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Budget cuts in revised estimates: Panel asks water resources dept to ‘plug loopholes’ for ideal utilisation of budget

“It also indicates the inability of the Department to cash the cheques the Centre writes,” the Committee said in its report, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: March 9, 2021 3:00:14 am
“It also indicates the inability of the Department to cash the cheques the Centre writes,” the Committee said in its report, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Highlighting “poor financial planning”, a parliamentary standing committee has asked the Jal Shakti Ministry’s department of water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation to “plug loop holes” in the implementation of various schemes so that their allocations are fully utilised and no scope remains for reduction in their budget at the RE (revised estimates) stage.

Analysing the department’s Demands for Grants for 2021-22, the Standing Committee on Water Resources said, “The Committee notes that over the years, the Budgetary Support / allocation to the Department has been gradually decreasing at RE stage, barring the fiscal year 2017-18. The Committee are of the opinion that continuous decrease in budgetary allocation at RE level is not only symptomatic of the poor financial planning by the Department, but also render the original budgetary allocations losing their sanctity.”

“It also indicates the inability of the Department to cash the cheques the Centre writes,” the Committee said in its report, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

“The Committee, therefore, recommend that the Department should focus on streamlining and strengthening the monitoring mechanisms and plug loop holes in the implementation of various schemes / programmes in order to ensure that the outlays earmarked for them are fully utilised and there may not be any scope for decrease at RE stage,” it said.

“Further, the Department should diligently carry out a pre-budget exercise and also, apply best available methodology in making more pragmatic and prudent budgetary estimates in order to avoid major deviations at RE level,” it added.

The committee, headed by BJP member Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, made these observations in view of the fact that the department’s budget has been reduced from Rs 8,960.39 crore in budget estimates (BE) 2020-21 to Rs 7,262.09 crore in the RE 2020-21. In the last financial year also, the department’s allocation had been reduced to Rs 7,518.21 crore at RE stage from Rs 8,245.25 crore from BE.

“The Committee are constrained to note that most of the major Schemes under the Department have undergone a substantial cut of at least 25% in their budgetary allocations vis-a-vis 2020-21 (BE allocations) barring two schemes namely, Development of Water Resources Information System and Atal Bhujal Yojana, which have witnessed substantial increase in budgetary allocations (25% and 65%. respectively) vis-a-vis 2020-21 (BE allocations),” the committee said.

“The Committee have been apprised by the Department that due to truncated budget for 2020-21 at the RE stage, they could release only 10% of the advance payment against 40% to the States in some schemes, which is certainly a committed liability that would be carried forward to next fiscal year. The Committee are of the view that this will hurt the already strained finances of the State Governments,” it said.

The committee has also highlighted the increasing committed liability of the Department.

“The Committee urge the Department to approach the Ministry of Finance for one time waiving off its committed liability so as to enable the Department to allocate more funds to the various important programmes which are facing a resource crunch,” it said.

Taking note of the recent flash flood in the downstream of Rishi Ganga River in Uttarakhand, the Committee asked the department to study the impact of the hydroelectric projects in causing Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF). “Keeping in view the fact that the glaciers in the Himalayan region are constantly retreating and melting due to climate change and global warming, the Committee recommend the Department to commission a comprehensive study to assess the behaviour of Himalayan glaciers as well as the impact of the Hydro Electric Projects (HEP) if any, located in the region in causing Glacial Lake Outburst Flood,” it said.

“The Committee would categorically like to be apprised of the steps taken by the Ministry in this regard, within six months from the presentation of this Report to the Parliament,” it added.

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