Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with PM Narendra Modi.  (Photo: PTI)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with PM Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)

How Bihar provides the template for schemes rolled out by NDA govt

  • Officials believe that a good scheme is worth emulating, specifically if it has worked in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
  • Bihar CM had come up with ‘Saat Nischay’ programme, with electricity and water being the core commitments

NEW DELHI : The “Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal" scheme of the Bihar government, which has inspired the Central government “Nal Se Jal" scheme national rollout, is the latest in a series of schemes piloted by the state government that has caught the attention of public policy officials at the Centre.

The Har Ghar Bijli Yojana, launched in November 2016 by the Bihar government to provide electricity connection to more than 5 million households in the state, provided the playbook for the Central government’s Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya). The Bihar scheme provided the blueprint for the Union government’s 16,320-crore Saubhagya programme to provide electricity connections to more than 40 million families in rural and urban areas.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had come up with ‘Saat Nischay’ or ‘7 Points’ programme, with electricity and water being the core commitments. With the alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), trouncing the mahagatbandhan in Bihar in the 2019 general elections, one common refrain from voters in the state was the need to reward good governance, particularly in critical areas such as access to electricity and water supply.

Experts say that the Narendra Modi government has no qualms in copying good ideas or even trying to own them. A case in point is Aadhaar. The idea of Aadhaar numbers, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), was conceived during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance government. However, the previous and present NDA governments have been pushing for Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and mobile numbers (JAM) as a game-changing reform for better targeting of subsidies.

Officials believe that a good scheme is worth emulating, especially if it has worked in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “A good scheme is a good scheme, wherever it has been started. It is true that many marquee schemes of Bihar such as Har Ghar Bijli Yojana and Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal have been studied and adopted by the Centre," said a Union government official requesting anonymity.

“Not stopping Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is a big example of Modi not undoing what he has been criticizing in his speeches as the wrongs done over the years. He is pragmatic enough to reap political and electoral dividends, Modinomics is an extension of Manmohanomics," said Dr. Arvind Kumar, assistant professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Through the 2014 general election campaign, the BJP criticized MGNREGS as a means for corruption by the Congress.

Officials believe that a good scheme is worth emulating, especially if it has worked in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “A good scheme is a good scheme, wherever it has been started. It is true that many marquee schemes of Bihar such as Har Ghar Bijli Yojana and Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal have been studied and adopted by the Centre," said a Union government official requesting anonymity.

The Bihar government’s water supply scheme aims to provide clean drinking water to around 20 million households to end their dependence on hand-pumps.

“We are happy that the government at the Centre has taken a leaf out of our way of doing things for rolling out these prestigious national level schemes," said a senior Patna-based Bihar government official who also did not want to be named.

Bihar’s social welfare schemes have been attracting public policy analysts from across the country and overseas for academic research and field studies.

“Many governments build on schemes of previous governments. In some cases, a successful state-wide scheme like the Mid-day Meal Scheme in Tamil Nadu was adopted at the national level in 1995 because of its viability and the immense support for the scheme from foreign funding agencies. So taking credit for the good ideas of previous governments or even state governments is not entirely new. What makes Modi unique in this instance is that he has often blocked or criticised schemes which he has now spearheaded," said Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan, co-founder and director of research at The Polis Project Inc., a New York City headquartered non-profit think-tank.

In her budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Jal Shakti ministry, which will combine the operations of the erstwhile water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation ministries, will work with states to ensure every rural house gets piped water by 2024.

The NDA government’s Nal Se Jal scheme for piped water supply will need 6.3 trillion in investment, according to brokerage firm JM Financial.

“What has happened is that to the general public it gives the impression of things happening under this government because with each of these schemes there is a sustained campaign to take credit. However, for anyone who looks closely many of the schemes have been extended and rebranded but were ideas of previous governments," said Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan.

Bihar also has many a first to its credit. All the 39,073 revenue villages in the state received electricity access in December 2017, much before all of India’s 597,464 census villages got electrified in April 2018. With the electricity reaching all villages through the marque Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, it was a game-changer moment for readying the country towards achieving universal electricity access.

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