PATNA: Bihar’s double-digit growth rate hasn’t really lifted millions out of poverty. According to fresh data released by the Planning Commission, there has been a marginal reduction of poverty in Bihar, but in absolute terms, five million more have joined the ranks of the poor between 2004-05 and 2009-10.
“Ninety per cent of the population is totally dependent on agriculture and there is complete stagnancy in agriculture sector in last five years. This led to a major downfall in the per capita income in rural areas. Even its share in state GDP declined considerably,” says Patna University Professor N K Chaudhary. “The increasing population too compounded this problem as the state registered one of the highest fertility rates,” Chaudhary adds.
Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen raised the issue of high growth rate versus persistent poverty in Bihar at a recent seminar in Patna. The rampant diversion of PDS foodgrain and dismal performance in employment generating programmes like MGNREGA where the state utilized only 7.38 per cent of the funds available, are clear-cut examples of failure of the delivery mechanism, according to him.
“Simply pumping money in different social security and poverty related programmes without any effective monetary system resulted in leakage to a greater extent in most of the areas. Panchayat representatives are more interested in purchasing SUVs than implementing government programmes,” said Shashank, an IITian who runs an organization called Farms-n-Farmers in Vaishali district.
The high growth rate and high poverty ratio not only exposes the claim of inclusive growth by the government but also indicates the exclusive growth of microscopic urban elite class. The poverty figure also puts a question mark on the claim of Nitish Kumar that there has been a sharp fall in the distress migration.
The new count of the plan panel is based on fixing the poverty line for a person living on 28.65 rupees a day in cities and 22.42 rupees a day in villages.