The four ills of casteism, corruption, criminalisation of politics and inequitable land distribution have been repeated ad infinitum as reasons for Bihar’s backwardness and has been accepted as conventional wisdom. But is that the truth? Let’s look at how Bihar fares in some key Centre created infrastructure.
Bihar & Jharkhand and the new highways
Have a look at a map of the new highways being built by NHAI
Inevitably, a good portion of these passes through Bihar and Jharkhand. The alignment will not serve most Bihar and Jharkhand towns: Patna, Ranchi, Gaya, Ara, Chhapra, Bhagalpur, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Dhanbad or Jamshedpur!
Muzaffarpur is the sole exception to prove the rule. The up country cousins from “backward” states are considered unfit to be served by such modern wonders! Or maybe we should call them the Bihar bypass!!!
Is this plain incompetence, deliberate mischief or the inherited imperial mindset of Delhi planners? Either way, the visible outcome is that none has thought to make these locally useful.
See the tortuous turns these highways take in other states. Look at UP where most towns with a population over 5 lakhs are connected. Being land locked, Bihar can’t have ports. Highways are the only means of transportation. If these highways do not serve the population centres, why build them?
Bihar became self sufficient in food in 2004 – fabulous example of a green revolution without Centre’s investment in irrigation or any others. Bihar is expected to become food surplus in a couple of years. Properly aligned roads are a must to transport the produce to the markets for adequate returns. But we wait to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to demoralise the farmers!
Bridges over Ganga
Another example are the bridges over Ganga. The river divides truncated Bihar into two roughly equal halves and inadequate communication across the river has hampered economic growth for centuries. The length of Ganga in UP is 1170 km and Bihar is 445 km. Bihar has more population density along Ganga and therefore the bridges would serve more people. Let’s ignore the population and just go by the river length. UP should have a maximum of three times the number in Bihar. But what is the reality?
There are just three bridges in Bihar: at Bhagalpur, Mokama and Patna. There is another one at Buxar which starts in Bihar and ends in UP. That makes it three and a half. And the number in UP? Over fifteen! Delhi, divided by Yamuna, has a mind-boggling 8 for a river length of maybe 50 km!! Indeed some are born with a silver spoon. This cannot but leave one numb at the extent of discrimination.
Surprisingly, there has been no informed debate about these at any level. A mention of these has been conspicuous in any media: press or television – by its absence. Let the readers draw their own conclusions about the underdevelopment of Bihar.