Meager Rs 89 lakh utilized against Rs 2519 lakh sanctioned by Centre

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Nov 3: National Conference-Congress Coalition Government, which is boasting of establishing Panchayats after several decades in oft-repeated statements, has actually taken no step towards strengthening these grass root level democratic institutions for their effective functioning and did not use the funds sanctioned for this purpose by the Union Government.
This can be gauged from the official data about the funds sanctioned, released and actually spent under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA), the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
During the previous financial year (2013-14), the Union Panchayati Raj Ministry had sanctioned total plan of Rs 2519.29 lakh for various activities aimed at strengthening the Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir and against this budget, an amount of Rs 1259.65 lakh was released to the State. However, State Government could only utilize an amount of Rs 89 lakh much to the surprise of the Union Ministry as well as Sarpanchs and Panchs.
In this way, the State Government virtually acted as an obstacle in the smooth functioning of these grass root level democratic institutions, whose representatives have been crying for sufficient powers and facilities ever since the holding of elections in 2011 in order to meet the objective behind constituting these institutions.
The basic aim of RGPSA is to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system and address critical gaps that constrain its success. Under this scheme, funds are provided to enhance capacities and effectiveness of Panchayats; strengthen the institutional structure for knowledge creation and capacity building of Panchayats and strengthen these institutions to function effectively as the basic forum of people’s participation, transparency and accountability within the Panchayat system.
According to the data, the Union Ministry sanctioned Rs 990.72 lakh during 2013-14 financial year for administrative and technical assistance at Gram Panchayat level. Against this, an amount of Rs 495.36 lakh was released but shockingly the State Government failed to make use of even a single penny.
Similarly, for capacity building and training an amount of Rs 251.59 lakh was released against sanctioned amount of Rs 503.18 lakh. But J&K Government could utilize only Rs 89 lakh. For institutional structure, the Union Government sanctioned Rs 470 lakh against which an amount of Rs 235 lakh was released to the State. However, non-seriousness on the part of the concerned authorities led to entire released amount remaining unspent.
Likewise, for e-enablement of Panchayats an amount of Rs 206.40 lakh was released against sanctioned amount of Rs 412.80 lakh. But even on this front, entire released amount remained unspent much to the surprise of the Ministry as well as representatives of Panchayats.
All the funds released for IEC activities and Programme Management remained unspent during the year due to least interest in strengthening Panchayats. For IEC activities, an amount of Rs 11.88 lakh was released against sanctioned amount of Rs 23.76 while as under Programme Management head, an amount of Rs 59.42 lakh was released against sanctioned amount of Rs 118.83 lakh.
Stating that objective behind Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan got defeated due to non-seriousness and slackness on the part of those responsible for making optimum use of the funds released under this Centrally Sponsored Scheme, sources said, “the Coalition Government has virtually strangulated Panchayats before these institutions could start breathing properly”.
“This indicates that there was no seriousness in making the Panchayats effective institutions of governance at grass root level”, sources said, adding “instead of making tall claims about holding Panchayat elections after several decades, the Government should have laid focus on proper utilization of funds sanctioned by the Union Government”.
Though the Union Ministry has approved funds to the tune of Rs 811.57 lakh for completion of carry over activities besides sanctioning Rs 3590.71 lakh for new activities during the current financial year, there are apprehensions about full utilization of earmarked financial assistance even during ongoing year in view of Assembly elections and exercise involved in formation of new Government.


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