PATNA: Would you believe that the percentage-wise per capita income of Bihar was the same in 1951 as it is over 60 years later in 2012. It was 40 per cent of the national average in 1951, that is, before the start of the First Five-Year Plan (1952-57), and the same now at the start of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17). But one should not forget that in between this period, Bihar underwent a big change in its geographical boundary too—in November 2000, it got truncated.
Thus Bihar remains where it was six decades ago. In fact other data suggest that percentage-wise the poverty has not shown any sign of decline when compared nationally. The per capita income of India in 2011-12 is Rs 38,005 whereas the figure for Bihar stands at `15,268. This figure is 40.1 per cent of the national average. This notwithstanding the fact that Bihar is among the top remittance earners of the country––from other states as well as abroad. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Had there been no mass migration from the state, the situation would have even got worse.
But official economists are hoping against hope. They claim that in the last four years the percentage has risen somewhat. For example, the figure was 32.7 per cent in 2004-05, the last financial year of Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi regime. It fell further to 30 per cent in 2005-06—the year of President’s Rule and coming to power of Nitish Kumar. The following fiscal the figure went up slightly to reach 32.6 per cent. But it fell once again to 31.9 per cent in 2007-08. But after 2008-09 it has been rising constantly. It was 34.1 per cent that year, 35.5 in 2009-10, 37.8 in 2010-11 and 40.1 in 2011-12.
Asian Development Research Institute Director P P Ghosh sees this development as reduction of the gap between the national and the state’s per capita income. He told a section of media recently that till 1980s, the gap between the national and state per capita income grew at a slow pace. But once India went for economic liberalisation in the 1990s, Bihar failed to match the growth rate. This led to widening of the gap.