Seemandhra does not meet norms for special category status

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The residual Andhra Pradesh commonly known as Seemandhra can't be accorded the status of special category state to provide extra central aid under the current norms, said Planning Commission.

"Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra) does not meet National Development Council criteria (for special category state)," the Commission said in its presentation to Planning Minister Inderjit Singh Rao.

This point is significant because the Union Cabinet headed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 2 had directed the Commission to accord special category status to successor of Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra) for five years.

Singh had even announced in the Rajya Sabha on February 21 that special category status would be extended to Seemandhra for five years.

Andhra Pradesh has been recently bifurcated into two states -- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. There are demands for according special category status (SCS) from states including Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha and Jharkhand.

In case of Bihar, an inter ministerial group has said that the state is not eligible to get SCS based on existing criteria. However government is yet to take a decision on Bihar's demand.

The Commission, however, has intimated to Rajasthan, Odisha and Jharkhand that they are eligible for getting SCS as per the criteria.

About according SCS to Seemandhra, the Commission pointed out to the minister that any such proposal would have to be endorsed by the country's apex planning body National Development Council (NDC) headed by the Prime Minister with cabinet ministers and all chief ministers on its board.

As per the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula for devolution of central assistance for state plans, 30 per cent of the total funds is earmarked for Special Category States.

As against the composition of Central assistance of 30 per cent grant and 70 per cent loan for major states, special category states receive 90 per cent plan assistance as grant and just 10 per cent as loan.

The special category status to various states in accorded by the NDC based on consideration of a set criteria.

The criteria include hilly and difficult terrain; low population density and or sizeable share of tribal population; strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries; economic and infrastructure backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances.

At present, the existing 11 special category status states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim.

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