Patna, May 30: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today forced his pet special status demand onto the talks table at the Planning Commission regional meet though the panel’s boss Montek Singh Ahluwalia had initially said the issue would not be discussed.
“Special category status to Bihar is neither on the agenda nor is the Planning Commission’s regional consultation meet an appropriate forum to discuss it,” Ahluwalia, the panel’s deputy chairman, had said soon after arriving.
But special category status for Bihar was on the top of the 28-page approach paper that Nitish presented at the meet of five eastern states — Orissa, Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh being the others.
The chief minister’s presentation was loaded with a plethora of suggestions and demands that included a drastic cut in the centrally-sponsored schemes, setting up of a national poverty commission, proper harnessing of water resources and interlinking of rivers.
Sources said Nitish’s contention of devolution of schemes to the respective states and a check on proliferation of centrally sponsored projects found support from his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik and Bengal planning minister Manish Gupta.
Naveen was the only other chief minister present. Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh opted out in protest against rights activist Binayak Sen’s inclusion in the commission.
Jharkhand sent its two deputy chief ministers, Sudesh Mahto and Hemant Soren, while Chhattisgarh was represented by Sheoraj Singh, who heads the state planning commission.
After the first session of the meet, Ahluwalia told reporters: “The approach papers of all the representatives will be incorporated and discussed in formulating the 12th five year plan.”
Though he did not make any commitment on the special category status, the commission boss said: “The Bihar government had raised many issues…it was a positive consultation. The issues related to public-private partnership to step up pace of development, Naxalism, flood and education were discussed at length. The commission will consider the issues.”
Nitish said the need of the hour was a regional approach to planning. “This approach is suitable for a diverse country like ours. I hope the special characteristics of the eastern economies will influence the planners,” he said.