By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 10: Refusing to make any commitment on continuation of the special category status to the NE states, Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Chaudhary Birender Singh today, however, said, “Status quo remains as regards to special category accorded to NE states for funding.”
The Centre provides 90 per cent funding for developmental schemes and the state’s share is confined to 10 per cent for the special category states.
Singh said apprehensions were raised by some states that funding would be curtailed but he clarified that no decision has been taken so far.
“A committee headed by the Madhya Pradesh CM is looking into the matter and its report may come within a month. The decision – whether or not to continue with special status category - would be taken after that,” he added.
“The Central government is aware of constraints of some of the fincially-weaker states and their concerns will be taken care of,” Singh, who was flanked by Assam P&RD Minister Rakibul Hussain, said.
The Union minister further said all 40 members of Parliament from the eight states of Northeast, including ex-PM Dr Manmohan Singh, have selected gram panchayats for development under ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yoja (SAGY)’, and on-ground implementation at some of the gram panchayats is expected to start as early as next month.
“MPs are to develop three Adarsh Gram Panchayats by March 2019 – one by 2016 and two more by 2019. Thereafter, one gram panchayat will be targeted to be developed every year,” the Union minister added.
He further informed that 31 schemes of 21 ministries have issued guidelines that villages under SAGY should be accorded priority for sanction of funds. Convergence of funds from various ministries will also be utilized for the scheme, he added.
While funds were not a constraint for the SAGY, Singh said several states, including NE states, have pointed to their difficulty in obtaining 2 per cent share from corporate houses under the latter’s CSR due to absence of big industries in those areas.
“The ministry is looking into this aspect. We are planning to mobilize the corporate houses to invest their 2 per cent CSR money in areas which do not have access to these funds,” he said.
The minister said various issues were raised and suggestions offered at today’s review meeting, which was attended by seven MPs from the region, deputy commissioners (who are the nodal officers) and field officers, who will be responsible for on-ground work.
An issue raised by Assam was that panchayats were of bigger size population-wise in the state than those approved by the ministry and hence, more funds would be required for implementation of SAGY in those areas, he said.
The minister assured that all these issues will be dealt with promptly.
He also said that the entire annual budgetary allocation for providing safe drinking water in rural areas for 2015-16 has been released in one installment to all states.
“It was decided yesterday that the entire fund will be released to the state governments in one, single installment,” he said.
“An amount of Rs 26,00 crore had been kept for rural drinking water in 2015-16 Budget and for the first time, the entire amount will be released in one go,” he added.
The minister said the decision was taken in view of predictions of less rainfall this year.
He said, “There has been forecast that there would be 12-14 per cent deficit rainfall this year and drought conditions might prevail. To meet this exigency, the government has decided to release the money in one installment.”
Singh said the state governments have been asked to prepare action plans and assured that there would be no dearth of funds.
On the allegations of widespread corruption in MGNREGS and IAY schemes in Assam, the Union minister said there is a tiol monitoring system and when complaints are received, they are inquired into.