Amidst much theatrics, rhetoric and fanfare, a so called ‘special package’ has been announced by Modiji for the state of Bihar. Since then, the BJP propaganda machinery and its driven functionaries, supported by crores of government Rupees, have been working overtime to further the claim that a great favour has been done to Bihar.
Funds are being put together with an accompanying narrative that they claim is likely to change the face of Bihar. In reality, what is being propagated as a ‘special’ package is nothing but an eyewash. The grand figure of Rs 1.25 lakh crore has been arrived at by putting together allocations available under old schemes, contributions for ongoing schemes, and future commitments for projects and schemes for Bihar announced by different ministries at various points in time, in the past.
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Rs. 1.08 lakh crore of the Rs. 1.25 lakh crore, or 87 per cent of the so-called special package is a composite of older aids and schemes, and commitments made in the past to beef-up the package envelope that has no place in the current announcement. The makers of the package want us to believe that the special package is designed to roll-out several new initiatives in the interest of development in Bihar, but upon a close examination, it is becoming increasingly clear that these are baseless claims. At the very best, the so-called Rs. 1.25 lakh crore package will not provide anything more than Rs. 10,368 crore as incremental resource to the state of Bihar. This Rs. 10,368 crore, too, in the absence of a defined timeline or disbursement modalities, hardly means anything to the state.
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I go on to ask four fundamental questions which, in my opinion, objectively decimates the whole proposition of the government with respect to this so called historic “favour” afforded to Bihar:
1. What is the actual size of the package?
The government and its functionaries will have you believe that the total sum of the so called special package is Rs. 1.25 lakh crore. But, this grand figure is an equally grand farce. A large chunk of the special package up to the tune of Rs. 1.08 lakh crore of the Rs. 1.25 lakh crore is coming out of the money already promised to the state of Bihar for on-going and pre-approved development endeavours and schemes between 2007-2015. This same figure is now being passed off as new money or investment.
To cite an example, this package claims to earmark Rs. 54,713 crore for 41 projects for building highways, bridges, and rail-over-bridges. But, what the Government of India (GoI) is not telling us is that prior to its announcement, 37 out of these 41 projects with an existing allocation of Rs. 47,553 crore have already been approved by the GoI, which therefore leaves only Rs. 7,160 crore for four schemes (a meagre 13 per cent of the otherwise lavish sounding Rs. 54,713 crore) as the potentially new initiatives.
2. What is the exact contribution of the Government of India vis-à-vis the other stakeholders?
While the assistance has been propagated as a Modi initiative, the next question we need an answer for is, within this incremental value of just Rs. 10, 368 crore, what is the actual contribution of the GOI vis-a-vis the other stakeholders. In simple terms, how much money is in fact coming from the GoI’s kitty and what will be the contribution of other stakeholders, including the Government of Bihar, and other private and public sector entities? There is a vein of deliberate misinformation that runs throughout this announcement.
3. What is the time period within which the funds of this package will be accrued to the state in its entirety?
Should the special package in fact be offering some incremental benefit to Bihar, and assuming that the GoI would primarily be financing this incremental benefit, then what is the time period within which this money will be made available to the state in its entirety? Would this money accrue to the state in one year, five years, or many years? Nowhere there is even a hint of a time frame within which any fund so promised will be released to the state or invested in it. The official note pretty much reflects the grand rhetoric of the announcement with only large finances thrust in the face of readers without a shred of substantiation on implementation frameworks and timelines.
4. What are the modalities through which these benefits will be incurred to the state?
At this juncture, having analysed the size of the package, the key investor(s) and the time frame within which the funds will be released, the logical next step is to question the Central government on the modalities of fund disbursement – the central government needs to answer how will this money be disbursed? Will it be given to the state government? Will it be given to the third party? Why are we, the people, being kept in the dark about this? The information regarding the modalities involved in disbursement of these funds and the mechanism through which the benefits would be accrued to the state is also not clear.
I am therefore not surprised that neither the Ministry of Finance is seen scrambling to find resources, nor is Mr Jaitley worried. Why should he be? He doesn’t have to provide for any of these so-called additional allocations from within his Union budget.
All this leads me to believe that this so called special package announced for Bihar is nothing but a packaged propaganda prepared to deceive people, manufacture euphoria, and create noise with no substance. This is indeed Modiji’s attempt to try and mislead people in the name of development by smoke screening facts and figures.
– The author is chief minister of Bihar and a senior leader of the JD(U). Views expressed are personal.