Niti Aayog creates stir in Bihar politics

The Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government has reacted with dismay to the Niti Aayog report on poverty index in which Bihar along with Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the poorest states in India.

This comes in contrast with the ruling government’s claim of a sustained high rate of economic growth. When asked about the findings, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refrained from making any comment saying he was not aware of the report and its contents.

“What report are you talking about? I have not seen it,” was Nitish Kumar’s curt response when journalists sought his comments.

The Niti Aayog report comes as the longest-serving Bihar Chief Minister has been proudly highlighting that under his watch, the state has clocked a growth rate of more than 10 per cent and the state’s budget has expanded manifold.

On the other hand, former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav, who along with his wife Rabri Devi ruled Bihar for 15 years altogether, attacked Nitish Kumar saying: “Nitish Kumar ko chullu bhar paani mein doob marna chahiye (Nitish should be ashamed)”, as quoted by PTI.

Congress national general secretary and former Union minister Tariq Anwar also shared similar sentiments as he pointed out that Niti Aayog is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and though Kumar’s JD(U) shares power with the BJP at the Centre as well as in Bihar, it has failed to reap desired benefits for the state.

Nitish Kumar’s cabinet members have, meanwhile, raised doubts over the report. Bijendra Yadav, former state president of the JD(U) who currently holds many important portfolios, dubbed the report “aadharheen (baseless)”.

Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, another trusted aide of CM Nitish and a powerful cabinet member, contended that the report seemed not to factor in variables like the density of population and historicity.

The BJP, which has been a part of the ruling alliance for the most part since 2005 and is now the major ally, also appeared displeased with the report.

“In my view, the Niti Aayog should send a team to Bihar for making an in-depth study of the changes in health, education, and infrastructure in the last decade and a half. Only then will it be able to appreciate things in perspective,” state BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel said.

Meanwhile, Lalu Prasad’s son and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav questioned CM Nitish Kumar’s claim of not being aware of the Niti Aayog report. In Niti Aayog’s first Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the poorest states in India.

Bihar is also placed at the bottom when it comes to percentage of population deprived of maternal health, percentage of population deprived of years of schooling, school attendance and percentage of population deprived of cooking fuel and electricity.

Uttar Pradesh ranked the lowest in child and adolescent mortality category, followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, while Jharkhand performed the worst when it comes to percentage of population deprived of sanitation, followed by Bihar and Odisha.

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