Why is Bihar getting poorer?

There are issues galore in Bihar elections 2020 for the 243-seat Assembly, but major question is why the state continues to be at the bottom among BIMARU states? wonders Bharat Hiteshi

Elections for the 243-seat Bihar Assembly will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and 7 as the term of the House is set to conclude on November 29. As per the schedule, 28 districts will have single-phase elections and 10 districts will have two phases of elections, such as Patna and Bhagalpur.The battleground is brimming with a resounding agitation over the Centre’s recent agriculture sector reforms, which the state Opposition is cashing-in on to oust the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar.

There are many issues including the sad demise of film star Sushant Singh Rajput, but what is worth debating is the sad state of Bihar. Ironic is the fact that the “BIMARU” states of the past continue to pull India backward on social indicators. The acronym “BIMARU” was coined in the 1980s to refer to the economic condition of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In recent years, these states have reported progress on many human development indicators but they have not been significant enough to help improve India’s ranking at the global level.India continues to languish at 131st rank out of the total 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI).

According to NITI Aayog, “Eastern part of India particularly states like Bihar, UP, Chattisgarh, MP, and Rajasthan are keeping India backward, especially on social indicators. While we have improved on ease of doing business, we have remained backward on human development index”.

There’s very little evidence of convergence on social indicators among Indian states, new data on health, education and access to basic amenities between 1998-99 and 2015-16 shows. Over nearly two decades, the “BIMARU” states have remained at the bottom, while Kerala, Punjab, Goa and Delhi remain at the top. Bihar has remained India’s poorest state over the period.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a relatively new composite index that seeks to fix some of the conceptual and statistical problems with United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) widely used Human Development Index (HDI). One major criticism of the HDI was that it is too strongly determined by its income component.

The MPI, created by Sabina Alkire and James Foster of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, uses 10 indicators to measure poverty in three dimensions: education, health and living standards. If an individual is deprived in a third or more of ten weighted indicators, the index identifies them as poor, and the intensity of their poverty is measured by the number of deprivations they are experiencing. Even on this parameter, Bihar had occupied the bottom spot.

As per the report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (released on 7 January 2020), the state per capita income of Goa is highest in the country followed by Delhi and Sikkim. Data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), says that Bihar has the lowest NSDP per capita (INR at Current prices)  43,822 in 2018-19.

What is the per capita income. The Per capita Income means income of the people in an economic unit such as a country a state or a city. To know per capita income, the total income of a unit is divided by the population of that unit.

  1. Per capita income of Goa is 3.01 times more than India’s average and 7.18 times more than the poorest state Bihar. NSDP per capita of Bihar is 43,822 INR for the year 2018-19 and 38,631 for 2017-18.
  2. Goa has highest NSDP per capita among 33 Indian states and union territories. NSDP per capita of Goa is estimated at 467,998 in 2018-19 at current prices.

Ranking of Delhi is two with per capita income around of  365,529 Sikkim is at third, Chandigarh is at forth and Puducherry is the fifth richest economy of India.

  1. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Jharkhand, and Assam, are the top 5 poorest states in terms of NSDP Per Capita. These five states have Net State Domestic Product Per Capita below 80,000 per annum.

So the above data shows that Goa has the highest per capita income in India followed by the Delhi and Sikkim. On the other hand, Bihar has the lowest per capita income that has Net State Domestic Product of just  43,822 in 2018-19.

Among the many issues, recent furor on the issue of Farm Bills would be a major issue in this election. However, for the first time, the Opposition is trying to play up the migration issue in Bihar and the ruling dispensation is working hard to project its handling of the issue as its success.

With nearly 30-lakh migrants reaching Bihar from various parts of the country amid the nationwide lockdown and poignant scenes going viral on social media, the issue will remain hot. Migration from Bihar is not a new development, but the pandemic has reversed the norm.

However, what Bihar has been crying for long is to come out of the BIMARU states tag and development should have been an issue. Will it ever happen and catch imagination politicians and people who are politically most alive?

The state Per capita income IN the country

Rank State NSDP
capita (INR at Current prices)
$ (2014)


NSDP capita
(INR at 2004-05 prices)
    2018-19 2017-18   14-15 13-14


1 Goa 467,998 422,149 4,903 137,401
2 Delhi 365,529 328,985 4,642 125809 118,411
3 Sikkim 357,643 317134 3,861 83,527
4 Chandigarh 297313 3,433 82,798
5 Puducherry 220461 203583 3,143 102965 94,787
6 Haryana 226644 203340 2,919 71493 67,260
7 Maharashtra 176102 2,561 72200 69,097
8 Tamil Nadu 193750 171583 2,464 66635 62,361
9 A. & N. Islands 159664 2,350 72,716
10 Gujarat 174652 2,337 63,168
11 Kerala 184000 2,271 58,961
12 Uttarakhand 198738 182320 2,269 63820 59,161
13 Telengana 205696 180697 2,086 51017 48,881
14 Punjab 154598 142644 2,020 51403 49,529
15 Himachal Pradesh 179188 167044 2,019 54,494
16 Karnataka 210887 187649 1,959 48907 46,012
17 Arunachal Pradesh 127748 1,870 37683 36,019
18 Andhra Pradesh 164025 143935 1,780 44831 42,170
19 Nagaland 102581 1,696 51888 49,963
20 Mizoram 141,210 1,665 41,094
21 West Bengal 109491 93711 1,532 38624 36,293
22 Tripura 105,044 1,525 47,261
23 Rajasthan 109105 99487 1,443 33186 31,836
24 Meghalaya 69516 81,098 1,346 39503 37,154
25 Jammu & Kashmir 58888 83,717 1,297 30612 31,448
26 Chhattisgarh 98887 89,813 1,281 29047 28,373
27 Odisha 93352 84,854 1,150 26531 24,929
28 Madhya Pradesh 90998 82,941 1,133 29218 26,853
29 Jharkhand 76019 69,265 1,009 30950 28,882
30 Assam 74204 968 23968 23,392
31 Manipur 65411 909 24,042
32 Uttar Pradesh 461351 55456 793 20057 19,233
33 Bihar 43822 38631 682 16801 15,506
  India 126,406 114,958 1,627   39,904