Dr Mumtaz Naiyer
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan once said, “Ignorance is the mother of poverty”. This quote is apropos for the condition of today’s Bihar. Since the time of Independence, Biharis or Bihari politicians were either large hearted or ignorant. I believe they were ignorant. Very few of us know that the industrial development of Gujarat, Mahrashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states have been done at the cost of Bihar. Bihar was almost robbed off. This robbery started just after India got independence and continued until 90s. When India got Independence, industrial development and planning started in the country, the erstwhile Bihar had both fertile lands and minerals. Bihar had everything meant for industrial development.
You must be wondering then why there is no industry in Bihar or Jharkhand. Politcians of the western and southern part of the country were clever and intelligent. A policy called “Freight Equalisation” was adopted by the government of India in 1952, this meant a factory or industry could be set up anywhere in India and the transportation of minerals (from Bihar) would be subsidised by the central government. By the time politicians of eastern part of the country realized that injustice has been done to Bihar, West Bengal and Odhisa, the other industrial states were much ahead. The Freight equalisation policy was remained in force until 1993.
The policy hurt the economic prospects of the mineral-rich states like Bihar (including present-day Jharkhand), West Bengal, and Odisha, since it weakened the incentives for private capital to establish production facilities in these areas. As a result of the policy, businesses preferred setting up industrial locations closer to the coastal trade hubs ( Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu ) and markets in other parts of the country.
When Lalu came to power in the 1990s he lost the opportunity, he could have demanded for compensation or special status to Bihar. However, his politics revolved around Mandal commission. His caste based politics and his unwillingness for the industrial development resulted in further alienation of the state in terms of economic prosperity. Unlike their western counterparts, Bihari politicians never showed unity for the welfare of the state. It is not only the Bihari people in General who are poor but also Bihari politicians are poor. A Nitin Gadkiri or Sharad Pawar have wealth equal to hundreds of Lalus. Nitish Kumar was part of two NDA govt. at the centre, he could have bargained for special status or compensation but he proved utter failure too. Paswan and other were more interested for their chair.
The other reason for the backwardness of Bihar is lack of central govt. institutions. Most of these are located in southern and western states, few in UP, Punjab and Haryana.
To my great dismay, I never heard a politician from Bihar asking for the due in the national share. More importantly young politicians of my generation of Bihar lack these information, they speak what their party bosses feed them to speak on either pseudo secular agenda, caste or communal line.
The Biharis are being tortured, harassed, forced to emigrate from Gujarat, Maharashtra and other states. This torture does not stop here; they are often attacked when they go for writing exams for the central govt vacancies in other states, Railways exams are the best example. We Biharis have been alienated in our country.
I have written this article with much pain and anguish. Brothers and sisters this is the high time for awakening. Change the political discourse of the country, we have done it earlier, we can do it now.
The author is a Research Associate within the Immunology Division at Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge.