Panel report on Bihar’s special status plea in 3 months

PATNA: Bihar’s demand for special category status got a big push when, on the directive of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Planning Commission constituted an Inter-Ministerial Group to examine the demand.

The Group with member-secretary of Planning Commission as its chairperson and secretary in the department of expenditure, Ministry of Finance, as member has been constituted as per a notification issued on September 8. The Group will submit its report in three months to the panel.

Its term of reference is to consider and examine all the issues raised in the memorandum, which had been submitted to the PM by a delegation of JD (U) leaders on July 14, including the demand for grant of special category state status to Bihar.

An office memorandum of the Planning Commission signed by joint secretary and adviser T K Pandey on September 8 said, “It has been decided with the approval of the Prime Minister to set up an Inter-Ministerial Group which will finalize its report in three months, i.e by December 8, 2011.”

The report about the constitution of the Group came at a time when the NDA MPs, through their motions failed to elicit a positive response from the government in the just-concluded session of Lok Sabha.

With chief minister Nitish Kumar making the issue of grant of special category state status to Bihar a major demand, the JD (U) launched a massive signature campaign in support of it and collected 1.25 crore signatures. These signatures were taken to Delhi and submitted to the PM. A delegation comprising national JD (U) president Shard Yadav, state party chief Vashisht Narayan Singh, Ram Sunder Das, Ranjan Yadav and RCP Singh had called on the Prime Minister and urged him to take expeditious decision on this long-pending demand of the state.

The delegation had also presented a memorandum to the PM, which had two key components. First, that the current formula of central assistance as 70% loan and 30% grant be altered to 90% grant and 10% loan, like other special category states, in case of Bihar as well. This would give Bihar additional financial resources and also greater headroom for borrowing for infrastructure and social sector projects.

The second demand was that a fiscal package comprising of tax holiday for income-tax, corporate tax, excise and customs duty be given to Bihar, so that private investment could be attracted to the state where industrialisaton so far has been low. This was particularly necessary because after the partition of Bihar, it was left with hardly any natural resources and without tax breaks investments would be difficult to attract.

It may be recalled that the PM had committed to get the demand examined by an Inter-Ministerial Group. In response to a question in the Rajya Sabha by N K Singh of JD (U) on according special category status to Bihar, the PM said, “Chief minister of Bihar has requested to provide ‘Special Category Status’ to Bihar. A delegation from Bihar has presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister on July 14, 2011, seeking Special Category Status to Bihar. An Inter-Ministerial Group would be constituted to look into the matter.”

Source: Times of India

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