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Fat shame of fiscal surplus

- March 31 ends with unused crores

Ranchi, March 31: On the last day of the fiscal, senior bureaucrats of an impoverished state are busy juggling hundreds of crores.

In the 2013-14 fiscal, Jharkhand utilised less than Rs 10,000 crore of Rs 16,800 crore, its plan head budget for development work.

Though state planning and development department, which monitors utilisation of these funds, including state and central allocations, will table exact figures in a day or two, state finance secretary A.P. Singh said the situation was unsatisfactory.

“We fear the state utilised below Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal. It can’t be termed good,” Singh told The Telegraph.

Contacted, special secretary in state planning and development department D.K. Saxena said: “So far (till Sunday), the state utilised around Rs 9,000 crore of plan head funds. There may be a slight increase today. We proposed before Planning Commission to decrease the state’s plan size given the fact there are delays in sanctions of central aid.”

But, Saxena’s last statement needs to be reviewed in the light of the state’s failure to properly implement or start central projects (see box).

If projects don’t start on time, they can’t be billed against central funds in a fiscal.

In a politically volatile state, where governments get shunted and bureaucrats reshuffled regularly, project conceptualisation, execution and completion stare at delays.

This culture ensured the last Sunday of the fiscal year and today were busiest working days in secretariats — Project Building, Dhurwa; Nepal House, Doranda and others — and district headquarters.

At the eleventh hour, departments made a mad scramble to withdraw funds from respective treasuries, clearing pending contractor bills or depositing unutilised funds to public ledger (PL) accounts for use in the new fiscal.

Insiders said on Sunday, over Rs 250 crore were withdrawn from treasuries.

This year, since the March first week announcements of general elections, politicians and state machinery have switched on the poll mode.

Chief minister Hemant Soren is touring the state, mainly Santhal Pargana, JMM’s old bastion on shaky ground.

Many MLAs, including turncoats, are also in the race to become MPs, their priority shift impacting state-level work and officials they interact with.

Asked if Lok Sabha polls had anything to do with the last-minute hurry in dealing with plan head funds, a senior official said preoccupation with elections played a marginal part in the mess. “True, many state IAS officers are deputed to other states as poll observers. But they were right here till March third week, doing precious little to boost expenditure,” an official said.