Patna, Aug. 11: Numbers say it all.
Bihar figured at the bottom of almost every aspect that the Raghuram Rajan committee worked on to redefine backwardness of states.
The committee, headed by Rajan, the chief economic adviser to the Union finance ministry, is in the process of finalising its report on the backwardness index. “The last meeting of the committee was held yesterday. The report will be submitted before Rajan demits his office as chief economic adviser,” said committee member Saibal Gupta.
Rajan will take charge as the Reserve Bank of India governor next month.
The six-member committee has primarily used 10 indicators, including monthly per capita consumption, education, health, household amenities, poverty and literacy rates among others, to draw the backwardness index. (See chart)
If the report is accepted, the state would gain immensely as the increase of central funds is expected to be around 90 per cent. “However, it must be understood that the index of backwardness and according special status are two different things. The special status will have to be decided by the Centre. It will be essentially a political decision,” said an economic expert, insisting that the Union government must first accept the committee’s recommendations before the ball is set to roll.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar today said that he would wait for the central government’s decision on the committee report. “We are keeping a watch on the special committee on framing new criteria to fix backwardness of the states which will submit its report to the Union government soon,” he told reporters here.
“Let us see what decision the Centre takes on the basis of the report,” Kumar said.
However, experts point out that giving a special status to Bihar may open a Pandora’s Box with other states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bengal among others demanding the same. “It is not as if the Congress has to fight an election in Bihar alone,” said the expert stressing that more funds could be pumped in Bihar even without declaring a special status for it, if the Rajan committee recommendations are accepted.
Nitish has been demanding special status for Bihar for quite some time because it would include tax holidays for investors and might churn out less state share for central schemes. However, Bihar did not qualify for special status as the criteria included hilly terrain, sparse population, lack of connectivity and unsustainable economy — most of it Bihar was not able to fulfil.
“However, the new indicators for backwardness have enabled Bihar to qualify for the special status. The Centre may now announce a special status for Bihar if it desires so,” said a JD(U) MP stressing that Nitish had achieved in bringing the state one step closure to the desired result.