Niti Aayog will be closely examining Bihar’s demand for special status and will provide all requisite assistance to the state, vice-chairman of the government think-tank Rajiv Kumar has said.
Speaking to News18.com, Rajiv Kumar said Bihar has made “tremendous progress” across multiple sectors in the last decade, but owing to its weak base in the past, the state may take some more time to catch up with others and reach the optimum growth in all aspects.
“Niti Aayog is ready to help and support Bihar as much as possible, but as far as the issue of special status in concerned, we will have to closely examine the state’s justification for it and determine that,” Kumar said. It will be looked at, shortly, he added.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has raised a 15-year-old demand to designate Bihar as a special category state, days after a Niti Aayog report put it among the poorest states in India that lacked development on several human development indices.
RJD MP Manoj Jha, too, has given Suspension of Business notice in the Rajya Sabha to discuss the grant of special status to Bihar on Thursday.
Niti Aayog’s first-ever Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report ranked Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh among the poorest states of India. As per the index, 51.91% population of Bihar is poor, followed by 42.16% in Jharkhand and 37.79% in Uttar Pradesh.
The report stated that Bihar also has the highest malnourished population and is the worst performer on parameters such as percentage of population deprived of maternal health, years of schooling, school attendance, as well as cooking fuel and electricity.
Granting special status to a state would mean that the ratio of Centre-State funding of centrally sponsored schemes will be divided in the ratio of 90:10, as against the ratio of 60:40 in other states.
Jharkhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have also raised similar demands periodically.
At present, there is no policy in the central government to declare any state as special category state. However, there is a provision for special assistance to states on a case-to-case basis.
Earlier, there were several discretionary grants given to states by the Centre, but after the 14th Finance Commission recommended an increase in devolution of central taxes to states to 41%, the concept of any special assistance to a state, even by way of declaring it as a special category state, ceased to exist. Moreover, Bihar does not get a post-devolution revenue deficit grant from the Centre.
Unlike the erstwhile Planning Commission, the Niti Aayog does not have the powers to allocate funds to a state, but can provide the government its recommendations on such issues.
Rajiv Kumar, who completed four years as the Vice-Chairman of Niti Aayog in September, said the think-tank’s reports have also highlighted the massive progress made by Bihar in multiple sectors.
“Bihar has the second highest rate of agricultural growth, for instance. Niti Aayog has underlined how it is catching up on other parameters, just that it will take some more time,” he said.
He added that a host of reforms are being undertaken by the Centre across sectors. He said Niti Aayog is driving many of them and is also keeping track of the progress made in each of them.