NEW DELHI

Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh may get EU's help

Sunny Sebastian

JAIPUR: Negotiations on the proposed 160 million Euro assistance from the European Union to Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have reached a final stage.

The officials of EU's European Commission to India and the senior functionaries of the States who met in the respective capitals the past week confirmed that despite hiccups in the past - mostly over policy formulations - the partnership programme is progressing towards a final agreement next month.

Under this, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh would receive Rs.480 crores each over a period of four years from the time of commencement of the programme. Rajasthan's grant is for the water sector while Chhattisgarh will make use of the assistance to improve its general administration, education and the health sectors.

"Both Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are reform-minded States. It is good to work with them,'' Etienne Claeye, First Counsellor and Head of Operations of Delegation of the European Commissioner to India, said talking to The Hindu. "It has been a long haul. I came here first two years back,'' Mr.Claeye, visibly happy about the positive outcome of the negotiations, said.

"The negotiations have reached the final stage. By and large the schedule of the programme is expected to be maintained as they are planning to start it very soon,'' D.C.Samant, Additional Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister, confirmed the positive outcome of the talks.

The situation, at least in the case of Rajasthan, was fluid prior to the meeting Mr.Claeye, along with another senior functionary of EC, Kulan Ameen, had here on Friday with the Chief Secretary, Anil Vaish, the Secretary Finance and Planning, Rajeev Mehrishi and the Secretary, Irrigation, S.N.Thanvi. Three days back the EC team had a similar meeting in the Chattisgarh capital.

Reforms

"The reforms are not easy. We are fully aware of the complexities involved,'' Mr.Claeye said giving full marks to Chattisgarh and Rajasthan— and also to the Centre for facilitating them. "Earlier, Chattisgarh was a bit tardy in the negotiations. This time I found the State very resolute,'' he said. Speculation was rife that EU, disgusted over the Rajasthan Government's non-committal stand on a ''sector wide'' approach and policy formulation on ground water use, might pull out of the proposal after two long years of homework.

The absence of the State Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, who herself had expressed keenness on working on the water sector with EU support, in the State at the time of the crucial negotiations had added to the scepticism. Prior to the meeting, the EU representatives had told Rajasthan Government that the existing investments in the water sector in the State were getting defunct due to low maintenance outlay and heavy revenue loss due to pilferage of drinking water to the tune of 50 per cent.

"These are all matter of details. There have been no major difference of opinion,'' S.N.Thanvi, the Secretary, Irrigation and Indira Gandhi Canal Project, noted. "We told them that the Government cannot give an undertaking on ground water legislation. It is politically a very sensitive issue,'' he noted.

The final agreement, to be signed between EU and the Department of Economic Affairs, Government of India, the Governments of Rajasthan and Chattisgarh will be drafted by July 11 by an EU team.

The amount of 160 million Euros is to be halved between the two States at the starting point but in case a State lags behind in the race, it will lose a portion of its share to the other.

Recommended for you