Union Territories (UTs) without legislature grossly underutilised funds allocated to them in the past financial year, and those UTs that have a legislature performed better on the development front, the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has found.
In its 238th report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the committee headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma said the utilisation of funds was noticeably low in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&NI) and Ladakh.
Expressing its “disappointment” with what it said was “persistent underutilisation of funds” in Ladakh, the Committee has also recommended special status for the region.
In its report, the Committee noted that UTs without a legislature used approximately 66.83% of the total allocation made to them in BE (Budget Estimate) 2021-22 till January, 2022. It asked the Home Ministry to apprise it of steps being taken to address the underutilisation of funds.
“The Committee believes that proper utilisation of funds is very important, failing which, it may lead to cuts by the Finance Ministry and weaken the case for enhanced allocations in subsequent years,” the report has said.
Ladakh has been demanding statehood or at least a legislature ever since the region was turned into a UT in 2019 after its separation from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
BJP MP from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, has demanded in Parliament that the region be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
While recommending examination of the possibility of including Ladakh in the 5th/6th Schedule, the standing committee report said: “As per Census 2011, the tribal population in UT of Ladakh is 2,18,355, which is 79.61% of the total population of 2,74,289. The Committee recommends that special status may be granted to the UT of Ladakh considering the developmental requirements of the tribal population.”
Following the August 5, 2019 decision that divided J&K into two UTs – J&K and Ladakh – there was much enthusiasm in Ladakh, which had for long accused the government in Srinagar of ignoring its needs.
However, with the administration now controlled by bureaucrats, the government has begun looking even more distant. Adding to the insecurity is the change to the government’s domicile policy in J&K, which has raised fears with regard to land, employment, demographic change and cultural identity.
In its report, the Committee also observed that the allocation made under Capital Head for Union Territories without legislature was 26.83% of the total allocation to all UTs in BE 2021-22, which has been reduced to 25.23% in BE 2022-23.
This reduction, it said, would negatively impact the developmental requirements of these UTs (without legislature). It recommended the allocation under this head be suitably increased.
The Committee has also recommended that the Home Ministry review the capital requirements of these UTs and seek appropriate enhancement at the RE (Revised Estimates) stage to carry out developmental works.
The Committee also observed that the people’s representatives are not consulted during the preparation of the Budget.
“The Committee strongly believes that the role of people’s representative in a democratic setup is very important as they are well acquainted with the priorities, needs and aspirations of the people of their constituency. Their participation and consultation with people’s representatives is pivotal throughout the planning and execution of developmental projects,” the report has said.
Asking administrations of UTs to consult local MPs and MLAs before preparing the budget, the report further said: “The Committee also notes that while Finance Minister takes inputs from the representatives of Trade and Industry and other stakeholders every year for making the Union Budget, non-consultation of people’s representatives in budgetary process, in a democratic set up, is not a desirable thing.”
On Jammu and Kashmir, while the committee has taken note of the investments promised under the new industrial policy of the UT, it has said the industries in the UT must be provided adequate help.
“…during the visit of the Committee to J&K, Industry owners complained of not receiving any assistance from the Government. The Committee, therefore, recommends appropriate awareness programmes of the schemes for revival of industries in J&K be undertaken in this regard.”