Monday, July 13, 2009

Uncertainty over Lalgarh funds utilisation

; Pranesh Sarkar

KOLKATA, 12 JULY: At a time when lack of development is being singled out as the major reason behind the Maoist menace in Lalgarh, uncertainty looms large over proper utilisation of a handsome amount of funds earmarked for development projects in the area.

Senior officials at Writers' Buildings apprehend a major portion of Rs 50 crore, which was allotted as additional Central assistance to the Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs department to undertake several development projects in Maoist-infested districts, could remain unutilised this year as the district authorities are yet to submit project specific proposals to the finance department. As per an order issued by the finance department this year, project proposals needed to be submitted to the finance department within 31 July if the Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs department wants to use the funds allotted as additional Central assistance in this financial year.

A senior official of the Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs department said: "The department has a total of Rs 60 crore as budgetary allocation this year to undertake development projects in backward blocks of West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum and Burdwan. Of this, Rs 10 crore is allotted as core budget of the department and the rest (Rs 50 crore) is additional Central assistance. We can use the funds allotted under the core budget on our own. But to use the Central assistance, we need to submit project proposals in advance."

"The rule has been introduced this year. As of now, we used to spend Central assistance as per the requirement of the area and for this no prior proposals were needed to be submitted. We have asked the concerned district magistrates to prepare project proposals for Central assistance funds, but these are yet to reach here," the official added.

Officials also said as the district authorities of the Maoist-infested areas were busy in holding Lok Sabha polls and later they had to concentrate on the Lalgarh operations, they did not get time to prepare the project proposals. Now, as no such proposals have been submitted with only about two weeks to go before the deadline, officials apprehend a major portion of the funds is going to remain unspent. The funds were meant for several water related projects like drinking water projects, minor irrigation, excavation of water tanks and rain water harvesting in the under-developed areas where Maoists have gained a foothold over the past few years.
Last year also, the Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs department had failed to spend a major portion of the funds allotted to it to undertake development projects in these areas. The department could use only Rs 23 crore out of its Rs 50 crore budgetary allocation.

If the department fails to carry out development with the Central assistance funds, it would be a jolt to the state government which is desperate to develop the areas where Maoists have gained a foothold.

Meanwhile, after killing two CPI-M activists and compelling a dozen others to desert the party at gun point in Midnapore Sadar block, Maoists raided the house of another CPI-M leader at Memul in Salboni block yesterday throwing a further challenge to the forces deployed to flush them out. Mr Sudrashan Das, a branch committee member of the party, was not at home when the cadres raised his residence. The Maoistsseverely beat up his 65-year-old father and torched their house.

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