Can Nepal learn from Bihar? The answer is there
Nepal has done a lot, performed well and achieved much. It has seen an increased number of schools, health posts, and higher rate of employment, higher per capita income and higher growth in the GDP. After 1990, the literacy rate increased and exceeded the target the country had set to achieve during the specified time period. Every corner of the country is aware of the importance of education and, therefore, almost all the children of every household whether in remote places or in sophisticated urban areas are enrolled for formal education. More health posts are in
operation to provide
health services to the people. The health care system has improved. Per capita income has also increased and poverty has been reduced by ten percentage points since democracy. Because a large number of youths are employed in the Gulf, East Asian countries and even in India; remittances have shared above 20 per cent of our GDP.
Although this progress has become a buzzword among politicians, bureaucrats and planners to recite as a success story to justify themselves, but the reality is bitter. It is something to ponder about. School age children are found to be working in almost all the low class hotels and restaurants in Kathmandu, and even in factories. Some sell goods in the streets while a large number migrate to India in search of livelihood. The needy are not able to meet the health personnel at the hospitals. Medicine is rare in most of the remote areas where thousands of people die from diarrhea. Almost all the pregnant women in rural areas are in danger during delivery because of the lack of health services. The growth rate of GDP at around 3 per cent per year marginally exceeded the population growth. The income distribution is highly skewed. Per capita income of the rich was 6.4 times higher than the poor in 2003/04. The combined effect of all these achievements is reflected in the HDI of 0.509 in 2009, not even close to zero but lowest among the countries of the South Asian region.
Unemployment is rampant. However, CBS in its recent labor force survey has estimated the unemployment rate at 2.1%, thanks to absurd, unrealistic and complex assumptions of employment and unemployment. Lok Nath Bhusal, a research scholar at Oxford University, has viewed that “this should be taken as a gross distortion, downsizing and hence politicization of labor statistics”. Population below poverty line is 31.8 per cent with vast rural urban differences despite the nation having set the objective of reducing poverty in its three consecutive development plans.
This low progress in the socio-economic front is being largely attributed to rampant corruption, bad governance, inability to capitalize human as well as natural resources, and lack of commitment and vision towards nation building. The more important
reasons for not taking the responsibility, accountability and transparency from the authorities of associated agencies is the lack of regulation of obligations to follow. They usually
cite Bihar’s Jungle Raj to get rid of their inaction where law and order was not effective, slow pace of development and widespread poverty which had created social tensions before 2005. It is customary for politicians, planners and policy makers of Nepal to make
excuses by referring to
the poor performance in the socio-economic development of Bihar. No doubt, before 2005, it was the poorest state with 400 recorded average annual kidnapping cases. Corruption, crime and caste revenge was the norm The general attitude towards Bihar between and across the states has been badly perceived because of the high crime rate. There was no effective implementation of law and order.
Given this, it is worth to quote here that “The Economist-2010” rightly remarks,”The perception was that once you landed at the airport you would be faced with gunfire, says Vineet Vinayak, the senior policeman in Patna. Bihar was a place the rest of the country avoided visiting, and dreaded becoming”.
But, today things are changing in Bihar. Law and order has been restored that has reduced the number of kidnappings to 66 in 2008. The pace of development has speeded up over the years. The state output grew at an annualized pace of 10.5 per cent since the past four fiscal years, faster than the national average.
Now, is it not a shame to cite the example of Bihar where lots of good things are in a row of learning? Is it wise to cite only the bad things of others to overshadow our own? Can we change our attitude and general thinking of blaming others to make evidences for the justification of our own inaction? These are the questions which seeks incredible answers from every Nepali. Effort, devotion, commitment, just distribution of available resources, equal access to opportunities for all the citizens of the country without any bigotry can lead the country towards optimism. To make such attributes most active and workable, good governance with high morality is the prerequisite that Nepalese need to realise.
Dr. Dhungel is Associate Professor, Department of Economics, TU