The Coronavirus Pandemic and the consequent migrant crisis has become a huge political issue that ultimately is going to make a huge impact on the state of Bihar in the upcoming Assembly polls—as the Nitish Kumar government seems altogether apathetic towards the cause of incoming migrants and the long ailing socio-economic structure of the state.
Low agricultural income on which the majority of the state depends and minuscule industrial base has resulted in large labour migration from the state in the past four decades.
As a result, Bihar’s economy continues to be significantly dependent on the economic growth in industrialized states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu from where the poor labourer despite the back-breaking work they undertake on a daily basis—does not forget to send a portion of the money back home. This repatriated money forms the bedrock of most Bihari households.
Nothing has changed much under ‘Sushan Babu’ from what it was under Lalu Prasad Yadav’s infamous ‘Jungle raj’. The socio-economic disparities still exist and on the contrary, continue to grow and the migrant laborers seem to be the hard-hit like always.
The Bihari’s all around have now started questioning CM Nitish Kumar, asking him what difference he has made in the last 15 years as the state CM and why they should suffer for his gross incompetencies.
#BiharMeRojgar (Employment in Bihar) was trending on twitter all day long yesterday and people threw some nasty beamers Nitish’s way.
#BiharMeRojgar#Aatmnirbharbihar Political Leaders looking at the Demands of Bihari 's people were questioning for infrastructures ,industries ,jobs opportunity .
Le political leaders-#BiharMeRojgar
@Bihar_se_hai @NitishKumar pic.twitter.com/5ZOqdwrCkp
— Krish Keshri093 (@keshri093) May 24, 2020
An old video of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray went viral on the social media platform. Thackeray, who has a sour relationship with North Indians and Purvanchalis in particular is seen egging the Bihari’s to question their own government for their failure in the video.
Given the history of animosity regarding Thackeray, Bihari’s more often than not see Raj from the corner of their eyes but surprisingly people were agreeing with his statements here.
— Shubham Akhouri🇮🇳 (@akhourispeaks) May 24, 2020
The migrant Bihari labourers who build swanky buildings and highways across the country have constructed Bihar in a most haphazard way, courtesy the government’s lethargy and the inbuilt corruption system.
The roads are messy. The new houses look dilapidated and even in cities like Patna, the concept of town planning appears to have been completely ignored.
Bihar has 18 sugar factories, 3 Jute Mills, 2 Paper Mills and a few other engineering works complexes, including the one at Muzaffarpur (Arthur Butler) but the Govt of Bihar does nothing for their restoration or commercial facelift. But why?
— Bihari | बिहारी | मैथिल (@Biharimazdur) May 24, 2020
Please wake up @NitishKumar ji, and reopen sugar mills , factories and industries. Please do some work for migrants worker. We have much more skilled manpower pic.twitter.com/LcPYiPecOn
— ahmadrazikhan (@khan_razi748) May 24, 2020
We are educated, skilled,young and whole world knows how laborious we are . We need employment in bihar. Invest in us and we will assure you the success @makeinindia @PMOIndia @narendramodi give us one chance. #BiharMeRojgar
— ayush (@ayusht27) May 24, 2020
While Nitish Kumar makes tall claims for increasing the working days in MNREGA from 100 to 200 to accommodate the migrants amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the reality is disappointing and diametrically opposite.
— Ahmad (@imsrfz) May 24, 2020
Workers in Bihar get between only 30 to 35 days of work on an average in the state instead of 100 days. As per official data, the average number of days of employment that MGNREGA provided for those in the state, including those who worked even for a day, was 41.94 days in 2019-20.
During the financial year 2018-19, the average number of days of employment provided was 42.19. The number in question was 36.36 days in 2017-18 and 37.37 days in 2016-17.
About 24,573 out of 29.24 lakh households got 100 days of work during 2018-19, 15,556 out of 22,47 lakh in 2017-18, and the corresponding figure for 2016-17 was 14,165 of 22.86 lakh households, according to Newsclick.
While Bihar goes into a slumber, the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh under CM Yogi Adityanath is making giant strides in the development race.
His handling of migrants has been a shining example of how some empathy for the workers that build our nations can go a long way in helping them in a crisis. The migrants have admitted that they have been treated much better by the Yogi administration than the Bihar government.
BJP legislators believe that Yogi’s popularity is sky-rocketing amongst migrants hailing from Bihar because of his moves to help them reach UP-Bihar border when they were coming back from Delhi, and also sending buses to pick up stranded students belonging to Bihar from Kota, Rajasthan and dropping them at the state border.
His reformist moves to bring the companies to the state is receiving praise from all quarters alike.
While Yogi goes all out to lure the companies, the Bihar CM has not even shown the least bit of urgency. His body-language comes out as defeatist much like his poll-slogan, “Kyu karein vichar, thike to hai Nitish Kumar”
The strong vicious cycle of corruption and lack of political will is keeping the state down. While the Biharis try to corner the CM on Twitter, it will take more than a hashtag trend to bring about any change.
The elections are due this year and the Biharis need to rise above the caste-politics and vote for someone that will actually make a difference. There are palpable signs of Nitish Kumar’s popularity dropping- a development, which the BJP must take note of when Biharis approach the EVMs.