Deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto enters the Assembly as Opposition members demonstrate with paddy sheaves in hand in Ranchi on Tuesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, Dec. 4: A corpus of over Rs 246 crore, the sum total of a Rs 3 crore development fund earmarked for each state MLA — and Jharkhand has 82 of them — is lying unused with only four months left in the current fiscal.
Shocking as it is in a poor, underdeveloped state like Jharkhand, the figure is also a pointer to the poor financial management on the part of the Arjun Munda government.
Today, the state government found itself pushed to a corner in the Assembly when MLAs cutting across the party lines opposed the delay in the release of their local area development fund. They even threatened to move a proposal in the House tomorrow to dissolve the idea of such a fund altogether if there was no redressal of their grievances.
According to special secretary in the state rural development department — the custodian of the funds — A.K. Prabhakar, the money could not be released to districts as a majority of them did not submit accounts and vouchers of previous years’ MLA Scheme and Mukhyia Mantri Vikas Yojana (MMVY) funds usage.
The rural development department got cracking after receiving a communiquť from the state finance department which wanted to know status of detailed contingent (D/C) bills — a statement of expenses in sanctioned schemes.
But they were in for a shock.
“On verification, we found that a majority of D/C bills are pending for financial year 2011-12 and in many cases two to five-year-old accounts are also pending. We have asked deputy commissioners and deputy development commissioners of all districts to pass on the accounts with vouchers at the earliest,” Prabhakar told The Telegraph.
This has meant that nothing has been spent on the schemes and projects even after the state government made budget allocations for them.
Each MLA can undertake various developmental schemes like road and drain repairs, build ponds, etc, in his/her respective areas under MLA Scheme for which Rs 2 crore is earmarked every year. An MLA also has another Rs 1 crore at his /her disposal under Mukhya Mantri Vikas Yojana (MMVY).
In the Assembly today, Speaker C.P. Singh backed the demand of angry MLAs, many of whom had raised the issue during the Monsoon Session in September. At the time, Singh had asked the chief minister and the chief secretary to ensure the problem was resolved in a month.
Today, when BJP MLA Raghuvar Das raised the issue, the chief minister was not present in the House. His deputy, Hemant Soren, refrained from commenting, saying the matter was not related to the departments under his domain.
But, the Speaker insisted the chief minister issue a statement.
“Outstanding D/C bills amount to Rs 900 crore,” Munda explained later. “There are several drawing and disbursing officers in the state. At times, the government does amend rules to facilitate one-time release of funds. But, this is no solution. We have to find a permanent cure,” he added.
But that did not satisfy the House.
The Speaker blamed the government.
“Let me first go through the rules and regulations. This issue will be taken up tomorrow again. If the House is convinced, I don’t mind getting a resolution passed that MLA local area development funds be abolished. The government is only trying to hush up the issue and apparently trying to shield DCs and DDCs,” Singh said.