Bihar and eastern UP have set high standards in the amount of time and effort spent on politicking. If only similar effort was put into actual governance. The large number of deaths reported from this region caused by encephalitis and heat stroke indicates the poor quality of life of the common people. Such deaths are an indicator not just of the lack of medical facilities, but the overall conditions in which the people live. People succumb to such diseases not just because they have been infected or have been exposed excessively to the Sun, but also due to already poor quality of health. Undernourished children live in insanitary surroundings, without the support of the many services the government is supposed to be providing them. Parents are unable to care adequately for the children simply because they have more than they can handle.
As such, these deaths are just as much the consequence of neglect as they are symptoms of the general malaise. In a political environment where people’s worth is only based on exactly which slice of the caste spectrum they belong and what would get them to vote in one or the other direction, there is little concern for their fundamental rights as Indian citizens. Politicians are too busy playing the power game, instead of performing their duties as public representatives.
The tragedy is that Bihar is considered to be ‘better’ run under the present Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar. One can only imagine what state the people must have been under the earlier regimes. Even so, it is quite obvious that, by any civilised standard, the condition of the ordinary people is not good enough. It is no wonder that, in any part of India, the migrant labour comes from Bihar and its neighbouring areas. In that sense, it is simply exporting its problems to other parts. If, for some reason, they lacked this outlet, the conditions would probably be much worse.
Bihar is in need of very special treatment and not just an induction of funds that are usually sought as part of the ‘special status’ demand. The Prime Minister should set up a special task force, comprising experts and economists, to consider what the factors are pulling the state down. It is not as though the state lacks the general parameters required for development – the reasons seem more sociological, specifically in the frozen caste calculus and ‘benefits’ from being identified as ‘backward’. It is not just a problem faced by the state, but also the entire nation, as it is being pulled back from the pace of development it could otherwise achieve.