Bihar Elections and the issue of unemployment

How big is this unemployment issue in Bihar and can it actually topple the government? Can RJD, which fueled unemployment during its governance, encash this issue in the upcoming Bihar Elections?

The issue of unemployment has been one of the concerns for the Bihar government for ages. The situation worsened this year when millions of migrant workers headed back to Bihar with the hope to get some employment in the state itself. However, the hopes fell flat as the migrant workers, as well as the government, struggled to find accommodation. And eventually, this became one of the biggest issues in the Bihar Elections. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the main opposition party in Bihar, has opened all the cannons and has made unemployment as its biggest attack on the incumbent Nitish Kumar-led NDA government.

How big is this unemployment issue in Bihar and can it actually topple the government? Can RJD, which fueled unemployment during its governance, encash this issue in the upcoming Bihar Elections?

Bihar is the 3rd populous state in India after Maharashtra and Gujarat but it is one of the most neglected states in India. The people of Bihar often boast about their glorious past because Bihar was a center for most of the important events in history. It is the land of Buddhism and Jainism and the famous Nalanda University which was an important educational hub.

The question which arises in the mind after studying the glorious past of Bihar is “What are those factors which have led to the downfall of Bihar?” There have been many hindrances in the development of Bihar and some of these started cropping up from the British period itself.

One of the main factors that plagued the fertility of Bihar was the Zamindari system prevalent during the British period. The innocent farmers had absolutely no say over their own lands and they were exploited at the hands of the elite class and the Britishers.

After independence too the situation did not improve much and the Central Government kept neglecting the pressing demands of Bihar. The freight equalization policy was introduced in 1952 and remained in force till 1993. It led to a large-scale de-industrialization in Bihar. The industries which were supposed to be established in Bihar were moved to Bombay (Mumbai) and Gujarat.

The death blow to the development of Industries in Bihar came when the mineral-rich part of Bihar was ripped off and made into a separate state, that is, Jharkhand. It happened due to the foolish ambitions of a stupid CM.

The period of the 1990s is often regarded as the dark era or “jungle raj” because of the rise in crimes and lack of development. The ruling party made sure that the communal and caste-based tensions continued so that their vote bank remains intact. This pushed Bihar to the state of “backwardness” that it still struggles to grow out of. The Central Government completely excluded Bihar from aids because of lawlessness and rampant corruption.

A ray of hope started to emerge when the current chief minister Nitish Kumar was elected to power. He tried to work towards the development of Bihar but unfortunately, this ray of hope was also short-lived. The chief minister started working with the state machinery without realizing the fact that it is already very crippled by various vices and without concrete reforms it is impossible to have true development in Bihar.

At present, there are just 29 industries in Bihar out of which only 9 are functional. The lack of revenue from industries force the political parties to extract the rents they need to fund their political expenditure from government projects and this coupled with rampant corruption leads to the stalling of various development projects. This is also the reason behind the poor performance of the state in MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee program.

The liquor ban policy of the current government has done more harm than good. The sector now is unregulated and the revenues derived from its illegal sale are misappropriated. Instead of banning it from the whole state, it should have been banned in those areas where its misuse was rampant. The government should have ensured a strict implementation while utilizing the good revenue for the development of the state.

One of the major hindrances even today in the development of Bihar is the cropping up of caste-based political alliances whose sole aim is to drive out the rich and continue exploiting the poor for their vote bank politics. Almost all the sectors like education, health infrastructure, administration, and industry have little or no development due to the negligence of the Government and due to the elite class of Bihar migrating to other states for opportunities.

The lockdown and the huge migrant workers’ exodus have opened up the eyes of the people of Bihar and they should vote for the right candidates keeping caste and religion at bay in these elections so that the glory of Bihar can be restored.  It’s time now that we start demanding our rights as democracy is of the people, for the people, and by the people.

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Pragya Mishra

Senior columnist with interest in economy and government policies.

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