Patna: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 1,25,003 crore Bihar package is spread over the next few years and includes new elements such as the power plant in Buxar and a skills university. However, it has been cleverly packaged and marketed to include amounts earmarked under a variety of schemes across sectors that are part of the Union Budget for 2015-16. Infact, Rs 68,533 crore or roughly 55 per cent of the package is directed towards rural roads and highways.
The Union Budget has allocated Rs 91,181 crore for highways and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, a portion of which is also meant for Bihar. “Individual ministries will have details of state-wise outlays,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.
Similarly, in the power sector, Union Budget 2015-16 has set aside Rs 4,895 crore towards Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and the Integrated Power Development Scheme. The package of Rs 16,130 crore for electricity includes parts of this for electrification of villages, towns and cities. The Buxar power plant itself will demand a significant chunk of at least Rs 7,000 crore, and this will take at least three years for commissioning.
The Union Budget this year also set aside Rs 10 crore towards a Central Agricultural University in Bihar; besides the Budget has earmarked over Rs 1,500 crore towards development of fisheries, farm water management and farm mechanisation (which find mention in the PM’s package for Bihar farmer welfare), across all states.
Similarly, the expansion of the Barauni Refinery is partly provided for in the Rs 9,407-crore resource plan of Indian Oil Corporation this year. The Centre has also provided Rs 1,000 crore for setting up of IITs and IIMs, which includes the IIM at Bodhgaya, another item in the PM package announced on Tuesday. Also, the Budget allocated Rs 1,756 crore towards upgrading of state government hospitals. The PM’s package mentions upgrading three medical colleges in Bhagalpur, Gaya and Patna.
Former Rajya Sabha Member N K Singh, who quit the Janata Dal (U) to join BJP last March, said, “A significant portion of the package is an additionality. The 1,300-MW Buxar power plant, establishment of Skill University, a new petrochemical plant, and several road projects, which form the core component of the special package are over and above the ongoing schemes,” he told The Indian Express. He also pointed out that the Prime Minister is committed to Rs 8,282 crore, the amount unspent from the 2013 package of Rs 12,000 crore.
Shaibal Gupta, member-secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, said the amount may look “staggering” but it was not an “enabling” package. “Like the Rs 8,000-crore debt write-off that Punjab received when IK Gujral was the Prime Minister. A debt waiver could have enabled Bihar to direct all funds towards development and infrastructure,” he said.
Gupta said there are just two-three new initiatives like the power plant and the skills university. “Much of what has been announced are old schemes being cleverly dovetailed into a new package,” he claimed. What Bihar needs more is tax incentives to attract industry, which could have come in the form of special category status, and investment in the irrigation sector given that the state is largely an agrarian economy even now, he said.