Bihar Cabinet Wednesday approved the allocation of Rs 2.5 lakh crore over next five years to help 94 lakh poor families counted in the Bihar caste survey. The cabinet also passed a proposal to send a request to the Centre to demand special category status, a move that can help it reduce the additional financial burden.
The cabinet decision comes a day after the Bihar Governor approved the Bihar Reservation (Amendment) Bill, passed by both Houses of legislature during the just-concluded Winter Session. The quota cap, now raised to 65 per cent from 50 per cent (besides 10 per cent EWS quota), will be in force now. Effectively, the quota cap is now 75 per cent.
A government statement said about 94 lakh families would be given Rs 2 lakh each in instalments for self-employment of a member each. Besides, 63,850 landless families will be given Rs 1 lakh each to buy land to raise home.
These families will also be given Rs 1.2 lakh each to construct homes. About 39 lakh families living in thatched houses would be given Rs 1.2 lakh each to build a home. Under an existing livelihood scheme, a poor family will now be given Rs 2 lakh instead of the earlier Rs 1 lakh.
The state has assessed that the total cost to be incurred on all these schemes in five years comes to Rs 2.5 lakh crore.The cabinet also passed a proposal to demand special category status from the Centre.
The government statement said: “Since a huge amount is required for the entire exercise in five years, we demand the Centre to give us special category status so that we can implement these schemes in less time.”
Nitish has been seeking the special category tag for Bihar since at least 2007. In a special category state, the Centre-state funding of centrally-sponsored schemes is split in the ratio of 90:10, much more favourable than the 60:40 or 80:20 splits in other (non-SCS) states.
After the government accepted the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission in 2015, however, the concept of SCS effectively disappeared.
The NITI Aayog, which has replaced the Planning Commission, has no power to allocate funds — and therefore, the discretion that the ruling party at the Centre had to dole out special favours to states through the Plan panel, no longer exists.
States such as Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand have, however, persisted with the demand. Andhra Pradesh too has claimed SCS as fulfilment of the promise that it says was made by the previous UPA government when the state was bifurcated in 2014.
Bihar is appealing for Special Status but what exactly does it mean?
The Special Category Status (SCS) was introduced in 1969. It is a special kind of classification which the Centre has approved especially for the states facing socio-economic and geographical disadvantages.
There are 5 factors which earn the badge for SCS :
Hilly and Difficult terrains
low population density or certain amount of tribal population
strategic location alongside borders
economic and infrastructural backwardness
non-viable nature of state finances
The special status was first granted to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland. As of now, 11 states have been granted the SCS badge including Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and others. Among all, Telangana is the most recent Specially Categorised State.
Why is Bihar demanding Special Status?
Different political parties have been demanding Special Status for Bihar. They demand the this against the backdrop of poverty and backwardness of the state.
The condition of the state is a culmination of many factors including, lack of natural resources, rare-regular water supply for irrigation purposes, and the fact that Bihar is drought-prone.
Bihar’s economic condition took a severe hit when the state was carved out of Jharkhand. Ever since, Bihar has been consistently among the poorest states of the country.
Does Bihar meet the criteria for Special Status?
Bihar nearly meets all the criteria for the Special Status except for the most predominant one; hilly or terrain region which in-turn causes lack of infrastructural progress.
Many proposals were designed and in 2013, Raghuram Rajan committee which was designed by the Central Government created a new methodology based on a ‘multi-dimensional index’ for devolving funds instead of granting SCS.