Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a massive Rs. 1.25 lakh crore development package for poll-bound Bihar on Tuesday as the Centre attempts to pull out all stops to generate employment in one of India’s poorest states.
The unveiling of the package was in line with the NDA’s strategy of showcasing its development agenda to counter the traditional caste-based politics of the state as it battles a united four-party opposition bloc led by chief minister Nitish Kumar in the possible October elections.
“This package proves I am a man who delivers what he promises. We will make a sea change in Bihar. We have taken up the task to upgrade skills of crores of youth to create employment and stop migration. Skill development will change the face of this country like never before,” Modi said.
Kumar mended fences with arch-rival Lalu Prasad before the polls to ward off a surging BJP that has romped home in a clutch of state elections before stumbling in Delhi this February. Experts give the Janata Dal (United) – Rashtriya Janata Dal – Congress- NCP combine an edge over the saffron coalition in polls.
Modi said the Centre would fully support initiatives to connect Bihar’s interiors and fast-track development projects to stop migration from a state where investment has been hobbled by creaky infrastructure and potholed roads. The Centre has plans to link banks to skill needs and finance entrepreneurship, the PM added.
He also reiterated his latest slogan: “Start Up India, Stand Up India”, to kickstart industrial employment creation, necessary for the state to shed its notorious BIMARU status – a cluster of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, with poor socio-economic indicators.
“The CM has said Bihar is not BIMARU anymore. If that is so, I am the happiest person. However, if Bihar is not sick, why is the state government begging in front of the Centre?” the PM asked.
“When I talked of Bihar as BIMARU and why it remains so, the chief minister got angry. If somebody is sick, what else do we say?”
Modi said the package would be in addition to Rs 40,657 crore pledged to ongoing highway and power, besides Rs 8,500 crore of unused money from Bihar’s last Central package.
“As long as the eastern states of Bihar, North East, Bengal, UP and Jharkhand do not develop, India will never develop. The Centre’s intent is to provide skills to crores of youth so that they work to create a vibrant, emerging India which will be respected globally,” he said.
One of India’s most backward states, high crime rate and spiraling corruption has nixed development projects in Bihar for years with industrialists shying away from investing due to fears of political interference and hooliganism.
The BJP is aiming to channel this discontent, especially among young voters, to scuttle the traditional caste and religion equations.
Modi earlier laid foundation stones for 11 national highway projects at Ara, the headquarters of Bhojpur district, which will span 700 kms across 15 districts and cost an estimated Rs 9,700 crore, and 22 skill centres, including an exclusive one for women in Patna.
The Prime Minister who flew in directly from Dubai after he addressed the Indian diaspora in the Gulf last evening said, the NDA government has taken road works as a priority and with the intent to connect each and every nook and corner of Bihar with every part of the country.
“It is almost 70 years since we gained independence, but nobody talked of the farmers. To this end, the Central Agriculture department is working on specific plans to lift the farm and agriculture sector. I assure you, such a vigorous plan to benefit millions in the farm sector of the country has not been conceived to date,” Modi said.