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Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 03, 2013
Mukhtsar in Punjab or Gurgaon in Haryana are hailed for being developed suburbs. But, a reality check by the government shows that there are pockets of backwardness in many such posh districts and bringing developmental parity in these places needs a special focus.

The government has decided on a focused approach in 1,500 such sub-districts under a revamped national developmental programme called Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), with an expected expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crore in the next four years.

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To be launched with initial funding of Rs. 45,000 crore for first two years, the second tranche of money of about R30,000 crore would be available for those sub-districts, which are able to achieve certain levels of development and introduce governance reforms.

"It is likely to be unveiled in the 2013 budget to smoothen the harder fiscal consolidation aspects of the budget. It would be launched from the next financial year," said a senior government official.

The Planning Commission has already circulated a cabinet note on wider and bigger BRGF, which has so far covered around 150 backward districts in the country.

"The district level focus has not helped as in many places the money has been spent on politically more influential blocks which may not be backward," the official said, while explaining the rationale for the new rural development focus.

So, instead of districts the Planning Commission has identified 1,500 most backward sub-districts in the country on the basis of 2011 Census data.

The data showed that there were many untouched "frontiers" of backward regions in the advanced districts such as Muktsar, which have not been covered under the government's special programmes for backward regions, said planning commission member Mihir Shah.

With new BRGF, the government also intends to scrap small programmes meant for undeveloped regions initiated purely for political gains such as the financial package for Kalahandi, Balangir and Koraput (KBK) region in Orissa and 80 naxal affected districts.

The Centre also intends to play some politics by initiating the fund to quell demand of states such as Bihar for special status.