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Focus on specific areas, Rajnath tells NEC members

By Raju Das

SHILLONG, July 9 - The first Union Home Minister to chair a plenary of the North Eastern Council (NEC), Rajnath Singh today brought nothing new on the table, except a stern message that the Council must not approach the Finance Ministry for additional funds unless states utilize the sanctioned funds.

Chairing the 67th plenary of the Council here, Singh directed the member states to effectively implement the recently approved financial package of Rs 4,500 crore for three years, from 2017-18 to 2019-20. He directed the states to focus on specific areas and better convergence of government-sponsored schemes.

Governors of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, and Chief Ministers from Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland were present in the NEC plenary.

Singh reminded the states that the financial package was approved with a window for the NEC to receive additional infusion of funds during 2018-19 depending on availability of resources, performance of the scheme and utilization of funds.

�The NEC will have to ensure maximum utilization of existing funds for completion of ongoing schemes in order to enable it to approach the Ministry of Finance for additional funds during 2018-19,� Singh asserted.

The third party evaluation of the NEC carried out by IIM, Shillong, Singh said, had indicated that large amounts of NEC funds were lying in the states in the form of unspent balances.

�This has affected the smooth implementation of NEC projects. I urge the (NITI) Aayog to deliberate on ways and means to expedite long pending projects of the NEC so that additional funds can be sought from the Ministry of Finance,� he said.

Singh also directed the NEC and the eight northeastern states to ensure that all the ongoing projects are �completed in a time-bound manner.�

Advocating social audit of the projects and use of modern technology to effectively monitor project implementation, Singh said social audit �not only provides information on how funds are spent but most crucially it enables people�s participation in the planning of developmental activities and also enables mid-course correction as projects and schemes roll on.�

He also informed that the NEC has partnered with the North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) and developed a �project monitoring� portal and a mobile application where stakeholders can monitor progress of capital works funded by the NEC.

Underlining the need for critical analysis and revision of strategy for development of the region, Singh called for drawing short-term, medium-term and long-term roadmaps.

The Union Cabinet last month brought the NEC under the direct control of the Home Ministry with Singh being its ex-officio chairperson and the DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh the vice chairman. The DoNER Minister was so far the chairman of the Council.

The thinking behind the move is still not clear and has not been explained so far, but it does give out an impression that New Delhi considers the Northeast as a conflict-ridden zone and therefore, the Council can only function better under the Home Ministry.

Putting emphasis on security in his speech, Singh said: �Private investment and the economic activity would not flourish in the absence of peace and normalcy. During four years of NDA government the security situation has drastically improved. When compared to the 1990s, the insurgency-related incidents have declined 85 per cent. There is 96 per cent reduction in civilian and security forces casualties.�

He said Tripura and Mizoram are completely free from insurgency and there is �tremendous improvement� in other northeastern states as well. �Due to this marked improvement in security situation, the AFSPA has been completely lifted from Meghalaya and its coverage area has been reduced in Arunachal Pradesh,� Singh said.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for DoNER Jitendra Singh informed that the NEC�s budget has been increased to Rs 1,245.66 crore for 2017-18, a rise of 28.6 per cent from the last budget of the Council.

In its two days, the plenary will have various presentations on issues related to allround development of the northeastern region, besides discussing continuation of NEC schemes till March, 2020 as approved by the Union Cabinet in March 2018.

The event will conclude on tomorrow.

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