Bihar is India's most backward state according to a report, the Centre has said in parliament, and it has set off a new political controversy in the state in which the ruling BJP is part of the Nitish Kumar-led government.
The government was responding to a question in the Lok Sabha by Rajeev Ranjan Singh, an MP of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) and the party's leader in parliament.
Mr Singh asked whether NITI Aayog's Sustainable Development Goals report of 2020-21 had said Bihar is the most backward State in the country. "If so, the reasons for the backwardness of Bihar state," read the question. It also asked whether the Centre was considering the "long-pending demand" for special status for Bihar.
Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh said in his written reply that according to NITI Aayog's report, Bihar's composite score (52 out of 100) was the lowest among all states. The index, he added, used 115 indicators.
The minister attributed Bihar's poor score to factors like poverty, the worst literacy rate in those who are 15 and above and lowest mobile use and internet use.
"A high proportion (33.74 per cent) of the population lives below the poverty line, and as high as 52.5 per cent suffers from multidimensional poverty. Only 12.3 per cent of households have any usual member covered by a health insurance. As high as 42 per cent of children under five years of age are stunted, which is the highest in the country. It has the lowest literacy (64.7 per cent) in the age group of 15 years and above," Rao Inderjit Singh said.
He also told parliament that Bihar has the lowest mobile tele-density (50.65 per 100 people) and lowest number of internet subscribers (30.99 per 100 people)," the reply added.
Bihar's opposition RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) seized the exchange in parliament to take a giant dig at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Commenting on the issue in the Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav asked why despite a double engine government, Bihar is slipping on all the parameters.
According to the NITI Aayog SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Index 2021, the top five are:
- Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
- Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Uttarakhand
The bottom three states are Assam, Jharkhand and Bihar.