Guwahati, Sep 8 : The North Eastern states today expressed their displeasure at the time-consuming process for approval of projects by the North Eastern Council (NEC) and failure of the NEC to take up new projects for the region due to ‘fund constraints’.
A call for restructuring the NEC to fulfill its mandate for holistic development of the region was also raised at two-day 68th Plenary of NEC, which got underway here today. In his speech at the Plenary, Nagaland Governor RN Ravi maintained that the NEC has failed to perform its desired role for the region.
Noting that NEC was created as an institution to look at the region as one organic whole and keep it so through creation of shared institutions, infrastructure and interests’, Ravi said, “Over the decades, unfortunately NEC has been weakened. It has happened mainly due to inadequate appreciation of the underlying rationale for this unique institution.”
“Its resources have dwindled and its capacity to be a unified of the region has been severely eroded. It has been practically subsumed by the Ministry of DoNER. The states of the region now look at it merely as a source for additional developmental resources,” he maintained. Urging the meeting to ‘take cognizance of the fundamental drift of NEC away from its core objective’, the Nagaland governor said the NEC can be restructured in tune with contemporary needs and realities. Assam Governor Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, in his speech, highlighted inadequate funds under NEC and said, “The government of India will require to review the fund allocation to the NEC by raising the annual budget size so as to enable NEC to fulfil its mandate for ensuring sustainable growth and development in Assam and the North East.”
“The NEC budget during 2018-19 was Rs 1135 crore against which normative allocation for Assam was fixed for Rs 136 crore. This trend of allocation for NEC is quite inadequate to address the hopes and aspirations of Assam and the region as a whole,” he said. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio mentioned that he had raised the issue to increasing funds to the NEC in the previous Plenary last year, but no response has been received yet.
He claimed that no new projects were sanctioned for his state in 2018-19 and in 2019-20 also, NEC may not be able to take up new schemes due to fund constraints. “I suggest that statewise budget be earmarked and that we do away with multiple levels of screening projects as this is too time-consuming,” Rio added. Echoing similar concerns over funds allocation, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, “The amount released to the NEC is too small to make any meaningful impact on the development of inter-state physical infrastructure and human resource development of the North Eastern region.”
Claiming that 10 per cent earmarked by every ministry for NE is not fully utilised, Singh urged assess to these unutilised resources for the infrastructure development in the NE states.
Speaking along similar lines, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said the NEC has not been able to take up new projects in the recent past ‘owing to resource constraints’. “To enable the NEC to fulfill its mandate of promoting development of NE region in the real sense, its budget should be increased to about Rs 2000 crore annually,” he said, while also urging for reform in the process of approval of projects, terming the current system as ‘long winding and hence time consuming’.
Pointing to the unutilised portion of 10 per cent mandatory allocation of every ministry for NE, Sangma suggested that the substantial accumulated amount lying with the Ministry of Finance be made available to NEC for implementation of inter-sectoral development in NE.
Earlier, MoS (Independent Charge) for Development of North East Region (DoNER) Dr Jitendra Singh, in his speech, said his ministry has been able to reach out to the people of the region.
He pointed out that the outlay for DoNER has increased from Rs 700 crore when he had taken charge of the ministry in the first Narendra Modi-led government to currently over Rs 1400 crore.
The Union Home Minister, who is also the chairman of the NEC, Amit Shah, in his inaugural speech had harped on the Centre’s thrust on development for NE and its determination to ensure the region becomes the ‘engine for growth’ for the entire country. (UNI)