Niranjan Kumar’s life seemed to improve as soon as he migrated to Delhi. The 32-year-old from Bhagalpur landed a job with Ola Cabs and now makes over Rs 15,000 a month, working for only as many hours as he chooses.
But life isn’t good for those at home. “There are few opportunities back in my village,” he said.
In spite of improved financial indices qualifying Bihar as a ‘turnaround’ state, millions leave every year in search of a better livelihood. On July 27, CM Nitish Kumar presented a report card of his 10-year-rule in the run-up to the assembly polls.
Since taking over in November 2005, Nitish said that Bihar’s gross state domestic product increased at 18% annually, tax revenues by over 20%, and public debt decreased. The plan expenditure rose at almost 32% annually, showing the government was spending over 14 times it used to before. But this did little to stem the steady tide of migrants.
A 2009 study found more than 4.4 million people migrated every year in search of jobs. But labour department statistics in 2012 showed migration had dropped by 35-40% between 2008 and 2012, as many found jobs in the state.
However, in contrast to the impressive data on Bihar’s improved finances, the poverty is more damning. Since 2010, the state government cited its own surveys to peg the number of below poverty line (BPL) families in the state at a whopping Rs 1.40 crore. “At an average five persons to a family, this figure shows nearly 70% of the population qualifies as poor,” says Nitish Mishra, who served as rural development minister under Nitish, and is now in the NDA.
But Bihar’s ascent was acknowledged in the area of improving human development indices, in the erstwhile Planning Commission’s 2014 report that found the state had improved, outstripping not only low-HDI states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh but also Gujarat and Delhi.