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Status cry to reach NDC meet

- Bihar expects support from ‘poor’ states

Patna, Dec. 9: Bihar is all set to iterate its special status demand before the Centre later this month.

Sources said chief minister Nitish Kumar would raise the issue at the National Development Council (NDC) meet in New Delhi on December 27.

“Bihar’s case for being accorded special status was rejected by the Centre on the ground that it did not fit the bill. Nitish is likely to press for a change in the parameters so that economically backward states too could make a claim for the status without fulfilling the geographical and population criteria,” a senior state government officer, closely associated with the process of choosing issues for the chief minister’s NDC speech, told The Telegraph.

Bihar’s demand for the special status was turned down by an inter-ministerial group set up by the commission as the state did not meet the criteria. “Nitish is likely to get support of other backward states on this issue because points like per capita income, lack of infrastructure and low level of investment concern them as well,” said the officer.

Deferring the date of implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and providing special financial assistance to Bihar for raising the necessary infrastructure, would also be raised in the NDC meet.

The RTE Act, that entails free and compulsory elementary education to children in the age group of six to 14 years as a fundamental right (Article 21-A introduced through 86th amendment of the Constitution) would be treated as a law from April 1, 2013. But it is likely to put Bihar in a tough situation, as the state does not have the requisite infrastructure to meet the demands of the target group. Going by the proposed date, people would be free to sue the state governments failing to adhere to the provisions of the act. Bihar, lacking the infrastructure and manpower, would be susceptible to such cases.

“Bihar needs at least Rs 40,000 crore to construct about 2 lakh classrooms and appoint around 3 lakh teachers. Even if the Centre provides the funds now, it would not be possible to have the necessary things in place by April 1,” he said.

Bihar is also likely to raise the issue of direct cash transfer scheme, which would replace the existing one under which subsidy benefits are given. “The proposed system talks of using biometric inputs for identifying the beneficiaries. As entry of this record would take quite some time in Bihar, the state would suggest some modifications in the system and would press for the Bihar model of cash transfer, which is quite successful. If the Centre goes according to its plan then many deserving people in Bihar would be bereft of its benefits,” said the officer.

Education and agriculture are the two sectors in which Bihar has successfully implemented the direct cash transfer to the target group under which around Rs 3,000 crore cash transfer is done per annum.

In addition to these, issues pertaining to energy, health and gross budgetary support to the states are also likely to be raised by Bihar in the NDC meet.

“A final call on the issues to be raised would be taken by Nitish when he holds a high-level meet to discuss the NDC meet within a week,” said the officer.

CM WISH LIST

Nitish wants to include three points in special status criteria

Low per capita income
Lack of infrastructure
Low level of investment
Nitish’s NDC speech will also comprise
Deferring the date
(April 1, 2013) to legalise the Right to Education Act in Bihar
Bihar model of direct cash transfer to beneficiaries of development schemes


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