From Gloom to Boom: Bihar’s Electricity Sector
The state of Bihar is one of the poorest in India, but in recent years its economy has been showing signs of improvement. The electricity sector has also seen significant progress since 2005, and more so after 2012. Since mass protests prompted by the dismal performance of the power sector in the state in 2011, the government has been pumping huge sums of money into increasing the supply of and access to electricity. This paper for the Mapping Power project shows that the electricity sector’s performance is intimately linked to the political context of the state. During the Lalu Yadav/Rabri Devi regime from 1990 to 2005, which was mainly supported by lower castes and Muslims, the economy stagnated and so did the electricity sector. This was a direct result of Yadav’s hostile attitude towards the bureaucracy and corporate sector; in his view, the upper-caste-dominated bureaucracy was the main reason for the continued impoverishment of the lower castes. The political and social empowerment of lower castes during Yadav’s rule has since made it difficult for any Bihar government to survive without addressing the basic needs of the population at large. This is a clear deviation from previous governments, which allowed most resources to routinely be appropriated by the upper castes. After 2005, Nitish Kumar’s government, which came into being due to an alliance between upper castes and some lower castes that did not benefit much under Yadav’s regime, began to seriously explore bureaucratic solutions to improving various public services, including electricity.