make them employable in the fast changing job markets.
Though Kumar has promised to give them unemployment allowance, through his seven resolves for the new term in office, it will not be a permanent solution in a resource-starved state like Bihar.
Generating employment can certainly be.
“Education is at the core of human development mission, which the chief minister himself has been very keen on. If that works out in his new innings, Bihar will not look back,” said Diwakar.
Leaders of the CPI(ML) Liberation and the people of Bihar would keep watch on policies and working of chief minister Nitish Kumar and his new cabinet, said state secretary of the party, Kunal on Friday.
“People of the state gave a strong mandate to Kumar and his allies in this election. They have high hopes from him and it is his responsibility to deliver. So, people of the state and our party will keep a close watch on his functioning,” he said. The CPI(ML) won three seats in the Bihar assembly election, while fighting under a united Left bloc.
Kunal said the land reforms policy and issues like access to quality education, employment generation and other benefits for underprivileged classes were still a distant dream.
“We are hopeful that the new government under Kumar will work towards making such dreams a reality. We will work as constructive opposition in the assembly and keep the government on right track,” he said.