NEW DELHI, Dec 13 - In a development that should alarm the northeastern states (NES) including Assam, the Centre is exploring the option of penalising the states for withholding Central funds for more than three months.
Amidst cries of delay in releasing funds by the NES comes the recommendation that set the limits for the states to withhold Central funds. The recommendations are part of the 186th Report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) and the Action Taken Report of the government submitted to the Parliament recently.
The Ministry of DoNER must effect suitable amendments to incorporate strict penal provisions in the NLCPR Guidelines. If the states fail to release funds for more than three months, then the funds may be reverted back to the Ministry of DoNER and NEC, and the payment may be made directly to the executing agencies bypassing the states altogether in case of the project, where funds are not timely released by the states. The committee feels that such a strong measure is necessary to prevent huge delays in projects due to non-release of funds by the states.
The state governments must ensure timely release of funds to implementing agencies for completion of projects without time and cost over-runs. The monitoring mechanism must also be further strengthened by including strict penal provisions for delay in release of funds on one hand and also giving incentives to those states, who comply with timelines and guidelines in the completion of projects, the report said.
About the complaint of poor fund utilisation by the NES vis-�-vis the Non-Lapsable Pool of Central Resources, it was noted that while the substantial cut in allocation is a matter to be addressed urgently, however, the poor fund utilisation is a glaring issue that needs to be addressed by the ministry itself in consultation with the states.
Meanwhile, faced with the trend of decreasing allocation of funds to the North Eastern Council (NEC), the Centre has been urged to consider an alternate approach of considering different time periods to address the problem of delayed submission of utilisation certificates by the NES.
A substantial cut in allocation of funds in consecutive years may be a result of non-submission or late submission of utilisation certificate by the state governments who in turn is unable to do so due to severe weather and heavy monsoon that lead to stoppage of work in various projects. The assessment period for determining budgetary allocation, coincides with the immediate aftermath of the longer monsoon season in the Northeast, it was noted.
Taking note with serious concern of the trend of decreasing allocation of funds to the NEC, a Parliamentary panel recommended that the Ministry of DoNER may in consultation with the NES, NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Finance may explore a different mechanism like considering a different time period for the northeastern region having normal weather for assessment of utilisation of funds and consequent increase and decrease in allocation.
The panel also recommended that the Ministry of Finance should take a realistic and practical approach to the important issue of deciding supplementary allocations and revised allocations and adopt a liberal approach or may desist from making any substantial cut, while allocating funds for schemes and projects, particularly of the Northeast.
In its Action Taken Report the Ministry of DoNER said that the NEC has been seeking higher allocations and would further pursue the matter for higher allocation and urge the Ministry of Finance to take a realistic and practical approach while deciding allocations.
It is felt that depending upon the ultimate outcome on the question of considering the alternate option could be appropriately considered.