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New Delhi: The Planning Commission is considering the proposal to accord special category status to Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra), Parliament was informed on Thursday.

“The grant of special category status to Andhra Pradesh is under consideration by the Planning Commission," Rao Inderjit Singh, minister of state for planning (independent charge), said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. Singh further said that a special cell for Andhra Pradesh constituted on 25 March has been entrusted with taking preliminary steps for a special development package for backward areas of Seemandhra. Andhra Pradesh was recently divided into two states—Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra).

According to the minister, the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 does not contain any provision regarding special category status for Seemandhra.

While intervening in the debate on the Andhra Reorganisation Bill in Parliament on 20 February in Rajya Sabha, the government had assured special category status for the successor state of Andhra Pradesh comprising 13 districts including four districts of Rayalaseema and three districts of north coastal Andhra for a period of five years.

The government had also assured the creation of a special cell in the Planning Commission headed by the deputy chairman to address the development needs and a special package for the backward regions of Seemandhra on the lines of the Kalahandi Balangir Korapu special plan in Odisha and the Bundelkhand special package.

In March, the Union cabinet, headed by then prime minister Manmohan Singh had directed the Planning Commission to accord the special category status to the successor of Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra) for five years. Singh had even announced in Rajya Sabha on 21 February that special category status would be extended to the state. The minister informed the House that the special development package to the backward areas would be worked out based on the specific proposals from the Seemandhra government after due consultations with the concerned ministries. The special category status to various states is accorded by the country’s apex planning body the National Development Council (NDC), which is headed by the prime minister.

The criteria for special category status include hilly and difficult terrain; low population density and/or sizeable share of tribal population; strategic location along borders; economic backwardness and poor/lack of infrastructure, and non-viable nature of state finances.

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