Bihar : what next?
Rural India continues to bleed!

The urban English press is full of news from Lalu Yadav’s Bihar. This is election time, with Congress trying to outwit Lalu who is a master of the game of outwitting! Yes, the continuous abduction news make the state a dark corner of India!

So, what else is news from Bihar? All the statistics point to a dark picture: Per capita income (Rs.4,048 against national average of Rs.10,964) and so on. At the bottom of the Human Development Index.

Yet, its co-operative dairy scheme ranks 10th in India. Agricultural production is up, the state marginally surplus in food-grains. In contrast, W.Bengal is backward in medical facilities, given its advantages. The latest news is about the threat of black fever epidemic, government initiative would cover 11 districts.

In Orissa, the death rate is high, UP the crime rate is high. A news report from Champaran district of Bihar shows clearly how the rural Bihar is still living under various disabilities. Yes, land reforms failed to bring about an equitable distribution of land. Rural zamindars thrive, large land holdings still are being controlled by litigations and the rural labour is held to many inequities. Minimum wages are not paid.

To be fair to Lalu, it has to be said that he didn’t remove the District Collector (Ravi Parmer) in Champaran because the Collector imposed the payment of minimum wages by the land lords. The Naxalite movement led to a fight for better wages, often leading to caste massacres. Says a DGP “The Naxalites fight for the poor. Lalu lets them fight the wage battle. Lalu speaks against the feudal forces but doesn’t tackle the problems head on “Who else? There are reports that even in AP, the Congress government establishment doesn’t do this job, it is said. It is all a complex problem. The rural labour in Bihar is migrating on a large scale as in other States. In AP too we see this large scale rural labour migrant to urban India. This is a welcome trend. Even in the South, we find the Bihari labour, be it artisans and others or the Rajasthan carpenters or construction labour highly skilled and highly motivated.

This is the new India where we see migrants from other States work hard and earn well. So, in a way we welcome the present conditions in Bihar as a sign of the times. Lalu cant have the last laugh for all the time to come. The very logic of economic forces, the shortage of rural labour would lead to economic pressures so that farming would become more attractive for farm labour when you have to pay a high wage. As in Kerala where the farm labour is the highest paid in India. The very forces of urbanisation would rewrite the rules of rural India’s new prosperity.

But the pity is that new policies that can change things on rational lines are not being drawn up even by enlightened government in Delhi. So, there is no point in blaming Lalu for everything that is wrong with Bihar. We are engaged in changing agriculture through positive methods. By organising farmers into some market-driven business ventures. But who is interested to innovate and change the lives of the villagers? The government is heavily bureaucratised, more bureaucratised today that what it was sometime ago. We need drastic changes in the credit delivery system to the farmers. We need equally a radical change in the way services are delivered at the door steps of farmers.

The AP Chief Minister Dr.Rajasekhara Reddy has said his government vision is to provide Internet connectivity to every village in the state in a time frame of 2 to 3 years! Brave! We congratulate him. No such assurance or even thought of deploying IT has come to other politicians in other states. Only a door delivery of land records, village visit and disposing off decision by district level officials, thasildars and village level officials in the public place will do away with the temptations to ask for bribes. The farmers needn’t go to the towns to see the officials.


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