Bihar, in the eastern part of India is a very peculiar state. There are many things that Bihar could have been. With its fertile lands and network of rivers, it could have been a hub of agriculture. With its ancient centres of education and enlightenment, it could have been a hub of education. With its proximity to mineral resources in Jharkhand (previously a part of Bihar), to ports in Kolkata and to international borders (Bihar shares a long border with Nepal), it could have been a hub of industries and trade. But, Bihar is non of these.
Bihar is one of the least developed states of India. Low levels of farm productivity, low levels of education, low levels of human development and high levels of unemployment and migration mar Bihar. Add to this the lack of critical infrastructure, primarily electricity. However, for the last few years Bihar has been hitting the headlines for all the right reasons. Improving infrastructure like roads, increasing farm productivity, new educational institutions have brought Bihar back on the path of development. In the recent years Bihar has seen a rise in (economic) growth rate and improvement in human development. However, one infrastructure provision that lacks and hurts the state big time is electricity. Bihar has one of the lowest generation capacities and per capita electricity consumption in the country. According to the census 2011, Bihar has the lowest percentage of households using electricity as the main source for lighting. The last 6 months that I spent in Bihar gave me a first hand experience of the abysmal electricity situation of the state. During my visit to the border district of West Champaran, the hotel that I stayed in had no electricity connection. They didn't apply for a connection as they didn't want to pay the high access (fixed) costs for abysmally low levels of electricity availability. The solution; they ran big diesel generators 24 hours to power all the modern comforts in the hotel. Electricity seems be the big issue that has been weighing down and could potentially pull down the Bihar government currently currently in its second consecutive term. To be fair Bihar government has been trying to set up new power plants in both the government and private sectors. However, even after several requests it has not been able to convince the central government to allot coal blocks for its planned expansion of the power production infrastructure. This seems a bit unfair considering that Bihar used to be one of the most coal rich states in India until one day all of those reserves were taken away upon the separation of Jharkhand. From then on a combination of lack of vision, bad governance and discord between the state and the central governments further degraded Bihar's electricity infrastructure.
|Looking at the road ahead for Bihar|