PATNA: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today asserted that Bihar deserves a ‘special category status’ by the Narendra Modi government, even as he acknowledged the “extra assistance” being provided by the Narendra Modi government to the state.
The JD(U) national president, who has been demanding the special status for Bihar for past many years, said his government will also plead its case before the 15th Finance Commission when it visits Bihar.
Typically, a ‘special category status’ is given to states that have been historically disadvantaged in comparison to others and it involves the Centre assisting such states with greater fund allocation for centrally-sponsored schemes among other benefits.
Speaking to reporters after his weekly public interaction programme Lok Samvad, Kumar said Bihar is a land-locked state and investors are unlikely to put in their money here unless they are given some tax incentives and it would need support of special status.
Justifying his demand for special status, the chief minister said Bihar was deprived of its rich natural resources with the creation of Jharkhand and large parts of north Bihar get ravaged every year by floods caused by rivers originating in Nepal.
The 14th Finance Commission did away with the provision of grant of special category status, but many states including Bihar and Andhra Pradesh continue to demand this status.
While the overall share of states in tax revenue has increased since the 11th Finance Commission recommendations, Bihar’s share has undergone a steady decline, Kumar said, while adding that his government would plead its case before the 15th Finance Commission whenever it visits the state.
The 15th Finance Commission, headed by former Bihar cadre IAS officer N K Singh, was earlier scheduled to tour the state last week but it was deferred at the eleventh hour.
Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of special package, Kumar said there are sectors like roads where the Centre is providing the state with extra assistance, but development of a state like Bihar is going to be a complex affair and therefore a special status is required.
To a question on whether the BJP, which is a partner in the ruling coalition in the state, was not keen on a special status for Bihar, Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, who was sitting next to Kumar, took the mike but side-stepped the question saying this was a press conference of the chief minister and it would not be proper for anyone else to speak.
Kumar has been pursuing special category status demand for Bihar for long. He has also held public rallies in support of the demand in Patna in October 2012 as well in Delhi in March 2013.
The issue of special status has bounced back to national prominence after Chandra Babu Naidu-led Telegu Desam Party left the ruling NDA alliance at the Centre over denial of the status to Andhra Pradesh.
About the Centre’s recent announcement of 50 per cent hike in the minimum support price for farmers, the Bihar chief minister said these measures do help but it needs to be remembered that procurement by state governments take place primarily for rice and wheat since these food grains are used for the public distribution system.
To help farmers who may be involved in cultivation of other items like pulses and vegetables, some innovative measures are needed, he said.
Kumar said some new ideas have been conceptualised in Bihar which include crop assistance scheme and input subsidies to farmers involved in organic farming.
Source: Press Trust of India