Bihar, India's third-most populous state, is the focus of attention, as its legislative assembly prepares for re-election soon. We have seen how Bihar lag in terms of economic and infrastructure development. The state has the lowest enrollment in secondary schools among poor states. The crime rate is second highest among poor states. However, there is also a brighter side. Bihar's maternal mortality is the lowest among poor states. The state has been successful in cutting its infant mortality rate and now does better than some richer states.
Bihar has India's lowest literacy rate, according to the 2011 census. 64% of Bihar's 104 million people are literate, a rate lower than several, poor African countries, including Malawi, the two Congos and Sudan. The Indian literacy rate is 74%. Bihar's gross enrollment ratio (GER) at the primary level (age 6-14 years; grade 1 to 8) is lower than 100, although education is now compulsory for all children aged six to 14 years. The GER for secondary-level schooling (age 15-16 years; grade nine and 10) in Bihar was 60 in 2013-14. This suggests that beyond the compulsory age of education (six-14 years), not many children are going to schools in Bihar.
Only 58% schools in Bihar had separate toilets for girls in 2013-14. Drinking water was available only in 88% schools. Poor infrastructure is reportedly a major reason for low enrollment in schools. Bihar reported only 31.7% project completion of the Swachh Vidyalaya (Clean Schools) program till March 31, 2015. But, Bihar's infant mortality rate (IMR) is better than MP, UP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh. With an IMR of 42, Bihar is doing well, compared to other poor states. The state has improved its IMR from 48 in 2010 to 42 in 2013. A key reason for a lower IMR could be the improved use of oral-rehydration solution (ORS) among children suffering from diarrhea. Other improvements include better vaccination against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT) and measles.
Bihar has lowest maternal mortality rate (MMR) among poor states, with 219 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. However, the state's MMR is still high compared to the national average of 178. Strengthening of institutional factors has led to the reduction in MMR. Deliveries at home have come down from 47% in 2012 to 42% in 2011. While safe deliveries went up from 59.9% to 64.5%, institutional deliveries went up from 51% to 55.7%.
Law and order is another concern in Bihar. Bihar has the second-highest crime rate among poor states. With 8.6% of India's population, it accounted for 10% of violent crimes reported nationwide. The crime rate in the state has gone up to 30.5 in 2013 from 25.1 in 2012. Almost 17% of crimes reported were against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. At the same time, Bihar has the second-lowest crime rate against children among poor states at 3.57 per 100,000 children. This is far lower than the national average of 13.23. Bihar also has the lowest crime rate against women- 28 per 100,000 women.