Even as Bihar has the lowest per capita income in the country at Rs 5,772 against the national average of Rs 22,946, some of its southern districts are much better off compared with those in the north. This disparity within the state is clearly reflected in Bihar’s latest Economic Survey for 2007-08.
The survey shows that Patna, Munger and Begusarai in south Bihar were the three best-off districts out of a total of 38 districts, recording the highest per capita gross district domestic product of Rs 31,441, Rs 10,087 and Rs 9,312, respectively in 2004-05. In contrast, right at the bottom of the rung, with the lowest per capita GDP, were the northern districts of Araria at Rs 4,578, Sitamarhi at Rs 4,352 and Sheohar at Rs 3,636.
The ‘‘relative economic prosperity’’ of some districts in the south over those in the northern parts can also be estimated from the amount of small savings and public provident fund deposits. While the average per capita small savings in the state declined from Rs 264 in 2005-06 and Rs 191 in 2006-07, the three districts that clocked the highest per capita savings in 2006-07 were Patna at Rs 675, Saran at Rs 339 and Nalanda at Rs 328. The three districts at the bottom were Sitamarhi at only Rs 68, East Champaran Rs 68 and Araria Rs 51, all in the north.
Reflecting the role of urbanisation in determining the economic conditions of a particular district, the survey said the pattern of fuel consumption was another indicator of regional disparities. Except for kerosene oil, the other three fuels—petrol, diesel and cooking gas— were being used in the more prosperous regions. The three districts that had the highest per capita petrol consumption were Patna, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur, while at the lower end of the spectrum were Arwal, Nawada and Sheohar.
Not surprisingly, regional disparities within the state are the outcome of selective attention being paid by state policies. This is quite evident from the per capita expenditure by the state, especially on health and education, in various districts.
Once again, Patna had the meatiest per capita spending share on health and education in 2006-07 at Rs 674 and Rs 5,633, respectively, whereas Araria was the lowest among the 38 districts at a measly Rs 19 and Rs 126, respectively. The average per capita spending on health for the entire state was no better—at Rs 82—