About a week ago, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated that he would not beg for the Centre’s funds. His statement, made at a news conference, was clearly a response to the Centre’s sustained demand for utilization certificates for funds already released to Assam. He accused Union ministers of visiting the Northeast on Prime Minister rendra Modi’s advice of harping on the submission of utilization certificates before release of development/allocated funds and wanted to know why the Centre had not released funds against submitted certificates. A State government note circulated during the news conference claimed that in spite of the submission of utilization certificates for Rs 5,236.98 crore worth of schemes in 2013-14 in respect of centrally funded schemes like the IAY, MNREGA, midday meal, SSA, NRHM and flood magement, only Rs 2,591.62 crore had been received till then against the total Central fund allocation of Rs 7,161.57 crore for these programs. We are all being expected to forget how much corruption these schemes generated instead of development. Gogoi also claimed that he had submitted a memorandum seeking Rs 2,534 crore for flood relief on October 1, 2014, but even after two inter-ministerial teams’ visit in February this year not a single paisa had been released so far even though flood-hit Jammu & Kashmir had received instant Central relief.
Nothing is easier for the Chief Minister of a State that receives all allocations from the Centre on the basis of 90 per cent grant and 10 per cent loan than to claim that he will not beg for Central funds. Short of begging, what has he not had to do in these 14 years of his rule to coax and cajole the Centre to release huge grants to a State that has perfected the art of loot and siphoning out of the Centre’s funds to private coffers? This was a relatively easy task as long as the UPA government, headed by the Congress, ruled at the Centre for 10 of these 14 years. The very fact that Tarun Gogoi had maged to remain in power for three terms was a major qualification to build the right links with the Congress high command and to secure liberal grants without any questions being raised about performance. One recalls how the Centre’s grants kept coming despite embankments constructed by the same contractor having collapsed time and again. No one at the Centre seems to have made the legitimate demand that the contractor concerned be sacked and replaced by someone more competent and less greedy. The reason why the Centre was not too finicky about timely submissions of utilization certificates was that a Congress-led government was in power at the Centre and the familiar you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours equation was in operation. The other important facet of the Centre’s grants that Tarun Gogoi seems to overlook is that if he was not begging for the Centre’s grants all these years, someone else was doing it on his behalf. A State that happily accepts an assistance formula of 90 per cent grant and only 10 per cent loan without any sense of embarrassment is already among the lot of beggar States incapable of generating the required surplus to belong to a better class of recipients of Central assistance. Having got the begging bowl extended to the Centre by his bureaucrats Tarun Gogoi now not only claims that he will not “beg” for Central funds, but also finds fault with the Centre for demanding utilization certificates of grants that are long overdue. He should come out with a sensible justification as to why the givers of generous grants should not demand timely submission of accounts when the funds being allocated constitute public money. His excuses for the State’s ibility to furnish utilization certificates in time will not cut any ice just as his argument that the States of the Northeast have a lot of catching up to do are bound to fall flat. Instead, he should introspect on how much his encouragement of loot in government offices and his wish to provide easy money to his blue-eyed boys has destroyed the work ethics of our State and take responsibility for this disservice to the State. As things are now, everyone in our State has been reduced to the state of a beggar due to Tarun Gogoi’s eagerness to put easy money in their way and to discourage honest work as a means of earning a livelihood.