Bihar: Beyond Agriculture
Nitish has been magic. He has done the unthinkable. He has proven democracy is a superior form of government to whatever they have out there in China. For a landlocked, poor, agricultural, flood-prone state like Bihar to achieve a 15% growth rate is remarkable. But there is always the question of what next.
Bihar has been the poorest state of India this entire time. It might have achieved the fastest growth rate in India. But it still is the poorest state in India and the gulf with the second poorest state is still wide.
How do you catch up? More important, how do you go past them? Can you hope to become number one?
I think the answer lies in thinking the next big thing after agriculture is not industrialization. Bihar should keep focused on agriculture, now and later, but it should also think the focus has to be also put on what is considered the next big thing after industrialization. And that is the service sector. And the next big thing after that, and that is the knowledge economy. And one of the next big things: clean energy.
If you can get to Patna from any part of Bihar within six hours, and if Patna has been made a crime-free city through use of Big Data, and if Patna now has the longest stretch of free WiFi anywhere in the world at 20 kilometers, then I feel Nitish is already doing it. He just has not articulated it yet.
Focusing on the knowledge sector is about education, health and fee WiFi. Nitish is already making major strides in education and health. The part that is missing is to think you take that effort to a whole new level once you realize that is also your next big thing after agriculture. It is not industry. Temporary teachers agitating across the state because they want to be made permanent is not mosquito noise but rather music to the ears.
All of Patna has to be turned into a free WiFi zone. And inside the city boundaries a top notch IT college has to be established. The concept can not be 12 years of education for all children, but rather lifelong education for all Biharis.
Nitish claims food from Bihar goes to the kitchen tables across India. The next goal should be that teachers and doctors and nurses from Bihar go to all continents of the world, to all countries. The human brain is where the future resides.
WiFi is the next road, it is the next bridge. It is not enough for Bihar to try to catch up with the rest of India. This is a global era, and Bihar has to attempt to catch up with the rest of the world. In a knowledge economy being landlocked is no big deal and having a dense population like Bihar is a major boon. The mines with minerals have not ended up in Jharkhand, rather the mines reside in the brains of Biharis.
Rigorous lifelong education, easy access to health care - and there Bihar's local food would play a key role because if you get the nutrition part right, the rest of health care is easy - free WiFi across Patna, launch of IT colleges - although the best programmers are self taught, and as long as you can come online, you can teach yourself programming - and a major push for service sector jobs and knowledge economy jobs and a major emphasis on producing workers for the education and health sectors for the global market would go a long way to turning Bihar into the top economy in India.