The BIMARU states are four northern Indian states - Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. BIMARU is an acronym formed from the first letters of the names of the states. It was coined by Ashish Bose in the mid-1980s. BIMARU has a resemblance to a Hindi word "Bimar" which means sick. This was used to describe the bad state of economy in backward states Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarpradesh. Later Odisha was included in the list resulting in BIMAROU. Several studies, including those by the UN, showed that the performance of the BIMARU states affected the GDP growth rate of India. Some of these states are also a part of Red Corridor. Since some of these states have now started to advance faster than some of the developed states, the concept of BIMARU is starting to become outdated.
In the mid 80s, economic analyst Ashish Bose coined an acronym BIMARU, in a paper submitted to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. BIMARU has a resemblance to a Hindi word "Bimar" which means sick. This was used to describe the bad state of economy in backward states Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Later Odisha was included in the list. Several studies, including those by the UN, showed that the performance of the BIMARU states affected the GDP growth rate of India. Some of these states are also a part of Red Corridor.
In recent times some of these states have seen real push in terms of economic growth. Although, some of these states have experienced high growth rates, they still lag other more progressive states .
The BIMARU states have some of the highest fertility rates in India. In 2010, the total fertility rate was 3.7 for Bihar, 3.5 for Uttar Pradesh, 3.2 for Madhya Pradesh, and 3.1 for Rajasthan, compared to 2.5 for India as a whole.
Notably, the higher than average population growth rate is a recent phenomenon, observed since the 1970s only. As late as 1981, ignoring urban city like Delhi, Kerala was the state with the highest population density. See Table 1.9 in the link. This is remarkable since the habitable portion of Kerala as a percent of the total area is much smaller than the Gangetic plains states with their highly fertile land.
The literacy rates in these states according to the 2011 census are Bihar 63.8%, Odisha 65.9%, Rajasthan 67.1%, Jharkhand 67.6%, Madhya Pradesh 70.6% and Uttar Pradesh 71.7% against a national average of 74.04%. While they trail the national average in the current literacy rate, they are registering very healthy growth rates in literacy comfortably outpacing states like Andhra Pradesh (67.7%) and Chhattisgarh (71%), which have comparable literacy levels (the exception being Rajasthan).
A recent survey by National University of Educational Planning & Administration or UNEPA has determined that quality of teachers in BIMARU states is better than all India. Only 21% of all primary school teachers in Bihar and 12.8% in UP are Matriculates or lower. The rest are better educated. These figures compare favourably with other developed states with Gujarat being the worst and Karnataka being the second worst. However, this is some sort of an enigma because the states of Gujarat and Karnataka are relatively more advanced. Thus, the reason as to why the BIMARU states are poorer, may not be attributed to literacy rates.
Renowned educationists have asked for a complete overhaul of the educational system, particularly at the primary level.
The life expectancy in BIMARU states is lower than other Indian states. In fact, it is lower than the average life expectancy of India as a whole, implying that these states bring down the overall average as a whole.
Corruption remains one of the key factors reflecting poverty levels throughout the world and these states generally fare worse in the corruption indexes usually published. Political squabbles and the lack of a fixed direction in growth due to political tug of war does not help either, Uttar Pradesh, being an example.
The state of Bihar, as an example, though being an agrarian state, does not have even one of the dozen odd agricultural research laboratories where the central government pumps in millions of dollars. The Pusa Institute built by the noted American philanthropist Phillips near Samastipur in 1905  was shifted to Delhi after the earthquake. This has left little scope for agricultural research in Bihar.
It is one of the enigmas that in spite of the large representation in the parliament, these states could not get adequate resources for their development. Economist Mohan Guruswamy is one of the few who has tried to get into the reasons. He says " If politics were mostly about the allocation of resources, surely Bihar and UP should have done better in terms of what they have got so far. One explanation could be that the states with aggressive regional parties at the helm with a tradition of strong regional sentiments like Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh or Gujarat have done better at attracting the Central Government’s concerns and winning a larger share of resources. Clearly then numbers either in parliament or in the government have not served the people of the two states." 
The differences in economic and population growth rates between the BIMARU states and other Indian states sharpened over the 1990s. The economy of the four BIMARU states grew at an average of 4.6% per year in the 1990s, compared to 6.5% per year for India as a whole. Since population growth in the BIMARU states was much higher than the Indian average in this period, the income disparity between the BIMARU states and India as a whole also increased.
There has been no effort to involve the local population of these states in the planning process. Most of the decision makers of august bodies like planning commission are not from these states. No noteworthy public sector industry has its head quarters in these states. Coal is largely produced in these states. However, the HQ of Coal India Ltd is in West Bengal. This region is the biggest producer of steel. However, the HQ of Steel Authority of India is at Delhi. Banking industry was nationalized in the sixties. The banks which were based out of these states were merged with bigger entities which had their HQ elsewhere. Thus the decision makers, far removed from these states, are apathetic to the needs of the people from these states.
The Indian government's Freight Equalisation Scheme (FES) which sought to neutralize the geographical advantages of Bihar. A tonne of coal or steel in Dhanbad was sought to be priced the same as say at Kanyakumari, some 3,000 km away in Tamil Nadu. Sadly, FES was applied for only those items which gave advantage to Bihar, viz coal and steel; not, for example, the advantage that a Chennai enjoyed due to being a port city. This thoroughly ill conceived policy was kept in operation until it managed to break the back of the most industrialized region of India which was referred as the 'Ruhr' of India at the time of independence. The scheme was in operation till the mid nineties. Another unfortunate example is the sugar policy. At the time of independence and well into the fifties, Bihar produced 25% of India's sugar. However, due to discriminatory policies and lack of research into the local sugar cane varieties, the sugar industry of Bihar and east Uttar Pradesh was brought to its knees. Today Bihar produces less than 2% of the sugar of India.
Another factor determining the BIMARU states economic situation is the lack of investment in irrigation and flood control. In spite of the highest incidence of floods in this region, the investment to manage this has been rather meager. Even though the socialist era in India was known for large infrastructure projects, the most modern irrigation system of Bihar is the British built Son Command Canal System which was opened for use in 1890s. This is in sharp contrast to projects like Bhakra Nangal Dam in Punjab.
Yet another factor is the lack of perspective in the planning exercise. For example, even though large portions of the national highway schemes: the Golden Quadrilateral and the East West corridor pass through the so-called BIMARU states, its alignment would not serve the population of these states. Muzaffarpur is the only town of any significance in the whole of Bihar and Jharkhand put together that would be served by these highways. Let alone the main alignment, there is no provision even for by-passes to serve towns such as Ranchi, Patna, Dhanbad, Gaya or Jamshedpur. The colonially minded central planners completely failed to discern the gross inadequacy of their plans as they built highways as if they were meant to transport troops and supplies over an enemy territory. Similarly, investment in the tourism infrastructure of Bodh Gaya, the most revered place of the Buddhists the world over, is rather conspicuous by its absence.
Since 2005, Bihar is seeing a revival. Latest figures show that it is self-sufficient in food. The state recently fought to have the debilitating provisions of the central sugar policy revoked. The result is that 25 new sugar factories have been committed by private entrepreneurs in the state over the last year or so.
Since 2000, there has also been a change in the geographic composition of these states, with Bihar being bifurcated into Bihar and Jharkhand; Madhya Pradesh being bifurcated into Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh; and Uttar Pradesh being bifurcated into Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The smaller units are less reluctant to ask for their fair share from the central kitty.
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- "BIMARU towns fuelling India's economic resurgence". economictimes. September 24, 2010.
- "Maharashtra faring worse than BIMARU states". hindustantimes. December 1, 2010.
- "Ashish Bose – The man who coined the term ‘Bimaru’". Mint.
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- "BIMARU or bimari?". The Hindu. 12 August 2005.
- "Annual estimates of Total Fertility rate by residence, India and bigger States, 2005-10" Planning Commission, Government of India. Accessed 21 June 2012. http://planningcommission.nic.in/data/datatable/0904/tab_137.pdf
- "Statewise distribution of population". Government of India.
- "Only 21% teachers in Bihar are Class X pass". The Times of India. 12 December 2007.
- "Inclusive education". Business Standard.
- "TII-CMS India Corruption Study 2007". CMS India / Transparency International India. June 2008.
- "History of Research in Indian Agriculture". Indian Agricultural Research Institute.
- "‘Pusa Institute’ is still the best". The Times of India.
- "The Children of the Ganga and the Politics of Allocation". Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.
- Jeffrey D. Sachs, Nirupam Bajpai, and Ananthi Ramiah. "Understanding Regional Economic Growth in India". CID Working Paper No. 88, March 2002. Center for International Development at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
- The Hindu
- The Children of Ganga
- Deurbanisation of Bihar
- Centrally planned Inequality
- Cow Belt
- Standard of living in India
- States of India by size of economy
- Ministry of Rural Development (India)
- Rural Development Foundation, India
- Economy of India
- Indo-Gangetic Plain
- North India
- Green Revolution in India