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Regional and Class Disparity in India


This introduction serves as a note to an analysis of regional and class disparity in India, with particular focus on Bihar, a backward state in India. We briefly summarize the existing literature on the causes of backwardness in Bihar. Albeit poor, it has increasingly been reported in recent years that the state has witnessed higher economic growth and that the implementation of rural employment and development programmes has accelerated. At the same time, out-migration has increased and the provision of political reservations for lower castes at the grassroots level has been introduced. The agrarian structure might also have been transformed by economic growth, the increase in migration, and the new political opportunities for the lower castes.
In this research project, an attempt will be made to understand, one, why particular regions or classes lag behind in development, two, the effect of changes, such as economic growth, larger volumes of out-migration and lower castes’ political participation, on regional and class disparity, and, three, the processes and mechanisms behind disparity in India. We will then draw some policy implications.

Chapter 1
This paper explores the causal links between the role of public finance and Bihar’s growth and development in the last decade; and argues that these links are tenuous. Bihar’s growth acceleration precedes the ‘policy reforms’ in public finance based on the ‘good governance’ agenda initiated since 2005-06. However, the constraints on sustaining efforts to close Bihar’s development gap with the rest of India stems from the nature of the growth process in its regional, sectoral and social dimensions and the contradictory means and ends of the ‘policy reforms’ in public finance. Together, this has not only prevented the economic growth to add to public coiffeurs of the state but also occluded the role of tax institutions.

Chapter 2
Based mainly on secondary data and partly on primary information obtained through field surveys in selected rural areas in Bihar in 2011, this paper firstly argues the critical importance of agricultural growth for overall economic development, and then reviews the sluggish growth of agriculture in Bihar in the past and examines the major reasons for this. The long-term negligence of agricultural research (especially development and diffusion endeavors for improved rice varieties suitable to the local conditions of Bihar) by the state government and some sort of ‘backwardness’ in tube-well irrigation technology can be pointed out as important constraints. There is, in particular, the ‘paradox’ in Bihar agriculture of why rice and wheat yields have remained so low in spite of the relatively well-developed irrigation by tube-wells. Finally, by showing the process of a rapid increase in autumn and winter rice yields during the 1990s in West Bengal, it is suggested that Bihar farmers and policy-makers should learn from the experience of West Bengal in order to get some hints for the development of the rice sector in Bihar.

Chapter 3
Rural electrification has been an important part of government policy since India gained independence. However, despite the number of electrified villages expanding rapidly in recent years, there are many that still remain un-electrified. This paper addresses the issue of intra-state disparity in access to electricity and examines the determinants of electrification at the village level using data from a survey conducted in rural Bihar, one of the underdeveloped states in India. An econometric analysis demonstrates that small villages in remote locations tend to be considered a low priority in the process of electrification. Electrification at the village level in the more advanced states is no longer an issue, though the challenge of access to electrification at the household level remains. This paper also discusses issues that emerged from interviewing villagers and visiting rural areas, and shows that the actual progress of rural electrification may not be as advanced as government statistics indicate.

Chapter 4

Chapter 5
The purpose of this paper is to review the existing literature on the role of education in poverty alleviation, the poor’s access to education, and inter-generational poverty alleviation through education. Poverty alleviation is an important issue in developing countries, including India. The concept of poverty has been extended far beyond income poverty. Poverty is, nevertheless, still largely understood in monetary terms in the existing empirical examinations of the relationship between education and poverty. In the existing literature, it is largely found that the role of education in poverty alleviation should be understood in a specific context and time. At the same time, the quality and quantity of education a child can receive are also likely to affect a wide range of opportunities in the course of their life, and, worse still, such disparities reinforce the socio-economic status quo for future generations. When it comes to educating children, poverty associated with other disadvantages, such as caste, religion, gender and so on, as well as the schools in the community and surrounding communities, affects poor children’s schooling and retention. A hierarchical division of school, reflecting the socio-economic status of the family has intensifies over the years in India. In this regard, children in poor households may have difficulties in getting out of poverty.

Chapter 6
This paper explores migration from Bihar, one of the most underdeveloped states in India, by paying particular attention to social class (caste) and landholdings. After describing details of individual migrants, we present our preliminary findings on the determinants of migration, based on our field survey of 200 households in four villages in 2011. In terms of social class, Muslims are more likely to migrate, but Scheduled Castes do not show a high propensity to migrate as is stated in some of the existing literature where the underclass is said to be more mobile. In terms of landholdings, the probability that someone will migrate is high among the landless and smaller landholders but it decreases as the size of the landholding increases. However, as the size of the landholding increases still further, a reverse effect of landholding on decisions regarding migration moves in, with the decline in probability becoming less and less. This result confirms a non-linear relationship between landholdings and the decision to migrate. Some further research questions are raised in the paper.

Chapter 7