The question of according special status to Bihar is not a new issue. Bihar has faced the tragedy of division thrice in the twentieth century. The third one happened on November 15, 2000, when Jharkhand was separated from Bihar. Since then, the demand of a special status for Bihar has been raised, both inside and outside Parliament.
From the First Five Year Plan to the Ninth Five Year Plan, the per capita investment in Bihar was very less as compared to the national average, due to which the state reached the bottom as far as per capita income is concerned. Looking at and analysing various economic indicators, it becomes clear that undivided Bihar, which was at the third spot in economic prospects, slipped to the bottom in 2000. Not only investment in industry in cities such as Jamshedpur, Bokaro and HEC Ranchi, even all mines and mineral wealth went to Jharkhand. Subsequently, Bihars situation deteriorated further. While three-fourths population came to Bihar as compared to Jharkhand, in the case of income it was the reverse. In terms of debt also, three-fourths came to Bihar whereas one-fourth went to Jharkhand.
Special assistance from the Centre to Bihar, therefore, is a legitimate demand because the Centre had promised, a number of times, to compensate for the losses due to division.
On May 16, 2002, in an eight-hour debate in the Lok Sabha on a special package to Bihar, the three questions of waiver of all debt, special status to the state, and a R1,79,700 crore package were raised. The NDA government, in which there were 12 ministers including Nitish Kumar, didnt pay any attention.
Now, of these three demands, only one demandspecial category state status to Biharhas been politicised, thus weakening the strong case put up earlier for the same.
This is because the NDA government didnt pay attention to the same at that time; Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is strengthening his own campaign by trumpeting the states development and high growth, and has left aside NDAs BJP in raising states demand to make it his partys issue and has politicised it, weakening the case of Bihar.
Consequently, despite the high growth in Bihar, looking at poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, per capita income, electricity, water, education and health, there is justification for special status to Bihar.
Of the five conditions to get special status, Bihar confirms to three conditions fully and two conditions partially; for example, 709 km of international boundary is on the Bihar-Nepal border. This area is economically backward and geographically unfruitful conditions prevail here because 27 districts here suffer from flood because of rivers coming from Nepal, and seven suffer from drought. The hilly region and the number of scheduled tribes is though small in the state, but scheduled castes and highly backward castes such as Lohar, Nonia, Mallah etc are fit to be included in scheduled tribes. Considering all this, Bihar can get special category status.
In terms of established parameters, if backwardness is taken as base in economic indicators such as education, health, roads, water, electricity and industry, Bihar could certainly be accorded special category status for addressing regional discrepancy.
The author is a member of the 15th Lok Sabha. He represents the Vaishali constituency of Bihar and is a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal