NEW DELHI, June 18 � Yet another piece of good news for team Tarun Gogoi. Assam has the lowest number of pending North Eastern Council (NEC) projects in the region.
A review of NEC projects during the two-day 60th Plenary of the NEC that concluded here on Friday, led to the discovery that Assam has even bettered the benchmark set by Planning Commission.
Officials of the NEC told newsmen that lowest number of pending projects were in Assam. �Assam has done very well this time. Out of the total allocated funds, Assam�s pending funds is only 22.53 per cent, which is much better than the benchmark set by Planning Commission, which is 25 per cent,� said the official.
Arunachal Pradesh, on the other hand, has highest number of pending projects. Arunachal Pradesh�s pending funds is 56.98 per cent. Probably, there is a reason for that because large volume of funds was allocated only during February and March, the official said, adding that all States have done well.
Assam is followed by Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Manipur and last is Arunachal Pradesh, said the official.
NEC Secretary Jayati Chandra, in her report, too flagged the issue by stating that there is a cause of concern regarding unspent balances. According to figures compiled by NEC, at least 26.60 per cent of funds released during 11th Plan period remains unspent.
While Assam has the least number of pending NEC projects, Tripura was given a bonus for best utilisation of Non Lapsable Central Poll of Resources (NLCPR). Tripura had an extra allocation of Rs 20 crore by way of retention of projects for its good performance under the NLCPR, DoNER Minister BK Handique had announced.
However, the problem of utilisation certificate and unspent balances continue to plague the Northeastern States.
In the report to the NEC, its Secretary said that a problem of concern that often slows down the release of funds is that of unspent balances and pending utilisation certificates with member States. �On many occasions, we keep funds for further instalments on important projects in anticipation of the relevant UCs, but, in spite of even reminders to the State, we fail to obtain the UCs in time and, even if we receive UCs, more often than not, they are either not in the proper format or do not show the contribution of mandatory State�s share,� the Secretary said.
Meanwhile, NEC, which is entering 40th year of its existence, is yet to function fully as a regional planning body, because the proposed restructuring and additional posts are yet to be carried out.
To perform the functions of a regional plan body, the Council needs in-house capabilities for formulating plans and strategies. Currently, because of the shortages of manpower, most of the work connected to studies are outsourced. The NEC Amended Act 2002 mandated the NEC to function as a regional planning body.
It is now proposed to create posts of Joint Secretary and Additional Secretary in the NEC Secretariat. It is projected that the NEC would require a Secretary, Additional Secretary and seven Joint Secretary level posts.
In addition, there is a proposal for appointment of 35 middle level and junior officers, and 43 supporting staff. This proposal is pending with Government of India since 2009 and the Council is uncertain about its fate.