Noting that all states face similar challenges of poverty and lack of infrastructure in the path to development, Prez Pranab Mukherjee batted for introducing a more effective mechanism for resource transfer from the Centre to the states. “The basic objective of development planning is to fight against these (challenges),” he said while listing out poverty, backwardness, lack of infrastructure and diseases as the common problems faced by various states. Mukherjee said while all the states in the country have distinct features, they face similar challenges.
The President was speaking in New Delhi on Sunday after receiving copy of a book ‘The New Bihar – rekindling governance and development’. The book was released by Noble laureate Amartya Sen. The President also suggested taking a fresh look at the mechanism to transfer resources to the state governments beyond the statutory route. “…now if you want to do it and have a fresh look at it, perhaps time has come when we should concentrate on this and all stakeholders to put their heads together and find out if there could be a more appropriate mechanism through which the resources can be transferred (to the states),” he said. Mukherjee was referring to the allocation of funds to the states by the Centre.
Recognising the higher resource requirements of the states relative to their resource raising powers, the Constitution mandates to transfer funds to the state governments through statutory transfer of tax receipts collected by Centre through the Finance Commission award. In addition, the states access central plan funds through Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) and Central assistance to State Plans. At the outset, Mukherjee made it clear that he is not going to discuss the growth strategy or model.
He said as President of India, his job is to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, “therefore, I am not indulging in any comment on developmental model, success and failure of the governments in the states or in the federation.” Speaking on the occasion, one of the editors of the book and Rajya Sabha member N K Singh said the cover of the book shows a girl riding a bicycle in a Madhubani painting. He termed it as a mix of tradition and modern theme.
He said the development of the state in the last few years has reversed the “pessimistic scenario”. Singh said the book catalogues the developmental challenges of the states and also refers to a more participative model. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar could not attend the programme at the Rashtrapati Bhawan as he has suffered a toe fracture.
The JD (U), the ruling party in the state, was represented by its chief Sharad Yadav. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who has contributed to the book, said while Bihar was among the ‘BIMARU’ states, it registered the highest growth in the 11th Five Year Plan among all states of the country. “In fact,” he said “all BIMARU states were doing quite well.” The BIMARU states are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
BIMARU is an acronym formed from the first letters of the names of the states. It has a resemblance to a Hindi word “bimar” which means sick. This was used to describe the bad state of economy in these states. He quoted late Murasoli Maran who had said that these states are not backward, but mismanaged.
“Government of India must be contributing much more resources to the poor states. And in case of Bihar we do have a special plan…when growth expanded from very negligible levels, it was not because of the resources, but because something done right in Bihar which built on Bihar’s own capabilities,” he said. Referring to the role of Nalanda, Ahluwali said the institution is coming back into “modern life” with Amartya Sen and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai signing a headquarter agreement on Nalanda University. Sen, who is among the contributors, said a healthy and educated labour force as a guarantee for development as it will be able to produce any commodity.