One man can make a difference. Yes, once again Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has proved to us diehard sceptics that there can be politics of honesty, hard work and success. That is Bihar today. The once leader of the BIMARU states, today is the leader with an economic growth of 13.1 per cent and per capita income growth of 12 per cent. For long Bihar has been associated with grinding poverty, illiteracy compounded with unbridled crime. It was a nightmare state, and nobody even remotely thought that there would be redemption for the state and certainly not so soon. In steps Nitish Kumar in 2005. When news travelled about his no-nonsense approach on governance, we stepped back to watch disbelievingly and to see if it was just a few days’ wonder. But the CM came to stay and also prove to the world that politics can be more about governance, and about delivering rather than real-politik.
He intelligently took stock of Bihar’s situation, and, like Roosevelt, pragmatically initiated a series of developmental and construction activities along with giving fillip to education and tackling the law and order situation of Bihar. The bane of Bihar was well known. Only there was no will to tackle it. Long-delayed bridges were built, roads were laid, and the foundation of education, particularly girls’ education was strengthened by appointing 100,000 schoolteachers and introducing the bicycle scheme first for girl students and then boy students. Crime was controlled by ensuring criminal prosecutions through fast-track courts.
Bihar’s poor largely used to seek employment as labourers outside their own state, most often in Punjab. When Nitish Kumar in the early years of his tenure invited his people back to Bihar promising them jobs in Bihar, some of us sniggered, some thought the man had gone daft and a few others wondered at his pride. He proved all wrong by keeping his promise.
What one learns is that there are different strokes to development. Bihar has looked inwards for its development and has regenerated it with a government-initiated push to rejuvenate the economy, which in turn feeds economic growth.
Conversely Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, both IT hubs recorded a growth rate of 5.5 per cent, lower than India’s GDP growth of 6.5 per cent in 2011-12. This is a cause of concern. We need to look at the reasons for this. Both the states depend on services for their growth and when there is a slump in the corporate investment, the growth rate takes a downward swing. Both states have fallen victim to this. Tamil Nadu with a strong industrial base has shown a growth of 9.4 per cent higher than even that of Gujarat at 9.1.
The bureaucracy needs to take a hard look at the sustainability of the service sector as the single push for achieving growth. Whether a multi pronged and more balanced view of growth in traditional sectors such as agriculture, health and education, employment generation and poverty reduction should not be the focus to achieve a higher and inclusive growth of the state. Agricultural production has been falling. The annual report of the Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, Ministry of Agriculture (GOI) refers to the continuous decline in the share of agriculture in the GDP from 17.4 per cent in 2006-07 to 14.2 per cent in 2010-11 as per advanced estimates at the 2004-05 prices.
Though AP’s share of agriculture in gross state domestic product (GSDP) and the per-capita value of GSDP from agriculture have always been higher than the national figures, it is a troubled sector today as this advantage is eroding. When 70 per cent of AP’s population has agriculture as its occupation, it is this sector that needs to be enabled, together with strategies to eradicate poverty by generating employment. A well-balanced approach of developing all sectors, rather than concentrating only on the service sector would be a permanent solution, for corporate investment will certainly exhaust as it has happened before and we would also be too open to the vagaries of the international market.
The writer works for Postnoon.