North Eastern Council needs more fund to develop NE region, says Rio
Dimapur, Jan. 23 (EMN): Chief Minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio on Saturday stated that the north-eastern region has a ‘huge development deficit’ and made a clarion call to strengthen the North Eastern Council (NEC), which is the nodal agency for economic and social development of the region.
Rio said this during the 69th Plenary of NEC at Shillong in Meghalaya on January 23.
Stating that there is an overlap in the role of NEC and the Ministry of DoNER, he urged the members to bring out a “clear vision for development of the region”. The north-eastern states, including Nagaland, had been raising the issue of enhancing fund allocation to NEC in the past, he said according to the speech received here on Saturday.
“NEC now can sanction projects costing INR 15 crore and below only, as all projects above INR 15 crore are to be approved and sanctioned by DoNER. The North Eastern Council, which has been set up with a special purpose due to special needs, deserves more resources at its disposal. One way could be to channelise part of the NLCPR accruals through the NEC,” he suggested.
Rio said that more “funds should be made available to the NEC in order to meet its committed liabilities towards development of the area and to enable it to go for new projects as per the mandate given to it by the Government of India”.
“The 2020-21 budget allocation of NEC is INR 904 crore for all the north-eastern states and out of this 30% is for the deprived areas to be identified by NEC. This comes to INR 271 crore, leaving a balance of INR 633 crore only. This balance amount is to be further divided between the NEC and the constituent states on the basis of 40% Central component and 60% for the constituent states, which is worked out to be INR 254 crore and INR 380 crore respectively.
“The house will agree with me that INR 380 crore to be shared between the eight constituent states is a miniscule amount. This is highly inappropriate and therefore, the budget of the NEC should be redrawn in such a way that more funds are made available under the state component and the guidelines should also be suitably modified,” he said.
Nagaland Chief Minister further mentioned that the guidelines of project selection and implementation should be relooked and redrawn.
He said that that there were several projects under implementation which did not have the ‘knowledge or monitoring’ of the state governments and had been selected without their consent and the governing body.
“This procedure has undermined the honourable governors, chief ministers and members of the governing body and has given room to compromises on transparency and good governance,” he stated.
Only INR 31.57 cr. worth projects approved for Nagaland
Rio also urged the Ministry of DoNER to provide a separate allocation of fund to meet the requirement of state share for all centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) as the north-eastern states are having a “very difficult time in giving state share for various projects”.
He further stated that the north-eastern states had to invest heavily in improving health facilities and providing immediate relief measures to a vast number of people due the coronavirus pandemic. The economy, he said, was badly affected ‘resulting in worsening financial position of the states’. In Nagaland, revenues had taken a hit in the first two quarters of the financial year, disturbing the budget of the state, he said.
“We had to arrange for the safe transport, quarantine, and sustenance of a huge influx of over 23,000 people returning home from various parts of the country. Besides, a much larger number of migrant workers from other states and inter-district working population too had to be taken care of for their sustenance and safe return home,” he added.
“Considering the challenges brought about by the economic difficulties, the state decided to develop a strategic roadmap for giving an immediate boost to the agri and allied sector activities and re-skilling of the returning youth to create employment opportunities and to augment the income of farmers and households. The projects to be undertaken in the short run were presented to NEC for funding. Out of the total projects worth INR 80.62 crore submitted to NEC, projects worth only INR 31.57 crore were approved and only INR 7.04 crore has been released so far,” he said.
Rio said that Nagaland developed an innovative proposal for Naga-Integrated settled Farming (N-IsF) towards achieving the goals of generating employment, remunerative farming and doubling farmers’ income.
“This is a whole farm management system involving cluster-based value chain activities. The N-IsF can be broadly defined as a business model with activities such as marketing and storage, pack houses, value addition, food processing, bamboo warehouses etc, with further provision of formation of commodity-based Farmers’ Producer Organisations (FPOs) within a cluster.
“The model is expected to minimise risks, generate income and employment, facilitate resource integration of Agri and Allied departments, check and reverse urban-rural migration etc. One of the unique modes of implementation is to develop partnerships with NGOs, private entrepreneurs and other agencies to support the project in the principle of 4-Cs: cooperation, coordination, confidence and contribution,” he said.
18 projects dropped or closed
He informed that Nagaland still has 18 projects which were dropped or closed on “as is where is basis”, which he had mentioned at the 68th Plenary of the NEC in 2019.
One such project is the Dr. T Ao Regional Football Academy, which was approved at the cost of INR 1308 lakh by NEC during 2017-18.
He said that the project was to take forward the NEC’s initiative of organising the annual Dr. T Ao Memorial Football Tournament among NER States since 2010.
However, he mentioned that the project foundation stone was laid in 2018 and INR 250 lakh was released towards the project, and the corresponding state share was INR 27.77 lakh till the lockdown due to Covid-19 began.
“Now the state has been asked to reimburse the money sanctioned and released by NEC. This has put the state’s long-cherished dream of setting up of the Dr. T. Ao Regional Football Academy at stake.
“The Nagaland government had initiated the conduct of the championships in honour of India’s first Olympic captain and hosted the first edition in 2009 and the most recent meet was also hosted by us in 2020. Understanding the importance of the project, it was categorised as a priority. However, it is disheartening to acknowledge the fact that now the project has been closed on ‘as is where is basis’ by NEC,” Rio said.
He further mentioned that for Nagaland, INR 45.89 crore is due from NEC covering 30 projects under MH 3601 (i.e; 90:10 funding), adding that these projects cannot be completed within the remaining two months. He, therefore, requested the NEC another 12 months for completion of the projects.
Under the North East Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS), an allocation of INR 340 crore was made during 2020-21, for which Nagaland had submitted 14 projects with total road length of 301 km, “but till date no action is taken,” he said.
“The role of NEC in crucial sectors such as road construction has been limited to building of inter-state roads only. As a result, the intra-state connectivity requirement gap of the resource-starved North East states has been left stranded.
“Most of the major district roads including NEC-funded roads are in deplorable condition. The state with its limited resources looks upon the NEC for provision of funds for maintenance and restoration of existing roads which is the lifeline of the state,” it said.
Ciethu airport project still not taken up
He further mentioned that Kohima is the only state capital in the country which does not have an airport.
He said that an amount of INR 90 lakh was sanctioned by NEC on February 23, 2006 and INR 4.48 crore for road construction at the proposed airport i.e; Chiephobozou-Touphema-via Ciethu airport was sanctioned.
“But the project is still not taken up for sanctioning as this is still pending though the state government has already acquired suitable land measuring 1013.72 acres at Ciethu and is ready to transfer it to the Airports Authority of India for development of the proposed airport with a runway length of 4.4 km capable of operating A-320 Airbus aircraft,” Rio said.
“Now the MoCA is conducting yet another study to establish the suitability of the location for a table top airport,” he added.
He, therefore, requested the chairman of NEC and Ministry of DoNER and NEC to ‘prevail upon the Civil Aviation ministry to expedite the approval of the project and to start developmental work’.
Rio went on to say that submission of utilisation certificates without spending is not possible as UC due for INR 58.11 crore in respect of Nagaland could not be given immediately.
“Due to imposition of lockdown and Covid-19 related restrictions, implementation of these ongoing projects were affected. As such, utilisation of funds had been slow under MH 3601,” he added.