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Plan panel finds fault with key areas of state

Plan panel warns Maharashtra that Urban poverty, pending irrigation projects still a concern, reports Ketaki Ghoge.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007 03:29 IST

It may be the biggest plan outlay in the history of the state but the Planning Commission hasn't let the state government off without sounding a warning bell.

Maharashtra's performance in key areas -- power, irrigation, urban poverty -- was a serious concern for the Planning Commission officials.

The state will have to pay more attention on removing regional imbalances of development, the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots ( 31.7 per cent of population lives in slums) to get itself  a pat on the back from the Planning Commission.

In response to these concerns the Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh promised to focus on "irrigation, power, and regional imbalances in the coming years".

Senior state official admitted that these nagging problems -- "result of past administrative and political mistakes" -- were a serious challenge for the state.

For instance post-ENRON, the state now has a power shortage of 5,600 MW, ranking it as one of the five worse power affected states. Deshmukh admitted that power and lack of investment in this sector would be a niggling worry and these summer months crucial for the state.

The regional imbalances -- due to political decisions says Planning Commission report -- have created huge development funds backlogs for backward regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada, in favour of investments in Rest of Maharashtra.

The Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the state was doing well in Public Private Partnership in infrastructure projects, and asked the state to expand this model to the social sector.

The clear directive to the state was to address "regional balances and accord priority to inclusiveness".

However, the delegation also had lots to smile about.

Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia expressed satisfaction over its growth rate of 8 per cent per annum.

The increased allocation -- over Rs 5,000 crore -- from last year signals to "a financially stable state", said finance minister Jayant Patil.

The Planning Commission also seemed favourable to Deshmukh's demand that the Prime Minister's package for Vidarbha's distressed farmers -- over Rs 3,000 crore -- should be given separately from the state's plan.

A major chunk of the funds of over Rs 3,600 crore will go in "completing pending irrigation projects" as directed by the Commission members. Big-ticket infrastructure projects have got a major boost -- especially roads -- with funding of Rs 1,000 crore.

While the state has Rs 17,000 in its kitty for development funds, the remaining Rs 3,000 will be raised through funds from centre, devolution of taxes, and improving the state's revenues.