Panel under Chief Economic Adviser to evolve new criteria for backwardness

Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday said Bihar would qualify for the grant of special status under new criteria for backwardness. Mr. Chidambaram was on a day’s visit here to take stock of the Nalanda University Project and attend a State-level bankers committee meeting.

Mr. Chidambaram said a committee, under the chairmanship of Chief Economic Adviser Raghuram Rajan would be formed in a few days.

The panel will evolve new criteria for backwardness and submit a report to the Centre within a month.“The committee [will] work on the criteria and submit a report, after which we will have new criteria to determine backwardness. Once we have agreed on the criteria and implemented them, States will qualify under them. From whatever information I have, Bihar will certainly qualify. What I said in Parliament [about reviewing the criteria] will be implemented,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — who was present with Mr. Chidambaram — and his party JD(U) have been demanding special category status for Bihar to spur its development process.

After a visit to the Nalanda University site, Mr. Chidambaram gave an assurance that the Centre would provide the varsity with necessary funds and manpower for the next decade. “I assured the Vice-Chancellor and sub-committee members that funds will be made available for building the Nalanda University. The University’s requirement is a little over Rs. 2,000 crore up to 10 years. India has the capacity to spend that kind of money,” he said.

Mr. Chidambaram supported the demand to include Nalanda in the list of UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) world heritage sites.

To further the efforts, there was a requirement of manpower and funds. “I have promised the officers of the Archaeological Survey of India that when I go back to Delhi I will talk to the Minister of Culture and see what we can do for provision of additional manpower and resources. Nalanda is a front-ranking candidate for becoming a world heritage site,” he said.

In the area of bank lending, although Bihar had made significant progress, there was need for greater penetration of banking operations, said the Finance Minister.

“There [has been] considerable progress in Bihar, especially in 2012-13, but I am not fully satisfied. So we have set some ambitious targets for the bankers for 2013-14. In 2013-14, 750 branches need to be opened. In 2012-13, only 410 branches were opened. I have requested the managing director of SBI to ask senior officers to do field visits and keep a close watch on the banks so that these targets can be achieved. We have asked them to step up education loans. We have asked them to issue KCC cards [Kisan Credit Cards] to over 11 lakh people this year and all the cards must be ATM-compatible. We will closely monitor the progress of these targets,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

Chit fund scam

Fielding a question on the chit fund scam, he put the ball in the State government’s court. “The Chit Fund Act casts the responsibility on the State government and empowers the State to take action,” he said.

He declined to comment on the removal of Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar from their ministerial posts.