Country Session 7: India Bihar

The Bihar session opened with a welcome note by Shaibal Gupta (IGC, ADRI) who highlighted the strong linkage of the Bihar program with the state’s policymakers. Anjan Mukherji (IGC, NIPFP) chaired the first half of the session, introducing Maitreesh and Chinmaya who analysed Bihar Government’s Cycling Scheme to understand whether people preferred cash to in-kind transfers.

Rohini Somanathan (IGC, DSE) discussed whether the provision of a ‘Vikas Mitra’ (‘development mate’) to one of Bihar’s most disadvantaged groups, the ‘Mahadalits’, work in practice, and demonstrated that results suggest that while the Vikas Mitra does not exclusively work for the Mahadalits, their help is still targeted more towards disadvantaged households of various kinds. Anjini Kochar (Stanford) presented an evaluation of Bihar’s programme of providing health checkups through schools, and found that the coverage of the programme was still quite low, mostly owing to high student absenteeism and resource constraints. She found that essentially, coverage of the program is constrained by the lack of sufficient number of health personnel, a constraint that cannot be reduced by shifting the delivery point from health institutions to schools.

Robin Burgess (IGC, LSE) chaired the second half of the session, introducing Bihar’s Minister for Water Resources, Vijay Kumar Chaudhary who spoke about Bihar’s turnaround growth story. He mentioned that today, Bihar is a reference point for innovation, and the administration has been reaching out to the marginalized masses, attending to health issues (especially for girls and women), and generally working of improve the quality of life for its citizens. He also mentioned that a number of entitlement based programmes have been launched by the government. He concluded by saying that inclusive development isn’t an electoral strategy, but is a social commitment for the Government of Bihar.

Lord Karan Bilimoria started by talking about his successful business strategy in launching Cobra beer to the UK market. From his experience as an investor in Bihar, he expressed confidence in the state’s recent growth and showed optimism about further private investment in the state. He mentioned that law and order matters not only to the investors but also to common citizens, and the current Bihar government has done a good job in improving safety for everyone. He concluded by saying that Bihar needs more of its growth to come from manufacturing and high value added agriculture.

Navin Kumar, a senior bureaucrat within the Indian government talked about what is needed to sustain Bihar’s growth going forward. He said that although the state is today a turnaround story, two aspects need more attention: private investment and urbanisation.

Adnan Khan (IGC and LSE), the last discussant, said that Bihar’s growth due to change in political institutions give hope to the rest of the world. He said that Bihar had surmounted the first set of challenges: catching up with the rest of India, setting institutions right, getting basic infrastructure-now, it needs to sustain that growth.