SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Sunday flagged the issue of the North Eastern Council (NEC) not been able to take up new projects in the last few years owing to its resource constraints.
Conrad was addressing the 68th Plenary session of the NEC at Guwahati and attended among others also by Union Home Minister and Chairman of NEC Amit Shah.
The Meghalaya Chief Minister pointed out that as against the allocation of Rs 4,500 crore approved by the Union Cabinet for NEC schemes during the period from 2017-20, only Rs 19 crore was left for new NEC projects.
“The rest of the money was allocated for clearing of committed liabilities of various ongoing projects. This lack of resources has constrained the NEC’s ability to fund new projects,” Conrad said.
He also informed the plenary that implementation of the projects sanctioned from April, 2017 onwards has been put on hold by the NEC.
He added that out of 21 projects sanctioned for Meghalaya during 2017-18 and 2018-19, which have been duly recommended by the State Level Empowered Committee, NEC has so far allowed only seven projects to be continued.
“There has been no response, either from the Ministry of DoNER or the NEC on the remaining 14 projects in spite of repeated requests made by the State government. These 14 projects are of critical importance to the State and include projects relating to road infrastructure, water supply, irrigation, rural entrepreneurship promotion and building schools,” he said.
Conrad pointed out that the project for construction of the Rongjeng-Mangsang-Adokgre road is of particular importance.
“Work on many of these 14 projects has already begun and the physical progress of work is almost 30 per cent in some projects. It will be impossible for the State Government to implement these projects without the sanction and funding support from NEC,” he added.
The Chief Minister further pointed out that these projects will remain unfinished unless funds are allocated by NEC.
The Meghalaya Chief Minister stated that there is a need to reform the process for approval of the projects submitted by the State governments to NEC.
According to him, the current process is long and time consuming leading to inordinate delays in project approval.
He pointed out that currently clearances are required from four different committees – The Project Identification Committee (PIC) chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of DoNER recommends the projects; the Sectoral Empowered Committee (SEC) chaired by Member, NEC vets and endorses the selected projects; the State Level Empowered Committee (SLEC) chaired by the Chief Secretary does the technical and economic appraisal of the DPRs and the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) chaired by the Secretary, DoNER appraises projects costing Rs5 - Rs 15 crore.
“The current protracted approval mechanism needs to be rationalised. For instance, both the Project Identification Committee and the Standing Finance Committee may be chaired by the Secretary, NEC. This will facilitate expeditious identification, appraisal, approval and implementation of projects,” he said.
Conrad also said that the delegation of financial power to the Secretary, NEC may be adequately enhanced to empower NEC and make its functioning effective.
Another crucial issue highlighted by the Meghalaya Chief Minister is the inability of the Ministries of the Government of India to utilise the 10 percent of their budget for schemes and programmes in the northeastern states.
He said that these unutilised funds are not being placed adequately at the disposal of either the Ministry of DoNER or the state governments for the implementation of development projects.
“I would, therefore, like to suggest that the substantial accumulated amount lying with the Ministry of Finance may be allocated to the NEC for implementation of inter-sectoral and integrated development plans in the NE States, towards the achievement of NER Vision 2020,” Conrad said.