Even before epidemiologists started arguing on the side of herd immunity as opposed to a prolonged lockdown to counter Covid-19, Bihar had perhaps developed its own ingenious model. No one has yet paid much attention to the third most populous State in the country which has reported among the lowest fatality rates of 1.8 per cent, just two deaths out of 113 Covid cases. And the recovery rate is equally miraculous — 95.5 per cent. That too when it sends among the highest number of migrant workers across India as also being the top State from where the UAE draws its migrant labour. Rough government estimates show that about 1.8 lakh migrant workers returned to Bihar in the wake of the corona scare.
Given these statistics, Bihar should have been a stellar example of corona-containment. So why is Kerala an internationally held example and Bihar isn’t? The most cited reason for this is Bihar having among the lowest urbanisation rates, just 11.3 per cent compared to a national average of 31.2 per cent. States with a higher urbanisation rate with crowding in urban slums i.e., Maharashtra and Gujarat, have shown an exponential increase in cases. Yet another theory is about resilience and natural immunity among the poor. The State administration seems to have internalised these truisms given the easy ebb and flow of life in the lockdown.
Reports from quarantine centres cited workers claiming immunity from Covid-19. “Is corona ko to hum chaba jayenge (I will gobble up corona),” a news report quoted a worker. Or could it be simply a case of not testing enough? Just to give an idea, the Delhi Government handed a list of 400 workers to Muzaffarpur district authorities. These workers had returned from abroad, travelled to Delhi and then went to Muzaffarpur. According to the district authorities, there are an additional 14,000 migrant workers who returned to Muzaffarpur by train. The total number of tests conducted in Muzaffarpur is 137. Would anyone still wonder why Nitish Kumar hasn’t yet claimed credit for Bihar’s exceptionalism?