Bihar is the second-most rural state in the country after Himachal Pradesh, according to the 2011 Census. Eighty nine percent of its population live in rural areas compared to the all-India share of 69%. This means that basic civic infrastructure continues to be an important issue. Bijli, sadak, paani — or power, roads, water — were indeed part of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s seven resolves ahead of the 2015 Bihar elections. HT looks at how the state fares on these issues.
According to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), only 51% villages in Bihar were electrified in 2004-05 compared to 74% nationally. This improved to 61% in 2009-10, and 93% in 2014-15. According to the SAUBHAGYA portal, all rural households that wanted a connection in the state were electrified by March 2019. Data on per capita energy consumption shows the most improvement in the period corresponding with the third term of Nitish Kumar as chief minister. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of per capita energy consumption was 7.9% between 2004-05 and 2009-10, 8.9% between 2009-10 and 2014-15, and 30.2% between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the latest period for which data is available.
However, Bihar’s per capita electricity consumption was still the lowest in 2016-17 among 18 major states for which data is available. It was also one of the 12 major states where rural areas don’t get 24-hour electricity. It was ranked 6th among such states in September 2019 and also August 2020, according to various replies given in the parliament.
The length of roads in Bihar saw a CAGR of 1.2% between 2004-05 and 2009-10, 10% between 2009-10 and 2014-15 and 0.9% between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the latest period for which data is available from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. This would suggest that the biggest increase in road length occurred during Nitish Kumar’s second stint as chief minister of Bihar. To be sure, it is difficult to comment on Bihar’s road building record in Nitish Kumar’s third term, given the lack of recent data.
What is worrying about Bihar, however, is that despite the increase in the length of roads, they are likely to be inadequate . At 1,994.5 kilometres per million persons, the road density in the state was the third lowest among states in 2016-17 after Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
Another problem with roads in the state is their quality. While highways have a black top or bitumen and concrete surface, a majority of rural and urban roads continue to be unsurfaced in the state as per data until 2016-17. The overall share of surfaced roads in the state has not shown consistent improvement with respect to the share at the national level and remains much below it.
In the 2011 census, only 2.8% households in Bihar reported their main source of drinking water as either treated (2.2%) or untreated (0.6%) piped water from within their premises. The national share of such households was almost ten times: 26.8%. This gap was even bigger in rural areas. Only 1.1% households in Bihar had piped water within their premises as their source of drinking water compared to 14% nationally. To be sure, these figures are at variance with the data generated under the Jal Jeevan Mission scheme. According to the scheme, Bihar achieved 1.1% household coverage of piped water supply only at the end of 2016-17.
When the fourth round of NFHS was conducted in 2015-16, Bihar saw some improvement but a gap remained: 4.1% households overall and 2.5% rural households in the state used water piped into their dwellings or yardscompared to 30.1% and 18.4% nationally. To be sure, the census and NFHS figures aren’t strictly comparable. The former is a process of enumeration whereas the latter is a sample survey. However, the figures are indicative of the improvement in piped water supply in the state between 2011 and 2015-16.
The biggest improvement in piped water supply in the state has, however, come in 2019-20, according to data from the Jal Jeevan Mission scheme, one of whose aims is to provide piped water supply: 17.7% rural households in the state had piped water supply at the end of 2019-20 according to the scheme’s data compared to 1.7% at the end of 2018-19. On October 29, the coverage stood at 55.4%, much higher than the national average of 30.1%.
To be sure, a piped water connection in the household may not guarantee the quantity or quality of water. With 17.7% households covered, Bihar was ranked 16th among 32 states and UTs in terms of number of households with piped water connections on April 1, 2020. A household is said to be fully covered under the Jal Jeevan Scheme if it gets 40 litre per capita (person) per day of safe drinking water through the year within 100 metres of the household. But the population covered by piped water supply in Bihar was 11.1% on April 1, 2020 – the lowest among all the 32 states and UTs for which data is provided .
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