Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bihar Deserves ‘Special Category status'

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on May 15, 2009 announced that the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) would support any party in New Delhi that grants special status to his state for economic development.

He has put forward a strong case for special category status for the state, which lags behind several states in economic development. He put forward a strong case for special category status for the state, which lags behind several states in economic development. He pointed out, however, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had refused to give Bihar special status despite repeated requests.

Noted economist Lord Meghnad J Desai on Friday fully endorsed Bihar's claim for special category status and even favoured "political bargaining" for that. "Transformation in the position of Bihar is a great achievement. It is time to make a persuasive case for Bihar".

Deasi said: "Political bargaining can come in handy for achieving the special category status to Bihar. There should be more transparency in allocation of funds by the Centre."

Desai said something has gone wrong in Bihar and UP which send 120 MPs to Parliament. "In advanced states, the social empowerment of weaker sections took place much earlier. In Bihar and UP, the empowerment of socially weaker sections has remained suppressed for a long time," he said.

He strongly pleaded for effective people-centric governance and direct funds to the target group. "A poor man knows more than experts where to spend the money," Desai said.

Nitish said giving funds directly to the poor will cut down corruption and government expenditure. He also pointed towards the poor power condition in Bihar. "Whenever I hold meetings with important persons there is always a power outage. I told Lord Desai that this is also one reason Bihar should be given the special category status," he said. "When I took over, Bihar's own production was zero. While efforts were made to set up power plants in Bihar, private parties were unwilling to come because no coal linkage (transportation of coal directly from mines) facility has been given to the state," he said.

On April 4, 2006, the Bihar Assembly passed an unanimous resolution demanding special category status to Bihar. This decision emerged after a four-hour debate in the assembly on a resolution which was adopted unanimously. Participating in the debate, the Nitish had stressed the need for a heavy doze of Central assistance as well as investment from private and public sectors to put Bihar on a par with developed states.

Nitish listed grounds for making such a demand saying Bihar has international borders with Nepal and Bangladesh, it is struck by recurring floods, power scenario is critical and also there is a problem of extremism. "Bihar can overcome these problems once it gets financial support, investment and subsidy," he added. In a rare gesture of unity and rising above the political affiliation, the members sitting on both sides rose in unison and forcefully approved the resolution calling the Centre to include Bihar in the special category of states. Members cutting across the party line favoured the move and urged their central leaders to take up the matter with the Prime Minister.

An all-party delegation led by Nitish Kumar sought an appointment with the PM on the issue. The delegation approached the PMO for an appointment on April 13, 2006. But even after 37 months, the appointment has not been given.
Bihar Chamber of Commerce (BCC) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on 15 May, 2009 urged the Centre to give special category status to Bihar. Satyajit Singh, Bihar CII, chairman too felt that Bihar needed a composite package with special category status.

BCC delegation had on August 28, 1999, met the then Union finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the then vice-chairman of Planning Commission Pranab Mukherjee, seeking special category state status to Bihar. He recalled that in June, 1989, the then PM Rajiv Gandhi had announced a special package for Bihar of over Rs 5,000 crore for various projects but it was never implemented.

Bihar government and BCC has been demanding economically and industrially backward state status for Bihar
for the past several years.

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