Bihar: Profile

Bihar derives name from Vihar, the Buddhist term for monastery. The state is known in history as the birth place of innumerable cultures and religions. Patna, the capital city was once Patliputra, the capital of Ashoka. Bihar is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at 98,940 km2 and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of the state population is below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India.

Geography and Demography

Bihar is a vast stretch of fertile plain. It is drained by the River Ganga, including its northern tributaries Gandak and Koshi, originating in the Nepal Himalayas and the Bagmati originating in the Kathmandu valley that regularly flood parts of the state plains. The total area covered by the state is 94,163 km2. Located in the eastern part of the country (between 83°-30' to 88°-00' longitude), it is an entirely land–locked state, although the outlet to the sea through the port of Kolkata is not far away. Bihar lies mid-way between the humid West Bengal in the east and the sub humid Uttar Pradesh in the west which provides it with a transitional position in respect of climate, economy and culture.
It is bounded by Nepal in the north and by Jharkhand in the south. The Bihar plain is divided into two unequal halves by the river Ganga which flows through the middle from west to east.

Bihar is the third most populated state in India with total population of 82,998,509 (43,243,795 male and 39,754,714 female). Nearly 85% of population lives in rural areas. Almost 58% of residents are below 25 years age, which is the highest in India. The density is 881. The sex ratio is 919 females per 1000 males. Since ancient times, the state has attracted migrants and settlers including Bengalis, Turks from Central Asia, Persians, Afghans and Punjabi Hindu refugees during the partition in 1947. Bihar has a total literacy rate of 63.82% (75.7% for males and 55.1% for females).

The community wise break-up of the state comprises 15% Muslims, 16% Scheduled Castes, 11% Ahirs/Yadavs and Brahmins, Kurmis, Rajputs and Koeris are around 5% each. Other communities like Kumhars, Kahars, Kandus and Kayasthas are under 2% each. Of the Scheduled Castes, Chamars are around 5%, Dosadhs 5% and Musahars 3%. Amongst Scheduled Tribes, Santhals are around 4%, Oraons are 2%, Mundas are 1.5% and Hos are 1% dominant.

History and Culture

Known in ancient days as Magadha, Bihar achieved eminence during the reign of Mauryan rulers, particularly Ashoka. After various ups and down of history, Bihar passed into the hands of the Nawabs of Bengal, after the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. The British located in Bengal wrested Bihar in 1764. Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army, as well as countless other persons from Bihar, contributed to the India's First War of Independence (1857), also called the Sepoy Mutiny by some historians.
 
It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha. In 1911, Bihar was separated from the Bengal Presidency. In 1936, it became a separate province. It has been a state since independence. Under the Reorganisation Act of 1956, some areas of Purnia and Manbhum were transferred to West Bengal. In December 2000, Bihar was divided and a new state of Jharkhand was created. Bihar at present has 40 Lok Sabha seats.

Important places of tourist interest are Rajgir (pilgrim place for the Buddhists), Bodh Gaya (most sacred place for Buddhists), Gaya, (center of pilgrimage for Hindus), Nalanda (ruins of the world's earliest Buddhist University) and Vaishali (the seat of the first republic of the world in the sixth century BC).

Other places of tourist interest in Bihar include Bhimbandh, famous for hot springs; Maner, a sacred Muslim shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Makhdoom Shah; Vikramshila, the ruins of a Buddhist University; and Sasaram, the site of the tomb of Afghan emperor Sher Shah Suri.

Bihar still has a lot to offer as it the land of the magnificent Ganges, lush green plains, beautiful flora and fauna, attractive tourist destinations like the world famous ancient seats of learning like Nalanda and Vikaramshila, marvelous Madhubani Paintings (Mithila Arts), enchanting Sujuni work, gorgeous Bhagalpuri Silk, rich mineral resources, the world famous delicious litchi (lychee) and mangoes, and much more.

Economy

The economy of Bihar is largely service oriented, but it also has a significant agricultural base. The state also has a small industrial sector. As of 2008, agriculture accounts for 35%, industry 9% and service 55% of the economy of the state.

Bihar has significant levels of production for the products of mango, guava, litchi, pineapple, brinjal, cauliflower, bhindi, and cabbage in India. Despite the states leading role in food production, investment in irrigation and other agriculture facilities has been inadequate in the past. Until the mid fifties, 25% of India's sugar output was from Bihar. Dalmianagar was a large agro - industrial town.

There have been attempts to industrialize the state between 1950 and 1980: an oil refinery in Barauni, a motor scooter plant at Fatuha, and a power plant at Muzaffarpur. However, these were forced to shut down due to Central government policy which neutralized the strategic advantages of Bihar. Hajipur, near Patna, remains a major industrial town in the state, linked to the capital city through the Ganga bridge and good road infrastructure.

Government and Politics

The constitutional head of the state government is the Governor, who is appointed by the President. The real executive power rests with the Chief Minister and his Cabinet. The political party or the coalition of political parties having a majority in the Legislative Assembly forms the Government.

The present legislative structure of Bihar is bicameral. Legislative houses are the Bihar Vidhan Sabha (Bihar Legislative Assembly) and Bihar Vidhan Parishad (Bihar Legislative Council). Its term is five years, unless sooner dissolved.

The Judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice. Bihar has a High Court which has been functioning since 1916. All the branches of the government are located in the state capital, Patna.

The state is divided into 09 divisions and 38 districts, for administrative purposes. The various districts included in the divisions – Patna, Tirhut, Saran, Darbhanga, Kosi, Purnia, Bhagalpur, Munger and Magadh Division

Currently, there are two main political formations: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which comprises Janata Dal, BJP and the RJD-led coalition. There are myriad other political formations. Ram Vilas Paswan led Lok Janshakti Party is now gasping political Oxygen. The Communist Party of India had a strong presence in Bihar at one time, but is weakened now. The CPM and Forward Bloc have a minor presence, along with the other Left factions.

In the 2010 state elections, Bihar's current Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led government got thunderous support from public and won 206 seats out of 243 seats. Analysts and even Nitish Kumar's political opponents credit Kumar's excellent pro-public governance centered around development, curb on crime and corruption and given importance of all sections of society. Under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, the state has made fast progress and has implemented many novel ideas, for which it is held in high esteem by other states of India.

The recent performance in assembly elections and mature voting by people of Bihar, which also saw for the first time in Indian electorates the highest number of female voting, is being called as something to follow all over India to bring political maturity in the nation.

Also after coming to power again in 2010, the Nitish government immediately started its crusade against corruption by confiscating properties of corrupt officials and opening schools in them. Simultaneously they introduced Bihar Special Court Act to curb crime.

JPN