Central government praising an opposition alliance chief minister for good governance and opening all doors to address his grievances, is a rarity. But this is what Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s was greeted with in Delhi.
The Planning Commission readily agreed to his demand for annual plan of Rs. 34,000 crore while, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh assured quick sanction of the rural road projects for Bihar.
Finance minister P Chidambaram announced setting up of a committee to draw new definition of backwardness that could ensure more Central money for the state.
“The state (Bihar) has done well in economic growth despite its backwardness,” plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said in presence of Kumar after the annual plan meeting.
“The state has done a commendable job in human development”.
Kumar echoed the new found bonhomie thanking the panel for 21.4% hike announced in Bihar’s budget in March even before the plan expenditure for the country was approved by the Parliament only in May.
“I am thankful to the deputy chairperson (Ahulwalia) for helping us to keep our promise,” Kumar told reporters.
The panel agreed despite only 6% increase in the country’s plan budget for 2013-14.
Kumar's demand for special category status for Bihar got some fillip with finance ministry announcing a committee under the ministry’s chief economic advisor Raghuram Rajan to redefine the criteria for identifying backward regions in the country.
“The Expert Committee to consider backwardness of the States in terms of measures like distance of the State from the national average under criteria such as per capita income and other human development indicators and for evolving a Composite Development Index of States," a finance ministry statement said on the six member committee.
The committee will submit its report in two months. The present criteria for determining backwardness fixed in mid 1980s are based on terrain, density of population and length of international borders.
After a two-hour long meeting in Yojana Bhawan, Ahluwalia and planning minister Rajiv Shukla accompanied Kumar and his Cabinet colleagues to their car, a friendly gesture not offered to all chief ministers.