New Delhi, Sept. 2: The Centre may have made it clear that it wasn’t considering a special status for Jharkhand, but JMM chief Shibu Soren met the Prime Minister on the issue here today in an indication that the state wasn’t taking the “soft corner” for Bihar kindly.
According to rules laid down by the National Development Council, special status is granted to a state based on five criteria — sizeable tribal population, tough and difficult terrain, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructure backwardness and nonviable nature of state finances.
“On all these counts, Jharkhand requires more attention and support than Bihar does,” the septuagenarian leader reasoned during his audience with Manmohan Singh. Later, Soren claimed that the Prime Minister had agreed to “think over the demand sympathetically”.
Senior party MPs Sanjeev Kumar and Kameshwar Baitha accompanied the JMM chief.
Kumar said Jharkhand would feel betrayed if the Centre accorded special status to Bihar. “Since the state was carved out of Bihar, it has been neglected by successive Union governments. Justice should be done now. The Raghuram Rajan committee was formed in May to reconsider the backward criteria. We are hoping that the outcome favours our state,” he added.
Palamau MP Baitha claimed that he was the first one to raise the issue in the Lower House, even before Bihar “politicised” it.
The state has been emphasising that the percentage of temporary houses in rural and urban areas is 19.4 per cent and 74.6 per cent, respectively, which is more than those states that have been granted special status. Also, in areas like drinking water and sanitation, human resource development and electricity and transport, Jharkhand is lagging behind such states.
After the Nitish Kumar-led government raised the demand for special status to Bihar, Jharkhand followed suit, citing that 19 out of its 24 districts were hit by Naxalism. Former chief minister Arjun Munda pitched for preferential treatment too.
However, in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha during the budget session this year, the Union planning minister had clarified that awarding special status to Jharkhand was out of question because the state did not qualify for the same.
He had also said that requests of Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan were under examination in the Planning Commission.