Four years after the Nitish Kumar government started a scheme for distributing bicycles for girls to go to school, the results seem to be already trickling in.
Bihar — at the bottom in terms of female literacy in 2001 — has taken a jump of 20 percentage points in female literacy and begun a climb. Rajasthan has replaced Bihar as the state with the lowest female literacy with just 52.66 % females being capable of reading and writing. Bihar is now one position ahead at 53.33 %.
But this slight edge has not come easy. In 2001, Bihar was a full 10 percentage points behind Rajasthan with their respective figures being 33.12% and 43.85 %.
The government did invest in this turnaround. Under the Mukhya Mantri Cycle Yojana of 2007, 8.71-lakh bicycles were distributed at a cost of R1.74-billion, said a Bihar official. The attendance of girls in schools also turned around from less than 1.7 lakh to 4.9 lakh in just three years up to 2010.
Rajasthan has much reason to worry. The male literacy in the state is 80% — the same as prosperous Punjab — but nearly half the females are illiterate pointing to an embarrassing gender bias in education. Jharkhand that had just 38% literate females in 2001 has also jumped 18 percentage points to 56.21 %, crossing Rajasthan.
Uttar Pradesh, which too made impressive strides in literacy in the past decade, has also beaten Rajasthan in female literacy this time round.