The Union government has done well to tighten norms in order to overcome the deficiencies in new projects undertaken in the north-eastern States. Among the additiol requirements for clearance of such projects is the introduction of the global positioning system (GPS) for proper gap alysis before the priorities for such projects are determined. The Centre has also asked the States of the region to make electronic presentations before the Empowered Committee before clearance of new projects. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER), said that the process of sending e-mails and message alerts of releases and utilization of funds had been introduced. He added that State governments had also been sensitized to release funds to the implementing agencies on time and to submit complete and proper information to the Ministry for getting subsequent instalments for ongoing projects. Besides, nodal officers had been desigted to inspect and monitor the progress of projects periodically. He said that the ministry had initiated the fresh moves in order to overcome deficiencies like the release of priority lists without proper and scientific gap alyses, delay in submission of priority lists, concept papers and detailed project reports, release of funds by State governments to the executive agencies and delay in filization of tenders with regard to new projects. He added that the failure to submit utilization certificates, quarterly progress reports, inspection reports, etc., and the release of the matching State share on time were found to be the main areas of concern in the case of ongoing projects. He informed the House that the review of projects sanctioned under the schemes of the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), Social Infrastructure Development Fund (SIDF) and the North Eastern Council (NEC) was a continuous process. He said the delay in the completion of projects in the Northeast was mainly due to non-submission of utilization certificates in time by State governments, problems related to land acquisition and forest clearance, the prevailing law-and-order situation and the limited working season available due to heavy rainfall in the region.
It is not difficult to anticipate the kind of opposition to and resentment over the stringent supervisory and monitoring arrangements brought into place by the Union government for development projects of the Northeast. An efficient mechanism to ensure this has been a long-felt need in a region where fincial discipline has been systematically eroded by the attitudes of politicians favouring the unchecked circulation of “easy money” that the grants of the Union government have begun to be called. The political executive, quite unfamiliar with any kind of restraint in the disposal and use of public money, has built up a vested interest opposed to any stringent measures for fiscal discipline imposed by the Centre. In Assam, during the last 14 years of the Tarun Gogoi regime, there has been a distinct attempt to pooh-pooh any kind of fiscal discipline as a sort of unwarranted and undesirable imposition by the Centre. And this, in total disregard of the fact that as the principal benefactor of the north-eastern States, it has every right not only to monitor projects but also to demand timely and satisfactory submission of accounts and utilization certificates. Unfortutely, a substantial section of the print and electronic media is inclined to support such fiscal indiscipline instead opposing it tooth and il. What chief ministers like Tarun Gogoi seem to overlook is the kind of irreparable harm being done to the youth by creating the illusion that “easy money” is their birthright. This easy money is money from the exchequer meant for the poorer sections of society, and any diversion of such funds is pure and simple loot of the tion and what was meant for the poorer sections of society. One cannot go on sustaining the bizarre notion that such loot of public money is not a crime, and that there is no need any more for people to earn an honest living through work.