Making a fresh pitch for grant of special category status to the state in Bihar, the Nitish Kumar government has made the same demand it has been making for the "past 10-12 years".
In a letter to NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar, Bijendra Yadav, the state minister for planning and implementation, asserted that Bihar "fulfilled all the criteria" set for grant of special status. The minister sought to join the issue with NITI Aayog over its recent report on multidimensional poverty index in which Bihar was placed at the bottom in the country.
The report was latched on to by the opposition which has been using it to rubbish the claim of "rapid development" of the state since Nitish Kumar’s ascent to power. In his letter, the minister admitted that Bihar stood way below the national average when it came to indicators like per capita income, ease of living and human development.
Yadav blamed the state of affairs on "peculiar problems" of "landlocked" Bihar which had a high density of population with scarce natural resources and was plagued by vicissitudes like drought and flood that affected more than half of its districts.
The minister also complained of "lack of initiative" on part of the Centre for setting up public sector units in Bihar which could give a fillip to "industrial growth and technical education" in the state. Besides, Bihar "remained deprived of the benefits of the Green Revolution", the minister said, highlighting the suboptimal agricultural development in the state.
Despite these limitations imposed by geography and history, the state had registered a "robust growth rate in the last decade and a half" and achieved "development with justice", Yadav said. He also claimed that there are improvements in farming, power, roads and overall quality of governance.
Pointing out that NITI Aayog has been set up with the aim of economic "transformation" of the country, Yadav stressed that the same cannot be accomplished without transforming Bihar. The grant of special category status will reduce the state's liabilities with regard to welfare schemes and put the government in a position to dole out "tax rebates" and "financial subsidies" to attract private investment which could accelerate the growth engine further, the minister said.
The demand for special category status gained currency after the creation of Jharkhand in 2000 which stripped Bihar of the area rich in mineral reserves. Kumar upped the ante when he famously proclaimed in 2009 that he would support "any government at the Centre" that agreed to the demand. This was followed, a few years later, by a signature campaign wherein crores of citizens of the state were roped in to press the demand for "vishesh rajya ka darza".
-With PTI Inputs