SHILLONG, July 09: The decline in budgetary allocation to the North Eastern Council (NEC) for developmental activities does not bode well for the North East (NE) states, according to Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma who pointed out how much these states depend on the NEC for financial backing.
Stressing this point during the 67th plenary session of the NEC which was held here on Monday, Conrad said that the NEC budget for 2018-19 is only Rs 1134 crores out of which 60 percent of the budget which is Rs 681 crores is set aside for funding projects proposed by the states, as against Rs 880 crores which was allocated for the states during 2017-18 out of the budget of Rs 925 crores.
In this backdrop, Conrad has urged the Central government o review the fund allocation to the NEC by raising the annual budget to Rs 2,000 crore.
He also said that without suitable financial backing from the NEC, it will be difficult for the North East states to reach the desired levels of growth and development as envisioned in the NER Vision 2020.
Conrad also said that Meghalaya, like all the other Northeastern states, still needs to overcome the challenges of development gaps and disparities across all sectors.
The North Eastern Council, as per the mandate, has been instrumental in supplementing the developmental initiatives of the states of the NE region, he added.
Conrad further expressed concern over the decision of the Ministry of DoNER to wind up the Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) and replacing it with the North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS).
Stating that funding under NESIDS for important infrastructure is also extremely limited, he said, “These recent decisions on the part of the Ministry of DoNER and the NEC will have a dampening effect on the socio-economic development of the NE states as investments in the crucial sectors such as human resource development and employment, power, transport and communication sector will be affected,” he said.
“It would be impossible for the resource in-elastic states of the NE region to be able to take up key infrastructure projects on their own,” he added.
Pointing out the recent communications received from Ministry of DoNER and NEC, Conrad said there is a likelihood that the NEC will withdraw the sanctions to schemes and projects which were accorded during 2017-18.
A pensive Conrad also expressed his concern while opining that it is also unlikely that the NEC will approve the important schemes and projects which have been retained in the preceding years.
“These decisions of the Ministry of DoNER and the NEC have led to a sense of disquiet amongst the NE states and have disheartened the state government departments who have spent considerable time, effort and money in the preparations of DPRs for these projects.”
He said in the spirit of the federal structure, any important decision on change of approach and guidelines must be taken at the plenary session of the NEC.
“Therefore, pending any further decision which should be decided in the plenary session for any modification of guidelines or changed approach, I would urge upon the Ministry of DoNER and NEC to review their recent decisions and to continue providing financial assistance to the developmental programmes of the states, as has been done in the past,” he stated.
According to him, delay in processing for sanctioning and implementation will slow down the pace of investment and development which will affect the state and the region as a whole.
The plenary session was chaired by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh as the chairman of the NEC in the presence of Union Minister of State for DONER Jitendra Singh, who is also the vice chairman of the Council.