Saturday, April 10, 2010

Progress in the Indian state of Bihar, but does it extend to the villages?

Lydia Polgreen reports in today's New York Times about the state of Bihar, in northeastern India, a perennial backwater that has recently posted exceptionally strong economic growth. The story makes clear that agriculture has long been an important part of the economy of Bihar, though flooding and drought have plagued the region. Even as the story celebrates regional progress, it makes clear that challenges remain--especially in rural parts of the state. An excerpt follows:
This progress, and its limitations, is clearly on display in the villages of rural Bihar. Reaching the village of Pawna from the district capital, Ara, once took more than two hours, but today it is a 30-minute drive. Solar lights illuminate narrow lanes. The street market that used to shut promptly at sundown because of bandits now bustles late into the evening. The village has a new police station, more schools and new water pumps.

But Gulab Chand Ram, a landless Dalit farmer in Pawna, said the government had done little to tackle the problems of the very poorest, those with nowhere to go on the new roads and nothing to steal.

“It is paper talk,” he said of the reforms. “We farmers still lack land, we lack water.”

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