PATNA: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant’s statement on Monday that states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are keeping India backward, especially on social indicators, drew sharp criticism from political parties, including BJP, and economists in the state.
While leader of opposition in legislative assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav said the remark exposed the mindset of “babus” in the Narendra Modi-led government, Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute’s member-secretary Shaibal Gupta termed the statement “extremely deplorable and not in the interest of national integrity”. “We would appeal to the Prime Minister that Kant should be immediately sacked and his utterances should be stopped. It does not augur well that an important lieutenant of the government is speaking with an undertone of division and discrimination at a time when the nation needs empathy and integration more than ever,” Shaibal said.
Tejashwi tweeted on Tuesday: “Bihar and Biharis pay equal taxes, contribute equally or more in nation building. Bihar gave 33 MPs and seven Union ministers to NDA. State and central governments are of the same party and alliance. But still these babus say Bihar is backward. BJP ruled the state for 10 years. Nitish Kumar and BJP are 18 years old ally and ruling Bihar for the last 13 years? So, he (Kant) means that the so-called ‘Bihar Model’ of Nitish is a hoax and forged?”
Opposition apart, even BJP leaders condemned Kant’s statement. Union minister of state for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey said in Varanasi that these states have made equal contribution in country’s development. “Bihar and UP are the front-runners in country’s politics. We have always contributed to the development of the country and will continue to do so,” Choubey told reporters.
Speaking at the first Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Memorial Lecture at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi on Monday, Kant said, “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.”
Ruling JD(U), on the other hand, blamed the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre led by Congress for that. “If the state was faced with backwardness, then it was due to policies of the UPA government and the lack of support from it. Despite being included in the list of backward states, the growth in construction sector in Bihar has been higher than the respective national average for the last 12 years. Human resource development has remained a challenge, but the state can’t be blamed as we have a high population density along with repeated natural calamities, including floods every year,” JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) general secretary and Lok Sabha MP Tariq Anwar told reporters at Katihar that Bihar should be given special category status. Incidentally, ruling JD(U) has been demanding the special category status for Bihar for over a decade.
Reacting to Kant’s statement, member-secretary of Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) Shaibal Gupta said, “The statement of Kant about Bihar, UP and other Indian states is extremely deplorable and not in the interest of our national integrity. I am personally surprised that a person like him is at the helm of an organization like NITI Aayog, which is supposed to banish the socio-economic division in the country.”
Shaibal said Kant has no sense of history, neither has any understanding about the trauma of the Hindi heartland. “The Hindi heartland, especially Bihar and UP, participated gloriously in the first war of independence, which is euphemistically remembered as Sepoy Mutiny. When the entire state is celebrating Babu Kunwar Singh’s 160th anniversary of his day of victory in 1857, this kind of statement not only insults Bihar, but undermines the effort of the entire Hindi heartland towards nation growth and economic valour of several states. We must know that Bihar and UP were subjected to adversarial treatment by the British, as compared to other Indian States, for their persevered attempts to fuel national freedom movements,” he said.