New Delhi/Ranchi, Dec. 27: Chief minister Arjun Munda today made a strong pitch for special status for Jharkhand, joining a similar cry by neighbouring Bihar during the 57th National Development Council meeting in Delhi.
Arguing that 19 of the 24 districts in Jharkhand are Naxalite-hit, Munda said the tag of special state and enhanced financial aid was imperative to deal effectively with its problems.
“Jharkhand should be provided a special central package, without which it will not be able to get rid of the problem of militancy,” Munda said at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Naxalism has crippled development of the state and also led to huge losses of property and lives, he added.
“Jharkhand fulfils all the criteria required to get special status. The percentage of temporary houses in rural and urban areas is 19.4 per cent and 74.6 per cent respectively, which is more than those of states that have been granted special status,” Munda pointed out.
He added that in the fields of drinking water and sanitation, human resource development, electricity and transport, too, Jharkhand was behind the states with special status.
While regular states get 70 per cent central assistance as grants and the rest as a loan, special states enjoy 90 per cent as grants and 10 per cent loans.
States that have been special status include the seven north-eastern states, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Munda suggested that a state’s annual income, as against gross state domestic product, should be the basis of distribution of central resources, while demanding that the Centre constitute a commission for identifying BPL families.
“There is an element of confusion over BPL policies adopted by the Centre and the Planning Commission. Large-scale measures should therefore be taken to identify the beneficiaries,” he said.
Munda also urged the Union government to set up a central infrastructure pool to assist backward states in a bid to attract investors.
Supporting Integrated Action Plan (IAP) in its current form, he asked the Centre to allocate special grants for infrastructure development of rebel-hit districts chosen under it.
“Our past experiences suggest that poor tribals living in scheduled areas are not benefiting enough from budgetary provisions. We have to determine the actual number of people living in scheduled areas and their real needs. The budgetary provisions ought to be made accordingly and the government should ensure that every individual is benefited. The IAP schemes in Naxalite-hit areas have started yielding positive results. It should be expanded further,” he added.
The chief minister stressed that Jharkhand fulfils the mineral needs of the entire nation, but mining had affected agriculture, leading to displacement of people and making them susceptible to join anti-establishment outfits.
Besides, Munda demanded that the Centre release Rs 536 crore required to implement plans under JNNURM in Jharkhand and Rs 500 crore to develop a proposed knowledge hub for promoting technical and vocational learning.