Patna/New Delhi: The Planning Commission's decision to involve states in formulation of the Approach Paper for next five year has evoked lukewarm response, with several Chief Ministers not attending regional consultative meetings.

The regional consultations are part of the exercise to formulate the Approach Paper for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).

At the Eastern Region's consultative meeting, which was held at Patna on Monday, Chief Ministers of only two out of the five participating states attended the meeting, although the Planning Commission-- headed by Deputy Chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia-- was present in full strength.

Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Arjun Munda of Jharkhand failed to turn up for the meeting.

Last week also, only three Chief Ministers, including Delhi's Shiela Dixit, Himachal Pradesh's Prem Kumar Dhumal and Haryana's Bhupinder Singh Hooda had made it to Delhi for the Regional Consultations of Northern Region.

Chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and, Jammu and Kashmir remained absent for Regional Consultation meeting, held on May 23.

In Monday’s meeting, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh boycotted the consultations, as he opposes the Plan Panel's recent decision to make civil rights activist Binayak Sen a member of its steering committee on health.

After spending months in custody on charges of sedition, Binayak Sen was released on bail last month.

Though Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda could not attend the meeting as he was out of the country, his Deputy Chief Ministers Sudesh Mahato and Hemant Soren represented the state.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sent her Planning Minister Manish Gupta to the meeting, while Deputy Chairman of State Planning Commission Shivraj Singh represented Chhattisgarh.
   
Union Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar was also present today in the meeting at Patna.

The consultations come at a time when the country is looking at raising the average economic growth to 9-9.5 per cent in the next five years from the estimated growth of 8.2 per cent during 2006-11.

The Commission will later hold similar meetings with Chief Ministers of states in other regions, including South, West and North-East, in its bid to complete the draft Approach Paper by July-end.

Approach Paper provides broad framework of the government policy to be pursued in the five-year period.

In the Planning Commission meeting on April 21, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the panel to immediately start work on the Approach Paper for the next five year plan.

Once the draft Approach document is ready, it would be placed before the full Planning Commission meeting likely to be held in July. Thereafter, the document will be considered by the country's highest policy making body National Development Council (NDC).

Headed by the Prime Minister, the NDC members include all state Chief Ministers and Union Cabinet Ministers.

Bihar seeks special status

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday advocated for grant of special category status to Bihar to attract private investment for sustained economic development of the state.

"Bihar needs to attract private investment to strengthen infrastructure facilities and for that the state be accorded the special category status," Kumar said while presenting Bihar's wish list at the regional consultative meet on the approach paper for the 12th Five-Year Plan.

Stating that Bihar needed to augment the infrastructural deficits for which it has been receiving annual support from the Centre under the erstwhile RSVY, he urged the central plan panel to continue with the annual financial support and increase the same to at least Rs 4,000 crore under the present scheme - BRGF.

The Chief Minister also reminded the Centre of the principle of fiscal federalism and demanded rationalisation of the Centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) to allow carry out development activities and cater to its specific needs.

“The proliferation of the CSS at 147 is not rational ... the resources used to fund these schemes belong to the state and should devolve on them to select their most optimum use,” the Chief Minister said.

Kumar noted that the proliferation of the CSS has reduced the gross budgetary support, from 34 per cent to 23 per cent under the 11th plan, while the same for the centre has gone up from 66 per cent to 77 per cent.

Observing that the increase in central schemes was ‘not a healthy trend’, the chief minister noted that the Centre has been adopting "far reaching decisions" that impinged on the resources and autonomy of the states and urged the Planning Commission to act as the bridge between them (states) and the Centre.

On Bihar-specific issues, Kumar demanded modification in the FRBM Act to allow higher borrowing limits to those states which have exhibited high growth but continue to lag due to low national average on per capita income so that they could increase investment and sustain growth rate.

This, in Bihar's case, stood between 8.89 to 10.56 per cent after the NDA took over in October 2005, he said.

On the flood threat during rainy season, particularly in North and East Bihar due to unregulated release of water from Nepal, Kumar urged the Centre to launch a 'New Nepal

Initiative' to coax the Himalayan country cooperate for repair and maintenance of the embankments.

With agriculture being the key sector of the state economy, the chief minister advocated the launch of rainbow agriculture to meet seven per cent growth rate by encouraging production of vegetables, fruits, milk, animal husbandry, etc.

Kumar demanded setting up of national poverty commission, an independent panel, to assess the number of BPL, launch of a beggar-free India Mission, Mahadalit Vikas Mission, and Integrated Minority Welfare Scheme.

He also called for inclusion of six more districts - Lakhisarai, Munger, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, West Champaran and Kaimur - under the Integrated Action Plan in addition to seven districts presently under the scheme.

JPN/Agencies

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