Bihar and Orissa have put forth a Special Category Status demand at a Regional Planning Commission meeting with government representatives of five eastern States here.

The meeting was a regional consultation with the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Chhattisgarh to discuss matters pertaining to the Approach Paper for the 12th Five year Plan.

The two-day meeting was attended by the Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Bihar and Orissa Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, the two Jharkhand Deputy Chief Ministers, Sudesh Mahto and Hemant Soren, West Bengal Planning Minister Manish Gupta, Chhattisgarh plan panel vice-chairman Shivraj Singh and 200 other delegates.

“It was a meeting where they [representatives of five States] commented on their vital issues. It was not a meeting per se on the approach paper,” said Mr. Ahluwalia, speaking to reporters earlier in the day.

The States raised a number of issues among which the importance of developing infrastructure and agriculture was emphasised, Mr. Ahluwalia said.

In his address, Mr. Kumar stressed on Bihar's need to be accorded a Special Category Status in order to attract private players, which would entail the need to strengthen the State's infrastructure facilities.

Mr. Kumar noted the need to adopt the concept of habitation-based planning for effective implementation of the schemes.

He noted that Bihar needed to augment its Gross State Domestic Product by Rs. 2,22,919 crore at 2004-05 prices to achieve the national average through public or private investment.

The State government has put forth its need for a special assistance plan of Rs. 20,000 crore (an annual requirement of Rs. 4,000 crore) for addressing the State's infrastructure deficits.

Most of the Chief Minister's major visionary initiatives were addressed, including the interlinking of rivers and the oft-repeated wish for a National Poverty Commission, which “defined, updated and adapted the approach on poverty amelioration in the country.”

He stressed on the need to initiate Direct Cash Transfer modalities for effective food grain allocation to BPL families.

Among new initiatives put forth by the State government include a “New Nepal Initiative” for managing the current water sharing problems with neighbouring Nepal and the construction of an Eastern Economic Corridor from Raxaul to Paradweep in order to boost the economies of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Mr. Ahluwalia said a northern region meeting was recently held in Delhi, which was expected to be followed by meetings to discuss issues pertaining to the north-eastern, southern and western regions over the next few weeks.

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