Populist schemes may not financially empower people of Bihar

The populist schemes of the Bihar government may sound impressive but their poor implementation on the ground is deeply hurting the people of the state.

The liquor ban of April 2016 is a prime example where the Nitish Kumar government has sacrificed a big chunk of revenue of the state exchequer, say experts.

The Nitish Kumar government has implemented this populist policy without any study about the consequences on the ground and now its adverse result not only affects the common people but the legal and constitutional system as well.

Shivanand Tiwari, the vice president of the RJD and excise and prohibition minister during the second tenure of the Rabri Devi government from 2000 to 2005, told IANS: “Nitish Kumar is claiming that he is following the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi in Bihar by banning liquor. I would say that he was the one who encouraged liquor operations to flourish in his first and second tenures between 2005 and 2015.”

As per the data of the Bihar government, 3436 authorized liquor vends were operational mostly in urban and semi urban areas of the state and the number reached 5467 in 2012-13. The liquor vends in the rural areas had witnessed a spike of almost 200% percent during the first and second tenure of Nitish Kumar. The revenue generated during 2007-8 was Rs 5 billion and it reached Rs 36 billion in 2014-15.

According to the state government estimated data, the consumption of country made liquor was 24.76 mm LPL in 2005 and it zoomed up to 98.69 mm LPL in 2015. Similarly, the consumption of Indian or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) was 8.9 mm LPL in 2005 and 43.30 mm LPL in 2015.

“When Nitish Kumar came in power in 2005, he focused on revenue generation. Accordingly, he had promoted liquor sales till 2015. The situation was such that country made liquor was available at tea stalls, paan vends, and grocery shops in the rural areas. Due to his money making approach at any cost, its consequences also came in the form of spousal conflicts and domestic violence and crimes against women and girl children,” Tiwari said.

“If I remember, a group of women for the first time, protested against Nitish Kumar during a rally in Muzaffarpur in 2013-14. They pointed out that due to easy availability of liquor in the rural areas, crime against women, spousal conflicts and other domestic violence has been increasing day by day. Then Nitish Kumar promised them to implement a liquor ban in Bihar after coming to power in 2015. When he formed the government with the help of the RJD in 2015, our national president Lalu Prasad and I pointed out that a liquor ban succeeding could not be possible at the ground level in Bihar but he rejected our suggestions,” Tiwari said.

“He initially imposed a ban on country made liquor in Bihar. When the opposition BJP leaders at that time asked why only country made liquor then he issued a second notification for a complete ban on liquor in the state in April 2016,” Tiwari said.

Bihar is considered a poor state with an annual budget of in 2021-22 of Rs 2.18 lakh crore. Considering that if the state is losing revenue to the tune of Rs 36 billion (Rs 3600 crore), it could hamper development projects.

“We have often seen demonstrations of unemployed youths on the roads of Patna. The qualified candidates of STET, contract teachers, and others are facing trouble from the local police. This is happening due to the state government being unable to fulfil its populist poll promises,” he said.

In the run-up to the 2020 assembly election RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav announced he will give 10 lakh government jobs immediately if he comes to power. To counter his populist announcement, the JD-U and the BJP jointly announced to give 19 lakh jobs to the people of Bihar and address the issue of frequent migration.

Madan Mohan Jha, the state president of the Congress party, said: “The policies of Nitish Kumar and their execution on the ground are two different things. Hence, the issue of unemployment is increasing and the people of Bihar are heading below the poverty line.”

Prof Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, HOD of economics Patna University, told IANS: “The state government is focusing on investments but not looking to increase the per capita income of the common people of Bihar. Investments cannot be the complete parameter to address the issue of unemployment of any state. Unfortunately, the current state government is focusing on budget allocation and getting investment for industrial growth and it does not give priority to providing jobs to the common people of Bihar and bring happiness in their lives.”

“In the last 30 years, leaders of the ruling parties including Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar claimed to represent the poor and the marginalised of the state standing in the last line of the society. Why have they failed to lift their standard of living? Why did their income not increase? The simple answer is they (leaders) do not want to address their basic issue of unemployment. The education and health infrastructure of Bihar is still sub-standard. It is a deliberate attempt of the leaders to keep them poor so that they do not question them and they remain unchallenged,” Chaudhary said.

Neeraj Kumar, the chief spokesperson of the JD-U, pointed out that Nitish Kumar is a silent worker, who always looks after social reforms by empowering the people.

“He believes that once social reform is achieved in states like Bihar, other challenges would be automatically addressed,” Neeraj Kumar said.

“When Nitish Kumar took charge in 2005, there was complete anarchy in the state. Kidnapping was an organised crime. Massacres taking place everywhere. Murder and loot were common in the state. Nitish Kumar managed to wipe out organised crime and massacres from the state and it was possible through social reforms and awareness in the society,” Kumar said.

“He managed to connect with the common people and make them understand the consequences of social evils. At that time, anarchy, massacres, and youths involved in criminal activities were social evils. Now, liquor consumption is the biggest social evil and people of the state should understand this. Our government is working hard in the state to address unemployment and job creation in the private and government sectorss,” Neeraj Kumar said.

Tar Kishore Prasad, the deputy chief minister who also holds charge of the finance ministry, allocated Rs 2.18 lakh crore for the annual budget including Rs 38,035.93 crore for education, followed by Rs 16,835.67 crore for rural development, Rs 15,227.74 crore for road infrastructure, Rs 13,264.87 crore for health and Rs 8,560 crore for the energy sector.

Besides Rs 4,671 crore was given for the second phase of the ‘Saat Nischay’ (seven resolves) programme. Kumar had, in 2015, announced the first phase of the Rs 2.7-lakh crore ‘Saat Nischay’, and promised to implement the second phase during the assembly polls.

To encourage entrepreneurship, grants will be given by the government for startups which could be to the tune of 50 per cent of the project cost or up to Rs 5 lakh in addition to loans of up to Rs five lakh at a nominal one per cent interest rate. Women entrepreneurs will be given special incentives in the form of interest-free loans of up to Rs 5 lakh.

Promotion of entrepreneurship, enhancement of skills, improvement of irrigation facilities, strengthening of health infrastructure, better connectivity and development of clean and prosperous villages and cities are some of the key programmes of “Saat Nischay”.

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