Fund allocation and utilization in hill districts

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A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.

William Feather

 

 

The BJP-led government in Delhi and Dispur are under fire from several quarters, including Opposition parties for their obstinacy on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. Of late, the opposition is vocal against the controversial Bill since the general election is approaching. After the Centre has presented its budget with similar motive, the state budget of Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has something for everyone. It has got something for the aged, widows, tea garden labourers, small businessmen, indigenous Muslims and the hill areas of the state. The opposition’s stand on the budget can’t be taken without a pinch of salt as they are doing it from their political standpoint aimed at garnering votes and not strictly for the welfare of the people. Whatever budgetary allotment has been made in the past for the hill areas, it can be seen on the ground that not much had been accomplished. On pen and paper a lot of ground has been covered in the hills of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao. Formerly two, now, three hill districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao being administered by Autonomous Councils with clipped wings and the word ‘autonomy’ has been misused both by the state government as well as by the executive of the Councils themselves.

The NC Hill Autonomous Council which runs the district of Dima Hasao suffers from acute fund shortage and has not paid salary to its staff for long. The employees of civic bodies in Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong have not been paid for more than four years due to the ‘autonomy’ of the Councils. No matter what amount of fund is allocated, on the ground it takes time to reach the hills of the state in that case the Autonomous Councils. This has necessitated a unique set of government contractors and privileged set of Council employees that can ensure timely completion of projects. Not only completion of projects, it has to submit all important utilisation certificates to be eligible for the release of next installment of fund. The on ground implementation under the administration of the two Autonomous Councils is a subject not discussed often while the projects under NLCPR either lay neglected or defrauded with majority of the fund drawn as Bill by the contractors while the work remains at 30% or less. The budget vis-à-vis the hill areas is the vital aspect- fund will have to be released on time so that work proceed as planned so that no perpetual backwardness remain and no perpetual politics over it can be done.

As far as the effort to provide food security is concerned a large number of the hill tribe people of Assam do not have documentation being intimidated by the bureaucratic red tapism where the public servants behave as Alighty God instead of helping them. No matter what government may be in place if these factors are not kept in mind about the hills of Assam then majority of the budgetary allotment always have the potential to benefit a few in Dispur instead of the intended as it happens.

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