New Delhi: It seems the Samajwadi Party’s backing of UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee for Presidential polls has started yielding benefits for Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre is reported to have made up its mind on increasing its yearly assistance package to the state by over 20% to nearly Rs 60,000 crore. So far, the average hike in annual assistance had been about 10% over the last five financial years.
As reported in a leading daily, the Centre will also provide financial assistance for Akhilesh Yadav’s free laptop scheme for Class 12 passouts.
Also, the Union government will extend the Bundelkhand financial package by another three years, apart from providing funds for several other state schemes including homes for the rural poor, piped water supply and laying of rural roads.
The report has come on a day when seven high profile secretaries from economy-linked ministries will sit down for brainstorming at the Prime Minister`s Office (PMO) on Wednesday on ways to help Uttar Pradesh with funds and central government largesse.
According to highly placed sources, the meeting will be attended by top bureaucrats from the Union government and "seriously consider" the demand of a special package asked for by UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
While Akhilesh Yadav had asked for a Rs 90,000 crore central package to "bring the state back on track" and "fast track it on the development route", the government is unlikely to yield to all demands.
But efforts are on to thrash out a way which would keep the crucial support of the SP intact without disturbing the "status quo" with other states, a senior official said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Javed Usmani will be in Delhi with a long wish list that his political boss wants him to take up with the Union government officials at the Wednesday meeting.
The list includes financial assistance demands for equipping the 7,818 km of national highways passing through the state with ambulances and cranes, opening up of nine state universities costing Rs 3,150 crore (held back due to non-completion of projects during the previous Bahujan Samajwadi Party government and poor quality) and Rs 15,000 crore for implementation of an artificial groundwater project, an official said.
Fertiliser supply to farmers of the state, funds to expand the food grains storage and a major "booster dose" for the fund crunched power corporation is also being sought. The CM has also demanded an okay to a "clean technology fund" of Rs 5,000 crore from the World Bank through the PMO, to improve, upgrade and strengthen the transmission and distribution of power systems in the state and allotment of power on a "set formula" to the Dadri thermal power plant.
Besides, the SP government is seeking Rs 2,500 crore from the Kendriya Marg Nidhi, and Rs 1,000 crore under the interstate connectivity project to upgrade 500 km roads on the Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand borders.
The state government will be taking up the issue of its pending request of Rs 550 crore to build 25 rail over bridges, Rs 4,028.80 crore for repairs of the roads built under the Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme and Rs 1,100 crore for floods. While Akhilesh Yadav has been taking up the issue of central assistance through a series of letters, his father Mulayam Singh has been more upfront.
"Uttar Pradesh needs a special package and the party is trying to gain the maximum for the state which has suffered due to the plundering by the previous Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government," he said but denied that the demand for the special package was linked with his party`s support to Pranab Mukherjee and the UPA.
Other SP leaders defend the demand saying that recently Nitish Kumar got the Planning Commission`s largesse and Uttar Pradesh being a bigger state deserved more. Uttar Pradesh, sources say, is unlikely to get a tailormade special package, but the UPA has already made up its mind to pump in considerable amounts through the central government aided schemes.
The Centre doling out funds for UP are in contrast to its stand on West Bengal, whose Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been demanding financial assistance for her state but to no avail. It is noteworthy that while Mamata is part of the UPA, Mulayam is only supporting the alliance from outside.
(With IANS inputs)