Why Bihar ranks bottom in Niti Aayog SDG index? Minister blames unrealistic data
PATNA: Bihar’s planning minister Bijendra Yadav on Monday objected to Niti Aayog’s way of ranking states on the index of sustainable development goals (SDGs), and said the eastern state needed special assistance from the Centre for faster development.
“We have dropped the demand for the status of a special state (special category status), as we are now tired of asking for it from the Centre. But now we are seeking special packages for all sectors,” Yadav, an influential member of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s cabinet, said in his remarks on the government think tank’s 2020-21 report that ranked Bihar at the bottom of the table.
Yadav said the state government has asked Niti Aayog to change the way it evaluates progress. “The state registered remarkable growth in 10 out of 15 SDG index as compared to last year. But there are some areas, which the state can’t compete with other states owing to its natural limitations, for which the state requires a special package,” the minister said.
Buttressing his claim, Yadav said Bihar stands at the front on progress in health care.
“Bihar ranked the 5th in case of potable water and sanitation sector. In the per capita development expenditure index, the state grew by 17.9% over the last year as compared to the national average of 11.6%. The total fertility rate has come down to 3 (2019-20) vis-à-vis 3.8 in 2011. Still, the state’s progress was adjudged to the bottom,” said Yadav, adding that life expectancy has also improved considerably in the province.
Niti Aayog chose unrealistic data to assess Bihar on the index based on the percentage of population below the poverty line, Yadav alleged. “The state can’t help improve on the index for quality employment and economic development based on the number of automated teller machines (ATMs), as it depended on the discretion of banks. Moreover, the index that assesses the state based on the percentage of the forest cover to development was not justifiable. The state did well when assessed on the index of change in forest cover, which was done away within the latest assessment,” the minister pointed out.
Through the memorandum, the minister demanded that the index and objectives of development to assess the status of states by Niti Aayog should be finalised in consultation with the states. “Special assistance shall be doled out to those states, which are backwards but striving to grow faster. The Niti Aayog shall frame short, medium and long-term strategies for different states depending on their limitations to achieve the SDGs for progress,” the memorandum said.
This is the second time in the recent past when the state government has sounded a dissenting note with the central government. Taking exception to the Centre’s refusal to a caste-based census, the demand for which an all-party delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi made on August 23, chief minister Nitish Kumar urged the central government to rethink its decision.
The ruling Janata Dal (United) has been demanding special status for Bihar since 2012. It was also the main political agenda of the party during the state’s assembly polls last year. The state legislature in the past passed unanimous resolutions, asking for the special status to Bihar.
However, it was not considered by the Centre. “Even the special package promised by Prime Minister Modi during 2019 election rallies were not considered,” said Prem Chandra Mishra, a leader of the opposition Congress party.