Centre pulls up State for misusing funds given to fight Naxals
The Maharashtra government compromised on its internal security by mishandling Central funds meant to fight left-wing extremism in remote areas of the state. mid-day has learnt that the Centre has pulled up Maharashtra for poor management of funds, which had been provided to fill gaps in the critical infrastructure in the Naxal-hit districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia.
The Scheme for Special Infrastructure was announced in 2008 to provide assistance to the governments of five states to upgrade their Special Forces deployed in Naxal-hit areas. File pic for representation
The other districts where the funds were found misused and remained unaccounted for over the years are Khammam in Telangana, Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, and Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh. These funds had been sanctioned under the Central-assisted Scheme for Special Infrastructure (SIS), launched in five Naxal-hit states back in 2008.
Not only did Maharashtra not account for 12.55 per cent of the funds provided since 2008, the Centre also found several deficiencies in its accounting of funds including: major mismatch in the physical and financial progress reports submitted, and not returning and not accounting for the unspent funds back to the Centre.
This has raised doubts that the money was never used for development purposes. The Central government has now threatened to withdraw leftover funds lying with the state, if it does not account for it at the earliest. The issue was raised by Dilip Kumar, joint secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs at North Block, New Delhi, in his letter to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary (CS) written in March this year.
Kumar warned that, despite several reminders, the state has not bothered to show financial prudence, and the Centre will be forced to block future funds for fighting Naxal activities. “The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has already adversely commented on the poor implementation of the SIS.
Some serious deficiencies that have been noticed are: physical and financial progress reports submitted do not match with each other, and it is not clear what has been done with the funds lying vacant with the state,” said Kumar, in his letter to the Maharashtra CS. The SIS was announced in 2008 to provide assistance to the governments of five states to upgrade their Special Forces deployed in Naxal-hit areas.
The first allocation of R500 crore, which went to eight districts spanning these five state, was meant to cater to critical infrastructure gaps and works related to building mobility for the security forces, upgrading existing roads, tracks in inaccessible areas, providing secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations, upgradation of infrastructure, weaponry, equipment and training of forces.
A total of Rs 1,943 crore has been released to the five states under the scheme since 2008, Central government officials said. Of this, doubts have been raised in the utilisation of Rs 243 crore. “Some of the works sanctioned were completed at costs lesser than estimated. It’s not clear what has been done with the remaining funds. The state should either return the amount to the Indian government or utilise them immediately,” said Kumar in his letter.
When contacted, Amitabh Rajan, former additional chief secretary (home), who was in charge of the department for the last five years and recently retired, said, “There is a conceptual problem with the Naxal expenditure in Maharashtra.
While the funds are assigned for the operational area, the politically negotiated area of Naxal operation is much bigger. Secondly, the funds here (Maharashtra) are spent through the Public Works Department (PWD) unlike other states, which do it through the police and other unofficial channels.
Therefore, they become tedious department works on Maharashtra. We also need to improve the working of zilla parishads and push them hard to reach in the remotest regions with these funds. Overall, with these restraints, we have done reasonably well.”
Rs 243 cr
Total amount under the Scheme for Special Infrastructure, over which the Home ministry has raised doubts regarding its utilisation by five states