January 31, 2009 4:09:01 pm
The Government is likely to do some serious talking with the states in a meeting currently underway in Delhi and emphasise on the implementation of the stimulus packages to neutralise the effects of the global downturn on the Indian economy. The exercise is a marked departure from the Government’s business-as-usual approach and indicates its determination to ensure implementation of the packages.
Chaired by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar,the meeting is an interface between chief secretaries and concerned union secretaries on the issues relating to better implementing the packages. The union ministries have been working overtime for this meeting. In fact,the Centre is taking implementation of the packages so seriously that before being hospitalized,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had written to all the Chief Ministers on an interface between them and the central Government on the implementation of the packages.
The meeting would also lay due emphasis on expediting the pace of executing major projects and schemes and that the funds earmarked for them be efficiently utilized by March 31 this year. In the first package announced on December 7,the Centre had announced that it has decided to seek authorization for additional plan expenditure of upto Rs 20,000 crores in the current year. It had also stressed on full utilization of funds already provided,so that the pace of expenditure is maintained. In the second package announced on January 2,the Government had said it would work closely with the states to encourage them release land for low income and middle-income housing schemes. Moreover,as a one-time measure till June 30 this year,states will be provided assistance under the JNNURM for purchase of buses for their urban transport systems.
In the meeting the Railway Ministry is likely to ask the states to provide 50 per cent money to expedite the pace of the projects,especially those being executed with socio-economic consideration within their territorial domain. Its contention is that it has a large throw-forward of ongoing projects and it is not feasible to complete them in a reasonable time frame in view of non-availability of required funds. We will ask the states to share at least 50 per cent of the cost of the projects in their domain so as to expedite their implementation,” a senior Railway Ministry official said. He pointed out that this was imperative as such projects are primarily on socio-economic consideration. In fact some states have already expressed their willingness to contribute two-third cost of such projects,he said and pointed out “there is a case for other states to emulate the same.”
Another vexed issue likely to be highlighted by the ministry officials is inadequate delay in ensuring availability of land for fructifying various railway projects. Arguing that land should be “handed over in a time-bound manner,” he pointed out that besides delay,certain states are quoting high cost of land,which is in sharp variation to the cost projected during the preparation of the Detailed Project Report. “Though there may be a time lag between preparation of estimate and land acquisition,the cost being worked out is very high. The Chief Secretaries will be requested to evolve a mechanism to review increase in cost and devise a suitable formula to compensate railways of such increases,” he reasoned.
On the issue of implementing the flagship programme National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) the meeting will delve on the issue of why certain states are lagging behind in their performance. While states like Andhra Pradesh,Rajasthan,Chhattisgarh,Maharashtra ,Manipur and Mizoram have emerged as performing states by utilizing nearly 60 per cent of their labour budgetary projections,but states where the outreach of the programme is low are Uttar Pradesh,Orissa ,Jammu and Kashmir ,Meghalaya,Nagaland and Kerala. Among those states,which have shown more than 30 per cent decline in providing employment to households upto December are Uttar Pradesh,West Bengal and Uttarakhand,while those showing marginal decline (less than 10 per cent) are Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
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