In a stinging criticism of the Gujarat government, the CAG has said that the delay in giving diesel subsidy directly to fishermen has defeated the purpose of diesel VAT subsidy scheme. In its report tabled in the Assembly, the CAG has stated that the Gujarat Fisheries Department failed to release Rs 310.5 crore to 20,313 fishermen eligible for the diesel VAT subsidy scheme for two years as on March 2017. It also stated that the budgetary allocation for the scheme was not adequate.
“The budgetary support provided by the Gujarat government for subsidy was never adequate as compared to its requirement during 2013-17. Thus, due to inadequate budgetary support from government, there was shortfall in reimbursement of subsidy to the fishermen. Consequently, the reimbursement has been delayed which defeated the purpose of giving direct benefit of VAT relief to fishermen,” the CAG report stated.
According to the CAG, subsidy was reimbursed in full in the period 2012-15, with part subsidy paid in subsequent years. “The subsidy for 2015-16 of Rs 149.50 crore was proportionately (53.42 per cent) reimbursed to the eligible fishermen as per directions (October 2016) of Gujarat government. This was paid out of Rs 80 crore received by the department in 2016-17. The outstanding subsidy of Rs 310.50 crore involves 20,313 fishermen for two years (partial claim of Rs 69.50 crore for 2015-16 and full claim of Rs 241 crore for 2016-17),” it stated.
The CAG also stated that by not carrying out infrastructure projects for the construction of nine new harbours, the state failed to exploit the potential of inland fish production. “Against the potential of 2.49 lakh MT, the Fisheries Department has so far exploited the potential to the extent of 45 per cent only, leaving a huge untapped potential. The department needs to revisit its plans, programmes and prioritise development of inland fsheries to exploit the full potential of inland fisheries in the state,” the report stated.
Only 12,165.80 hectare of land was mapped for brackish water aquaculture till September 2017 against the availability of 89,340 hectare of land, it said. Besides, only 1,842.21 hectare of land was brought under brackish water aquaculture during April 2012 to September 2017, it added.
Further, issues like non-adoption of uniform fishing ban period, over 50 per cent of the vacant posts in department, especially in technical cadres over a long period of time adversely affects successful implementation of various programmes intended for improvement of fisheries activities, the CAG said. Also, no evaluation of the impact of the schemes — whether the desired objectives were achieved or not — was done by the state government. “It was also observed that the department did not factor in the specific needs of the inland, marine and brackish water fisheries schemes. In absence of any evaluation, the success or effectiveness of the schemes, projects implemented and development of fisheries could not be assessed. Further, the socio-economic impact of the schemes on the fishermen community was not ascertainable,” the report stated.
‘Fish Culture Cage scheme on papers’
The CAG found that the government’s scheme for “fish culture cage” under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana was not implemented between 2012 and 2017. No expenditure was incurred on the scheme during 2014-15 and 2016-17. While the Fisheries Department parked the funds with other agencies, it reported utilisation of funds by showing achievement of financial targets.