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Agricultural Transformation in Aspirational Districts of India

Comparative Analysis of Districts in Bihar

T Haque (drt.haque@gmail.com) is a distinguished professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi and former Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, Government of India. P K Joshi (p.joshi@cgiar.org) is Director, International Food Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.

NITI Aayog is presently anchoring a programme to help develop 115 “aspirational” districts which can potentially catch up with the best district within the same state and subsequently become one of the best in the country. The composite index for identification of districts is problematic thereby excluding many relatively underdeveloped districts and including several that are more developed than the “aspirational” category in terms of per capita district domestic product or per capita agricultural income or yield of principal crops. However, a comparative analysis of the aspirational, non-aspirational and frontier districts in Bihar reveals that strategies for bridging the inter-district gaps should be sector-, location- and enterprise-specific. While irrigation, education, farm and non-farm diversification hold the key for acceleration of agricultural development in both aspirational and undeveloped districts, urbanisation, energy consumption and development of location-specific infrastructure would be essential for overall economic development.

The authors thankfully acknowledge the help received from Ankita Goyal, Council for Social Development, in the preparation of this paper.
 

The Government of India has recently identified 115 districts in the country as aspirational districts which lag behind the frontier/advanced districts in each region. NITI Aayog is presently anchoring the programme with the support from central ministries and the state governments to help develop the aspirational districts, first, to catch up with the best district within the same state and subsequently, aspire to become one of the best in the country (NITI Aayog 2018). Although agriculture and water resources have been given only 20% weightage in the whole scheme of development of aspirational districts, accelerated agricultural development may be one of the key determinants to overall development of aspirational districts. At the same time, India’s Vision 2022 for doubling farmers’ income cannot be achieved without accelerated and diversified agricultural development in aspirational districts. This paper discusses the issues in the identification of aspirational districts of India, and also analyses the key challenges and opportunities of agricultural development in the aspirational as well as non-aspirational underdeveloped districts of Bihar vis-à-vis the frontier districts and suggests appropriate measures for accelerated and balanced agricultural development in Bihar.

The study maps out all the aspirational districts as well as other non-aspirational backward districts of Bihar, based on analysis of secondary data for key indicators. The status of aspirational districts has been compared with that of frontier districts in a region and a road map for bridging the development gaps has been suggested.

Issues in the Identification of Aspirational Districts

It is important to mention at the very outset that the identified aspirational districts are not necessarily the most backward districts in a region measured in terms of either per capita gross district domestic product (GDDP), or per capita agricultural income or per hectare crop productivity. The 115 districts have been identified from 28 states (at least one from each) by a committee of senior officers of the Government of India, in consultation with state government officials, using a composite index of 49 indicators relating to health, education, agriculture, skill and infrastructure. In the overall index, the weightage given to health, nutrition and education was 30% each, followed by agriculture, water resources and infrastructure (20% each), and financial inclusion and skill development (10% each). However, a close look at the development status of identified aspirational districts in various states would reveal that the aspirational districts have been chosen in a manner that excludes many relatively more underdeveloped districts from the list and includes several of those that are relatively more developed. It would be seen from Table 1 that based on per capita income, per capita agricultural income or yield of principal crops, a number of other districts should have been included in the list of aspirational districts in each state, while some of the included districts could be excluded.

Aspirational Districts of Bihar

The identified aspirational districts of Bihar include (i) Katihar, (ii) Begusarai, (iii) Sheikhpura, (iv) Araria, (v) Sitamarhi, (vi) Khagaria, (vii) Purnia, (viii) Aurangabad, (ix) Banka, (x) Gaya, (xi) Jamui, (xii) Muzaffarpur, and (xiii) Nawada. While Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Begusarai are in agroclimatic zone I, Katihar, Khagaria, Purnia and Araria fall in agroclimatic zone II. The remaining aspirational districts of Sheikhpura, Aurangabad, Banka, Gaya and Jamui are in agroclimatic zone III.

Based on per capita GDDP, the aspirational districts of Begusarai and Muzaffarpur rank first and second in agroclimatic zone I, while Khagaria and Katihar are better placed than most other districts in agroclimatic zone II and Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad are not necessarily the most backward districts in agroclimatic zone III (Table 2). However, the identified aspirational districts of Sitamarhi in agroclimatic zone I, Araria in agroclimatic zone II, and Sheikhpura and Jamui in agroclimatic zone III rank low in terms of per capita GDDP. At the same time, it is also true that the districts like Sheohar and Madhubani in agroclimatic zone I, Supaul and Madhepura in agroclimatic zone II, and Arwal in agroclimatic zone III are worse-off than some of the identified aspirational districts. Judged from this angle, the identification of some aspirational districts is not free from selection bias. The districts such as Supaul, Madhepura, Madhubani, Sheohar and Arwal should be in the category of aspirational districts based on per capita GDDP.

Based on per capita agricultural income also, the districts of Begusarai and Muzaffarpur are better placed than most other districts in agroclimatic zone I, while Katihar, Purnia and Araria are better off than Supaul, Madhepura and Saharsa in agroclimatic zone II, and Banka and Sheikhpura are better off than Lakhisarai, Munger and Arwal in agroclimatic zone III (Table 2). Thus Supaul, Madhepura, Saharsa, Lakhisarai, Munger and Arwal should appear in the list of aspirational districts, based on per capita agricultural income. Both from the perspective of overall per capita district domestic product and per capita agricultural income, there seems to be a bias in the identification of aspirational districts resulting in the exclusion of some more underdeveloped districts from the list (Figure 1).

Considering the yield of rice in agroclimatic zone I, Begusarai (1.12 tonnes per ha), Sitamarhi (1.27 tonnes per ha) and Muzaffarpur (1.24 tonnes per ha) had very low yields as compared to East Champaran (2.67 tonnes per ha), West Champaran (2.10 tonnes per ha) and Siwan (1.77 tonnes per ha) (Table 3, p 38). But, in the same zone, Sheohar (1.12 tonnes per ha) and Madhubani (1.17 tonnes per ha) had even lower yields than that of Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi. In agroclimatic zone II, Katihar (2.51 tonnes per ha) and Araria (2.31 tonnes per ha), which have been identified as aspirational districts, had higher yields than most other districts in the same zone. Similarly, in agroclimatic zone III, Jamui (1.82 tonnes per ha) falls in relatively low-yield category but not the identified aspirational districts like Aurangabad (3.63 tonnes per ha), Sheikhpura (3.39 tonnes per ha) and Banka (3.28 tonnes per ha). The average yield of rice in Bhagalpur (2.41 tonnes per ha) and Munger (2.66 tonnes per ha) was much lower than that of some of the identified aspirational districts (Figure 2).

In the case of wheat, the identified aspirational districts like Begusarai (2.29 tonnes per ha), Muzaffarpur (2.19 tonnes per ha) and Sitamarhi (2.33 tonnes per ha) had relatively lower yields than that of Samastipur (2.71 tonnes per ha) in agroclimatic zone I (Table 3). But the districts of Madhubani (1.44 tonnes per ha), East Champaran (1.50 tonnes per ha), Gopalganj (2.14 tonnes per ha) and West Champaran (2.16 tonnes per ha) had comparatively lower yield than that of the identified aspirational districts. Similarly, in zone II, Supaul (1.88 tonnes per ha) and Saharsa (2.34 tonnes per ha) had comparatively much lower yield than that of Katihar (2.52 tonnes per ha) and Khagaria (2.38 tonnes per ha), which have been identified as aspirational districts. In agroclimatic zone III, Arwal (1.96 tonnes per ha) and Munger (1.94 tonnes per ha) had comparatively lower yields of wheat than that of all the aspirational districts, excepting Jamui.

In the case of maize too, similar selection bias could be noticed. In fact, Sitamarhi (3.99 tonnes per ha) and Muzaffarpur (3.27 tonnes per ha) had relatively higher yield of maize than that of most other districts in agroclimatic zone I, while Katihar (6.98 tonnes per ha) and Araria (4.78 tonnes per ha) had higher yield than that of other districts in agroclimatic zone II (Table 3). In agroclimatic zone III also, Lakhisarai (0.92 tonnes per ha) and Buxar (1.44 tonnes per ha) had comparatively much lower yield than that of the identified aspirational districts. In short, the selection bias in the identification of aspirational districts is obvious, based on all the above-mentioned three indicators.

As a matter of fact, all the districts of Bihar, barring a few should have been included as low-yield aspirational districts from the perspective of agricultural development. The present paper, therefore, analyses the status of all the districts vis-à-vis the frontier districts in respect of all important parameters. The frontier districts should include Rohtas for rice, Jehanabad for wheat, Katihar for maize, Sheikhpura for pulses, Aurangabad for mango, Sheikhpura for banana, Muzaffarpur for potato and Jamui for onion (Table 3). It would be seen from Table 3 that the average yield of rice in the aspirational districts of Begusarai, Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi in agroclimatic zone I was less than 50% of that of the frontier district of East Champaran and it was in the range of only 28% to 32% of that of Rohtas in agroclimatic zone III. In zone II, Katihar, which is included in the list of aspirational districts, had the highest yield, while the average yield of rice in Khagaria, which is one of the aspirational districts, was only 60.6% of that of Katihar. However, as compared to Rohtas, the yield of rice was only 39% in Khagaria, 55% in Purnia and 59% in Araria. The yield of rice in other non-aspirational but underdeveloped districts (in zone II), such as Supaul, Saharsa and Madhepura was even lower. It was only 45% to 48% of that of Rohtas. The other aspirational districts in the zone such as Purnia and Araria had 12% to 8% lower yields of rice than that of Katihar. In agroclimatic zone III, Rohtas had the highest average yield of rice, while Jamui had only 46% of that of Rohtas, Gaya 72%, Banka 83% and Sheikhpura 83% of that of Rohtas. Other non-aspirational districts such as Patna, Nalanda, Kaimur, Bhojpur, Nawada, Arwal, Jehanabad, Munger and Bhagalpur had even higher level of yield distance from that of Rohtas. In fact, from the perspective of rice productivity, all these districts should be called aspirational districts.

In the case of wheat, Samastipur had the highest yield in agroclimatic zone I and identified aspirational districts of Begusarai, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur had 15% to 19% less yield than that of the frontier district. As compared to Jehanabad, which had the highest yield of wheat in the state, the yield of wheat in Begusarai, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur was lesser by 18%, 16% and 22% respectively. In agroclimatic zone II, Madhepura had the highest average yield of wheat, while the aspirational districts of Khagaria, Purnia and Araria had 12% to 19% less yield and Katihar had 7% less yield of wheat. In agroclimatic zone III, Jehanabad had the highest yield of wheat, while aspirational districts of Nawada, Aurangabad, Sheikhpura, Banka, Gaya had lesser yield by 11% to 25%, and the yield of wheat in Jamui was only 55.9% of that of Jehanabad. It would be further seen from Table 3 that Vaishali had the highest average yield of maize, while the aspirational districts of Begusarai had only 56% yield of that of Vaishali and Muzaffarpur only 79%. The average yield of maize in Sitamarhi district was lesser by only 4%, while that of several non-aspirational districts such as East Champaran, West Champaran, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran and Samastipur had substantially lower yields than that of Vaishali, the frontier district.

In the case of pulses, the aspirational districts of Begusarai in agroclimatic zone I and Katihar in agroclimatic zone II and Sheikhpura in agroclimatic zone III had the highest average yield. In other words, some of the identified aspirational districts perform relatively better in respect of productivity of pulses.

Inter-district Variations in Yield of Principal Crops

The regression coefficients of factors influencing the inter-district variation in the yield of rice are given in Table 4a. It would be seen from the table that irrigation, level of urbanisation and literacy rates were the main factors which influenced inter-district variation in yield positively and significantly. The rainfall and percentage area under high-yielding varieties (HYV) played a positive albeit statistically non-significant role, while the effect of chemical fertilisers and mechanisation was found to be negative and non-significant. In the case of maize also, irrigation turned out to be the positive and significant determinant of inter-district variation in yield (Table 4b). The role of fertiliser use and percentage area under HYV and rainfall were positive but statistically non-significant. The inter-district variation in the yield of wheat was influenced more significantly by irrigation and the level of urbanisation, while percentage area under HYV, per hectare consumption of chemical fertilisers, level of mechanisation and literacy rate played a positive albeit statistically non-significant role (Table 4c). Figures 3 and 4 clearly depict how the crop yields respond to different factors in aspirational districts vis-à-vis other districts.

Inter-district Variation in per Capita Agricultural Income

The overall level of agricultural development, however, was influenced more by the number of livestock per cultivator in a district followed by average size of landholding (Table 6, p 40). The proportion of area under vegetables had a positive effect on agricultural income per capita, although the coefficient was found to be statistically non-significant. Of the total factors accounting for inter-district variation in per capita agricultural income, the contribution of the number of livestock per cultivator was 26.9% followed by size of landholding (26.3%), cropping intensity (23.7%), literacy rate (15.9%), and diversification towards vegetable crops (0.1%) and fish farming (8.5%). It would be further seen from Table 7 (p 41) that overall economic development as measured in terms of per capita GDDP was influenced by the level of urbanisation, percentage of non-farm workers, and per capita power consumption and literacy rate, which were the most significant determinants. These factors together accounted for 71% of the total variation in per capita district domestic product. Of these factors, the relative contribution of urbanisation was about 38.5%, followed by literacy rate contributing about 32.7%. The per capita power consumption contributed about 24.3% and road density contributed 4.5%. When we substitute percentage of non-farm workers for level of urbanisation, its share goes up to 53% in the total factor contribution. Figures 5 and 6 show how farm and non-farm diversification influence the inter-district variation in the level of agricultural and economic development.

Key Challenges

The district specific key challenges in aspirational and other underdeveloped districts are shown in Table 7. It would be seen from Table 7 that the key challenges of agricultural development in aspirational and other districts vary. Low access to irrigation is one of the key challenges in seven out of the 13 identified aspirational districts. Frequent occurrence of flood is a problem in seven out the 13 aspirational districts, namely Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, and Sheikhpura, while drought affects the aspirational districts of Aurangabad, Gaya, and Nawada. The low level of agricultural diversification is found in all the aspirational districts, but the nature of diversification required varies from district to district. Also, the cropping intensity is very low in the aspirational districts of Muzaffarpur, Purnia, Katihar, Banka, and Gaya, while it is very high in Sitamarhi (177%) and Araria (188%). The low level of non-farm diversification affects the GDDP in Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, Aurangabad, Sheikhpura, Banka, and Nawada. Similarly, the literacy rates impact adversely in Sitamarhi, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, Nawada, Banka, and Jamui.

It may also be seen in Table 7 that some of these variables affect agricultural productivity adversely in other underdeveloped, albeit non-aspirational districts. As regards the relatively developed or frontier districts, there are challenges of low irrigation in East Champaran, Saharsa, and Kishanganj, while low fertiliser use affects agriculture adversely in East Champaran, West Champaran, Jehanabad, Kishanganj, and Kaimur. Besides, low level of mechanisation and low access to institutional credit act as constraints in Rohtas, East Champaran, West Champaran, and Nalanda. In addition, low level of agricultural diversification in Rohtas, East Champaran, West Champaran, Munger, Patna, Nalanda, Bhojpur, Jehanabad, Kishanganj, Kaimur, and Saharsa presents both challenges and opportunities for further development. Moreover, cropping intensity continues to be low to moderate in Rohtas, Bhojpur, Nalanda, Patna, Kaimur, Munger, and Kishanganj. Similarly, low literacy rate acts as a constraint in East Champaran, West Champaran, and Kishanganj.

Potential for Future Growth

The fact that there is a huge yield difference between some aspirational as well as non-aspirational underdeveloped and frontier districts, in each agroclimatic zone, in all the principal crops, the crop yield can be substantially enhanced by addressing the district-specific challenges as indicated in Table 7.

Further, the results of the field-level demonstration by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) show that there is huge untapped yield potential in all the districts of Bihar, the utilisation of which, through appropriate technological innovation, would help accelerate agricultural growth (ICAR 2008). The key recommended interventions by ICAR are:

(i) Adoption of appropriate location-specific drought- and flood-tolerant varieties; (ii) Replacement of old senile orchards of mango and litchi by location-specific superior varieties; (iii) Adoption of higher density planting, protected cultivation, micro-propagation, hybrid, etc; (iv) Drip irrigation; (v) Replacement of old varieties of potato like kufri jyoti, by heat tolerant variety kufri surya; (vi) Improved germ plasm of Frieswal cattle and Murrah buffalo; (vii) Hormonal modulation of poultry; and (viii) Adequate stocking of quality fish seeds, carp culture and freshwater prawn culture.

Besides, inadequate availability of quality seeds and seed replacement rates are often cited as reasons for low productivity of agriculture in Bihar. However, recent initiatives such as Chief Minister’s Crash Seed Programme, seed village programme, and multiplication of seeds by state farm seems to have helped in raising the seed replacement ratio (SRR) and farm productivity to some extent (Government of Bihar 2016–17). Figures 7(a) and 7(b) show the yield gaps in rice and wheat.

Conclusions and Suggestions

It becomes clear from the foregoing discussion that identification of aspirational districts by NITI Aayog suffers from selection bias in most of the states as many relatively more underdeveloped districts have been excluded, while several relatively developed districts are included. This is mainly because per capita income, which is generally considered as a measure of development, was not taken into account. Besides, in the composite index prepared by NITI Aayog, using 49 indicators, agriculture and water resources together has only 20% weightage. Therefore, many undeveloped districts based on per capita agricultural income or yield of principal crops get excluded. An in-depth analysis of identified aspirational and non-aspirational underdeveloped districts vis-à-vis frontier districts of Bihar suggests that strategy for removing or reducing the inter-district development gaps should be both sector- and location-specific. For example, in the case of Bihar, the identified aspirational districts of Begusarai and Muzaffarpur in agroclimatic zone II, and Gaya and Aurangabad in agroclimatic zone III had higher per capita income than of several non-aspirational districts. From the perspective of agricultural development also, Begusarai and Muzaffarpur were better off than most other districts in agroclimatic zone I, while Katihar, Purnia, and Araria were better off than Supaul, and Madhepura in agroclimatic zone II and Banka and Sheikhpura were better off than Lakhisarai, Arwal, and Munger. Similarly, based on the consideration of yield, the non-aspirational districts of Sheohar and Madhubani had lower yield of rice than that of identified aspirational districts like Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur in agroclimatic zone I, while Katihar and Araria in agroclimatic zone II and Aurangabad, Sheikhpura and Banka in agroclimatic zone III had higher yield than that of several non-aspirational districts. In the case of wheat also, the non-aspirational districts such as Madhubani, East Champaran, and Gopalganj had relatively lower yield than that of the identified aspirational districts like Sitamarhi, Begusarai, and Muzaffarpur. However, there is no denying the fact that there was wide inter-district variation in the level of per capita agricultural income and yields of crops. The challenges of agricultural development in various districts of Bihar and suggestions for accelerated agricultural development in all the aspirational as well as the non-aspirational underdeveloped districts of Bihar are as follows:

(i) Irrigation is the most significant determinant of inter-district variation in the yield of rice, wheat and maize. Presently, the aspirational districts like Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, and Jamui, and non-aspirational underdeveloped districts such as Sheohar, Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj, Madhubani, Samastipur, Darbhanga, and Lakhisarai have comparatively low proportion of irrigated cropped area. Even though the area under irrigation is growing at the compound rate of 3.4% per year in the state, the districts such as Araria, Purnia and Muzaffarpur witnessed a declining trend in irrigation in the recent years. Therefore, development of irrigation and efficient use of irrigation water would be the key to productivity improvement in these districts.

(ii) Agricultural diversification in favour of livestock is found to be one of the most important factors determining the level of per capita agricultural income in a district. Presently, the aspirational districts such as Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Nawada, Sheikhpura and Gaya, and non-aspirational districts like Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj, Madhubani, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Vaishali, Patna, Nalanda, Bhopur, Arwal, Jehanabad, Lakhisarai, and Buxar have a relatively smaller number of per-cultivator livestock than the state average and hence, livestock development should form a core strategy of accelerated agricultural development in these districts. Similarly, inter-district variation in the percentage area under vegetables is an important factor contributing to unbalanced agricultural development. The aspirational districts such as Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, in agroclimatic zone I, Khagaria, Araria, and Katihar in agroclimatic zone II and Nawada, Aurangabad, Sheikhpura, Banka and Jamui have relatively low proportion of area under vegetables. The laggard non-aspirational districts in this regard include Darbhanga, Madhubani. Sheohar in agroclimatic zone I, Madhepura, and Saharsa in agroclimatic zone II and Kaimur, Jehanabad, Munger, Lakhisarai, Bhagalpur, and Buxar in agroclimatic zone III. The diversification towards vegetables production in these districts would help reduce inter-district gaps in per capita agricultural income. The fish production per farmer is another important determinant of inter-district variation in agricultural income in Bihar. The laggard aspirational districts in this respect are Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Aurangabad, and Gaya, while non-aspirational low fish producing districts include West Champaran, Siwan, Saran, Samastipur, Madhepura, Saharsa, Kishanganj, Patna, Arwal, Rohtas, Jehanabad and Bhagalpur.

(iii) Literacy rate has a positive and a statistically significant effect on rice productivity, while it has a positive, albeit, non-significant effect on productivity of wheat. At present, the literacy rate is comparatively low in the aspirational districts such as Sitamarhi, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, Nawada, Banka, and Jamui. The non-aspirational districts with relatively low literacy rate include East Champaran, West Champaran, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Sheohar, Madhepura, Saharsa, and Kishanganj. Education promotion in all these districts should form a part of the core strategy for agriculture and overall economic development in the state.

(iv) Size of landholding is one of the important determinants of inter-district variation in agricultural income. The districts with relatively low size of holding include the aspirational districts of Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Begusarai in agroclimatic zone I and Sheikhpura in agroclimatic zone III. The other laggard, albeit, non-aspirational districts are Gopalganj, East Champaran, Siwan, Saran, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Sheohar, Vaishali, in agroclimatic zone I, Madhepura in agroclimatic zone II and Patna, Munger, and Bhagalpur in agroclimatic zone III. Presently, there is heavy pressure of population on agricultural land, and therefore, unless there is a shift of population from agriculture to non-agriculture, the size of landholding of a farmer cannot be improved. The two critical factors in this regard would be: (a) land leasing reform; and (b) accelerated non-farm development. While legalising land leasing would motivate many non-viable landowners to lease out land without any fear of losing their land rights, and take up non-farm employment, strengthening of infrastructure for agroprocessing and other industries would be equally important. Besides, marginal and small farmers should be compulsorily organised as producers cooperatives or companies in order to reap the benefits of economies of scale. It was also found in our analysis that non-farm development, as reflected through percentage of non-farm workers or urbanisation in a district is the most significant determinant of inter-district variation in per capita district domestic product. Therefore, shift of population from agriculture to non-agriculture would be important not only for raising the average size of landholding, but also to accelerate the pace of overall economic development in the state.

(v) Per capita power consumption in a district was found to be an important determinant of inter-district variation in per capita district domestic product. In fact, increased power availability would be necessary for both agriculture and non-agriculture development. The aspirational districts with relatively low per capita power consumption include Khagaria, Araria, Katihar, Sheikhpura, Banka, and Jamui, while the non-aspirational districts such as Sheohar, Madhepura, Kishanganj, Arwal, Lakhisarai also have relatively low power consumption. The strengthening of power supply in all such districts would be necessary for both agriculture and non-agricultural development.

(vi) Cropping intensity is an important factor, which helps in raising farmers’ income. Surprisingly, several aspirational districts which had higher access to irrigation had also lower cropping intensity. These include Katihar, Nawada, Sheikhpura, Banka, and Gaya. The other districts having low cropping intensity were Siwan, Saran, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Kishanganj, Patna, Nalanda, Bhopur, Kaimur, Arwal, Munger, and Bhagalpur. Extension agencies should explore the techno-economic feasibility of raising cropping intensity in all these districts and help guide the farmers in this regard.

(vii) Risk management in flood-prone as well as drought-prone districts would be an equally important factor of agricultural development in Bihar. Several aspirational and non-aspirational underdeveloped districts are frequently affected by flood and drought. The higher flood prone districts include Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Sheikhpura, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Katihar, and Khagaria, while drought affects districts such as Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Gaya, Munger, Nawada, and Rohtas. Appropriate technological innovations for adoption of flood- and drought-tolerant crop varieties, and ecologically sustainable system would be crucial in this respect.

(viii) The other factors that will determine the pace and patterns of future agricultural development in Bihar are agricultural marketing reforms, including establishment of adequate number of organised markets, market integration, contract farming and retail chains. Unless farmers are assured of getting remunerative prices for what they produce, their motivation to increase farm productivity or adopt high value crops and enterprises would be lacking. Besides, the quality of road, waterways and airports should be improved for enabling the farmers’ to market their produce in the national and international markets. In addition, technological innovations involving increased research and development interventions would be required to enhance productivity of crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries.

To conclude, accelerated agricultural and overall economic development of aspirational and non-aspirational underdeveloped districts would require district-specific, sector-specific, and enterprise-specific interventions plus technological innovations, marketing reform, land leasing reform and infrastructure. This will not only help bridge the development gaps between the aspirational as well as non-aspirational underdeveloped and frontier districts, but also result in accelerated agricultural growth and rural transformation, in the state.

References

Government of Bihar (2016–17): Economic Survey 2016–17, Patna.

ICAR (2008): State Specific Technological Intervention for Higher Agricultural Growth, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi.

NITI Aayog (2018): Transformation of Aspirational Districts, Government of India, New Delhi.

Updated On : 2nd Jan, 2019

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