Just a week ahead of the fourth anniversary of the state government, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia patted Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's initiatives on development and also conceded the state's request for increase in allocation under Sam Vikas Yojana from Rs 1000 crore to Rs 2000 crore.
"There is a visible change sweeping Bihar. The Centre is committed to support the state in terms of resource allocation for it's all round progress," he observed.
However, Ahluwalia remained non-committal on the issue of grant of special status to Bihar while saying that the special package asked for rehabilitation of oustees of the Kosi flood plains was being looked into. He said though, that a thorough study of the entire flood hit areas was needed before a final decision is made. No time frame was mentioned.
Ahluwalia however agreed to consider the revised estimate, submitted by the state, for renovation of the Barauni and Kanti thermal power units.
Work on the two above units had been hit due to escalation in costs, which has almost doubled to Rs 1057 crore from Rs 507 crore as estimated in 2006. The Planning Commission approval is expected to speed up the work in the two units and help Bihar tide over its power crisis.
In his first two-day visit to Bihar, Ahluwalia who met the chief minister on Wednesday and reviewed the utilisation of plan funds and several central and state run schemes, acknowledged that there had been marked improvement in the implementation of central schemes.
Explaining the reasons for not taking up the demand for Bihar to be given special status, which has been pursued relentlessly by the state government in the last couple of years, Ahluwalia said, the issue was not in the domain of the commission. The National Development Council has to adjudicate on the matter. He was of the view that a decision on special status for Bihar was quite a complicated issue as other states could demand for similar status as well.
On the Kosi resettlement issue, the Deputy Chairman said, " Preparing the DPR (detailed project report) is the first step, which is quite an expensive affair. We are trying to formulate a long term plan for tackling floods especially in the Ganga basin and Himalyan range under the national mission on climate change," he said.
Incidentally, Ahluwalia's gesture in accepting the state's demand for increase in allocation under Sam Vikas Yojana (Backward Region Grant Fund) is likely to help Bihar to put more funds in development work including infrastructure sector like roads, power and health care.
Ahluwalia said had received several suggestions from state officials pertaining to implementation of rural schemes. " Officials have requested for more flexibility in some central schemes, which would be looked into," he said, even as he referred to the reports of tardy work by some central agencies in completing projects in the state. The agencies have already been instructed to speed up work, he added.