Written by Ashwani Sharma and Deeksha Sharma
The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to make all gram panchayat pradhans accountable for delays and non-utilisation of funds received from the Centre under MP’s Local Area Development (MPLAD), drought relief, National Health Mission (NHM), National Rural Livelihood Mission(NRLM), apart from state’s budgetary schemes.
The move comes after the state government’s special projects’ monitoring cell, set-up in the Chief Minister’s office, found that round Rs 800 crore was lying idle in some of the development blocks for than 10 years in some cases.
“Such a huge amount of funds lying without being spent is a very serious matter. This can’t be allowed. I wonder why the panchayats were not questioned or pulled -up for such a grave failure and official negligence.” said RN Batta, a sectary-rank officer, who heads the monitoring centre.
In a letter written to the Deputy Commissioner’s , Batta has proposed launching a special drive to ensure utlisation of the funds in a time-bound manner. He has a year to the panchayats to report compliance.
“If the funds are not spent within a year for the projects/schemes already approved and funds provided, the gram panchayat pradhans will face disciplinary proceedings under HP Panchayati Raj Act 1994”, he told DC in para 6 of his letter.
In case of land disputes or other technical or administrative reasons, the gram panchayats will be duty-bound to return the money to the departments. The gram panchayats can also ask for additional funds if the grants received is insufficient.
“If the department concerned, viz. PWD, IPH, education, health,agriculture animal husbandry, etc, is unable to supplement the grant, the entire pending amount should be returned without any delay,” Batta said.
The panchayats have been told to use new software already provided to them and enter details of the pending works and amount received. This will be updated on a daily basis depending on the implementation of the scheme.
Batta said till now there was no separate engineering wing with the department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. The state government is examining a proposal to establish its separate engineering cell for utilisation of the funds for the rural development schemes.
At present, there are 3,226 gram panchayats in the state, which gets money for the development of rural areas under various schemes.
“After the instructions were issued to DCs, BDOs and district panchayat officers, we have started getting regular updates on the funds utilisations, both in terms of physical and financial milestones ,said Kewal Sharma, Additional Director Panchayati Raj.