The Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and the BJP may not see eye to eye on various issues, such as the JD(U)’s persistent demand for special category status for Bihar, but their coalition government has urged the BJP-led central government to clear the state’s pending dues running into several thousand crore.
The JD(U)-BJP dispensation also demanded that the Centre increase its share in a slew of central schemes, stressing on the need for ensuring a holistic policy for development of Bihar that was recently ranked by the Niti Aayog at the bottom in its multi-dimensional poverty index.
These demands were laid down in a 13-point memorandum of the Bihar government, which was submitted to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman by Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Tarkishore Prasad during her pre-budget meeting with states’ finance ministers last week.
Expressing concern that Bihar’s share in central taxes has been going down since 2019-20 and that the ratio of Centre-state share in spendings for various schemes has dipped and been at 60:40 since 2015-16, the memorandum states that this has made it more challenging for Bihar to keep up growth with its limited resources.
“We request the Centre to increase our annual borrowing limit to 5 per cent under FRBM for current financial year and for 2022-23,” said Prasad, who also holds the finance portfolio.
The memorandum says that following deduction of the Centre’s funds, there has been an annual load of Rs 7,000 crore on the Bihar government under the Samagra Siksha programme. While the Centre releases funds for teachers’ salaries under this scheme at a rate of Rs 15,000-Rs 25,000 per month, the state government on an average pays Rs 30,000 salary to a teacher.
“We request the Centre to make it 60:40 for Centre-state for teachers’ salary. During the current financial year, Bihar government has additional load of Rs 8,400 crore on the count of additional appointment of teachers,” Prasad said.
Referring to the old-age pension scheme (Rs 400 per month for 60-plus BPL person), the memorandum points out that the Centre has put a cap on the number of its beneficiaries at 29,96,472 since 2012-13, while the state government pays pension to additional 15,93,064 beneficiaries. The Centre gives Rs 200 for a pensioner (60-79 age group) who gets Rs 400 per month, even as an 80-plus BPL person gets Rs 500 per month. The Bihar government has requested the Centre to remove the cap on the number of old-age pension beneficiaries.
Flagging the post-matric scholarship scheme for minority students, the memorandum says Bihar has received six times more applications in last three years than the number fixed by the Centre. But due to lack of funds, it adds, 1,84,299 students in 2018-19, 1,06,780 applicants in 2019-20 and 1,35,936 students in 2020-21 have been deprived of the scheme.
Similarly, under the OBC/EBC scholarship scheme, the Bihar government demanded Rs 381 crore from the Centre to give scholarship to 4,04,838 students but the latter disbursed only Rs 114 crore, according to the memorandum.
The state government also urged the Centre to bear its share of 50 per cent expenses
for giving compensation to a total of 5,232 victims or their families under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act.
Bihar asked the Centre to pay Rs 570 crore spent on the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The memorandum states that despite the state’s implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations, the Centre had still not paid its 50 per cent share of Rs 383.50 crore to the state government.
The Bihar government also requested the Central government to include 14 state agriculture schemes worth Rs 4,285 crore under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), urging it to increase the Centre’s share from 60 to 90 per cent for schemes for flood and drought-hit areas.
Reiterating his party’s demand for special category status for Bihar, JD(U) national spokesperson KC Tyagi told The Indian Express, “We have been lagging behind on several counts despite making some major headways. We are demanding special category status for holistic development of the state.”
Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal, however, said, “While the demand for special category status is not practical, the Bihar government keeps demanding its share from the Centre from time to time under the given formula.”