GUWAHATI, April 21 - The failure of the Government of Assam to properly utilise the funds provided for the development of the border areas was highlighted in a report of the NITI Aayog, which prepared a detailed report on the Centrally-sponsored Border Areas Development Programme (BADP).
The report, which is a detailed study on the implementation of the BADP in various parts of the country having international border, said that the programme was introduced in 1993-94 and it was initially implemented in the Western Sector. The initial aim of the programme was to facilitate deployment of the Border Security Force (BSF) along the international border, but later the ambit of the programme was widened to include socioeconomic aspects of the people living in the bordering areas, including education, health care, agriculture, etc., besides development of infrastructure.
The report revealed that during the VIII Five Year Plan, the coverage of the programme was extended to the eastern States having international border.
However, from the report, it was clear that Assam failed to implement the funds provided by the Government of India under the Centrally-sponsored scheme. The report pointed out that Assam could spend only 15 per cent of the funds earmarked for education, while the utilization in some other sectors, including health and agriculture and allied sectors, were only 3 per cent. The utilization in the social sector was 15 per cent, while it was 60 per cent in infrastructure development.
The NITI Aayog pointed out some interesting facts and revealed that a majority of people living along the international border areas in the eastern sector do not feel secure.
The report also pointed out a number of loopholes in the guidelines of implementation of the BADP. In the eastern sector, the allocations did not take into account facts like topography, threat perception, etc. Another major problem is that according to the guidelines, projects should be taken up in the belt from the international border to 10 km inside in the first phase. This guideline created major problems in some of the areas in timely implementation of schemes as such areas pass through totally underdeveloped areas and it is difficult to transport men and material to those areas. Moreover, the cost of implementation of the projects also escalates because of that guideline. Some of the border areas, particularly in the eastern sector, experience heavy rainfall in the rainy season, while hilly areas, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, experience heavy snowfall in the winter, which also affected infrastructure development works.
The report also gave some vital recommendations for making the programme meaningful for the people living along the international border areas and suggested that political pressure on implementation of the projects should be reduced, while stress should be laid on infrastructure, like roads and bridges, which would benefit the people most. Good connectivity is a must for improving the standard of living of the people.
Stressing the need for improving border ties with Bhutan and Bangladesh, the report suggested revival of the border haats and pointed out that a good number of people living along the international border in Meghalaya depend largely on border trade. The report also stressed the need for improving telecommunication network, particularly in the North East region.