Special Correspondent

Seeks approval for the Rs.14,800-crore Kosi package

Help mitigate growing regional inequalities, urges the Bihar CM

Reiterates demand for special category status for Bihar

NEW DELHI: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to expedite infrastructure and social sector projects needed to develop the State.

Task force

Congratulating Dr. Singh on his assuming office , the Chief Minister, in a letter on Saturday, sought his assistance and support in the Bihar government’s effort to mitigate growing regional inequalities and redress the endemic economic backwardness in Bihar.

Underlining seven key areas — Kosi reconstruction and rehabilitation, agro-processing, energy, debt amelioration, poverty entitlement, roads and special category status, Mr. Kumar also suggested that the Centre constitute a Special Task Force in the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor implementation of these projects.

The Chief Minister requested Dr. Singh for a direction that Bihar’s request for a Rs.14,800-crore package for Kosi reconstruction and rehabilitation be accorded early approval.

He drew attention to the October 12, 2008 memorandum on this.

Withdraw order

He asked the Centre to withdraw its order that permitted only existing sugar mills to produce ethanol directly from sugarcane and instead expedite approval of an amendment — pending Presidential assent — facilitating such production, including by new mills. On the energy sector, Mr. Kumar said while the State awaits approval for three-phase energy availability under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidhyutikaran Yojna, 14 new thermal projects with a capacity of 17,178 MW and a 5,000-MW new generation unit to be set up, were languishing in the absence of coal linkages.

Seeking a reconsideration of the Finance Ministry’s decision not to accept Bihar’s request to consider waiving Rs.760 crore in debt for the years 2006-06 and 2006-07, he said at present it was given only for 2004-05.

Referring to the poverty entitlement programme, Mr. Kumar said the number of families for entitlement of foodgrains and kerosene should be realistically determined based on actual household estimates and these two products be released accordingly.

He said Bihar at present had around 122 lakh families in the Below Poverty Line category.

Even if complaints about some 57 lakh families being in excess were verified and half of them found genuine, the total number would exceed 150 lakh while the Centre released foodgrains and kerosene for 65 lakh.

Highway project

The State government also sought speedy action to implement the national highway project stating that work had not been awarded on a single scheme even after three years.

Finally, he re-emphasised the demand that Bihar be given Special Category status given its poor infrastructure, low tax base, low per capita expenditure, high poverty and hesitant appetite for private investment.

Corrections and Clarifications

(The seventh paragraph of a report "Nitish urges Manmohan to expediteprojects in Bihar" (May 25, 2009) was "Seeking a reconsideration of theFinance Ministry's decision not to accept Bihar's request to considerwaiving Rs.760 crore in debt for the years 2006-06 and 2006-07, he said thatat present it was given only for 2004-05." It should have been "2005-06" inthe first instance.)