Non-utilization of Central funds, rampant graft and leakage, slashed allocations tell a sorry tale
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Aug 7: In the me of development of ST, SC and OBC communities, successive Assam governments sought funds from the Centre which made budgetary allocations in its annual plans for the same purpose. In February last, just before Assembly elections in the State, the then Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government at Dispur asked PM rendra Modi to provide Central assistance of Rs 1,000 crore each for taking up development activities for ST, SC and OBC communities of the State.
The fact, however, is that Central grants were never a problem. The reason why these communities are still mired in backwardness and poverty lies in the improper and non-timely utilization of funds by successive State governments. Large-scale corruption in implementation of different development schemes meant for these communities has been the norm. Now, a BJP-led government is in power in Assam and it’s time for the new dispensation to reverse this trend and help these backward communities progress like other sections of the populace.
Official figures available with this reporter reveal that lack of utilization of funds and rampant graft has led to the Central government reducing funding for development of these backward communities. Not only Central budgetary allocation, the State budgetary allocation for the same purpose has been slashed.
According to figures, for the welfare of SC/ST/OBC, the State budgetary allocation in the Annual Plan 2015-16 was Rs 1,414 crore, which came down to Rs 1092 crore in the Annual Plan 2016-17, a sharp reduction of Rs 322 crore.
In the 2014-15 State Budget, Rs 1,202 crore was allocated for the development of SC, ST and OBC communities in Assam, but only Rs 434 crore was spent and the remaining Rs 768 crore was not utilized. Similarly, in the 2015-16 State Budget, Rs 1,414 crore was allocated, but only Rs 277 crore was spent and the remaining Rs 1,137 crore was not utilized.
These are just figures of two annual budgets of the State and one can imagine how bigger the non-utilization of budgetary allocation will be in the last 15 years of previous Congress rule in the State.
On paper, both the Central and the successive State governments have taken up a number of initiatives for the benefit of these backward communities in sectors like health, education, skill development, employment generation, electricity, water supply, sanitation etc. The State has as many as 29 communities in its ST list and 16 in the SC list, while the number of OBC communities is 100, said sources.
Even the share of Central Sector Scheme (CSS) for the welfare of these backward communities has been reduced. “For the welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes, the Central share in the 2015-16 fiscal was Rs 444 crore, which has been reduced to Rs 281 crore in the 2016-17 fiscal. For the welfare of SCs, the Central share in the 2015-16 fiscal was Rs 47 crore, which has been reduced to a meager Rs 16 crore in the fiscal 2016-17,” said the sources, adding, “If the reduction of funds continues at this rate, it will be really difficult to carry out different development works for these communities in the State.”
The main reason behind the reduction of Central share is the non-submission of utilization certificates on time by the previous Congress government in the State.
The areas where these SC/ST/OBC people live are characterized by high population density, extreme poverty, illiteracy and lack of infrastructure, insecurity of livelihood, and are often ravaged by flood and erosion.