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Govt bled scheme to fund Games

Silchar, Feb. 22: Less than a week after the “best ever” National Games ended, the focus has shifted to the games politicians allegedly played behind the scenes to bankroll the extravagant 10-day show.

Although the 33rd edition of the event was an unqualified success, some are now asking the question: “At what cost'”

An employment-generation scheme, Kalpataru, was the casualty as the Tarun Gogoi government cut no corners in showcasing Assam’s organisational ability in front of everyone who had doubted it. A source said Kalpataru’s fate was sealed when the government asked all deputy commissioners to divert nearly 10 per cent of the constituency-wise allocation of funds for the scheme to the Games kitty.

Cachar deputy commissioner Gautam Ganguli confirmed receiving an official notification from the planning department soon after the National Games ended, intimating him and his counterparts in other districts of the government’s decision to actually scrap the scheme.

Launched three years ago with the aim of generating employment for unemployed youth in both urban and rural areas, Kalpataru was embroiled in a controversy anyway because of interference by politicians in the process of selecting the beneficiaries.

Kalpataru was officially abolished last week after a review by senior officials led to the conclusion that the scheme was not feasible anymore in its original format. There was no explanation, not officially at least, for diverting money meant for the scheme elsewhere.

The five Assembly constituencies of Karimganj district had been granted Rs 36.90 lakh each for the implementation of the scheme. But just before the National Games began, the government asked the district administration to divert 10 per cent of the allocation to the corpus set up for the event.

The employment scheme had envisaged a grant of a maximum of Rs 6,000 each to 6,000 unemployed youths in every constituency to enable them to start small businesses. The government is now said to be contemplating a face-saving “alternative plan” to promote entrepreneurship.

An official source said each beneficiary under the proposed “new Kalpataru plan” would get Rs 50,000 to launch small-scale industrial ventures. Half of this will be a grant and the rest a low-interest loan.

The catch is that a beneficiary will have to mortgage a piece of property to be eligible for the loan.

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