Friday, November 20, 2009

Nitish demands panel to assess poverty

PATNA: Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday said that the demand for according special category status to Bihar has now become a sort of movement and that the people of the state would not give up until they accomplish their goal.

Speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the "Bihar Poverty Reduction Summit" on the Bihar Assembly premises, Nitish said that the demand for special category status to Bihar had become so intense that the people of Bihar would now settle for nothing less. "Bihar fulfils all the criteria to attain this status," he said.

In his inaugural address, Nitish urged the Centre to set up a commission for assessing poverty in the country and identifying the poor. He said that the Centre identifies only 65 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families in Bihar and, accordingly, provides them foodgrains and kerosene at subsidized rates. "However, the fact is that the state has about 1.50 crore BPL families," he added.

"Our survey shows that there are 1.12 crore BPL families in rural areas and we have received another 60 lakh claims for inclusion in the BPL list. The survey in urban areas has been completed and the number of BPL families has now gone beyond 1.5 crore," he said.

Nitish said he tried his best to rectify the miscalculation of the central agencies and seek enhanced PDS entitlement, though without any success.

He reiterated his demand for direct cash transfer of subsidy to the beneficiaries, which, he said, would be more useful.

Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said that Bihar was not alone responsible for its backwardness. The fault lies with policy makers as well, he said.

Assembly public accounts committee chairman Abdul Bari Siddiqui said the special package alone will not do any good and that Bihar deserved a special status.

At the outset, Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary welcomed the guests, who included Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, UN resident co-ordinator Patrice Coeur-Bizot and representatives of various UN bodies like the UNDP, Unicef, Unesco, UNFPA, WFP, UNAIDS, ILO, among others.

Ahluwalia, who was the chief guest, later left for Bodh Gaya to visit the Mahabodhi Temple. Earlier in the morning, he paid obeisance at Takht Harmandir in Patna Saheb. He returned to Delhi late in the evening.