The Telegraph
Thursday , February 27 , 2014
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BJP eyes DoNER revamp

New Delhi, Feb. 26: The BJP is set to promise a bagful of goodies for the region that includes added teeth for the DoNER ministry in its vision document.

Besides schools and colleges, the Narendra Modi brand of sectoral universities has been found good for the Northeast also. Two sports universities, including one in Imphal, are on the cards, sources told The Telegraph. The vision document will also speak of security for northeasterners — a problem the government is facing currently and revival of DoNER.

Sportspersons like Mary Kom from the Northeast have brought laurels for India at international events, including the Olympics.

The BJP is understood to have brainstormed for over a year with intellectuals and technologists from the Northeast before proposals for radical changes for the Northeast were incorporated in the vision document. As the general elections approach, the party expects to deliver a punch.

To address the more basic problem, the BJP has decided to take forward what it started — DoNER that the UPA government made a ministry. However, the ministry is as good as a department with little political power vested in this portfolio.

“We have proposed that the DoNER ministry should have an engineering wing under it so that it does not need to go back to, say, the ministry of surface transport,” said a BJP source. The DoNER ministry has also faced shortfall of projected funds from the Planning Commission.

The Centre set up DoNER in September 2001 and upgraded it to a ministry in May 2004. The ministry handles the non-lapsable central pool of resources (NLCPR), which is a pool made of unutilised part of 10 per cent funds that every ministry sets aside every fiscal.

Upturning recommendations first by an administrative reforms commission and last year by a parliamentary panel to disband the ministry, the BJP has resolved to add teeth to the ministry.

“We thought there is no point in disbanding it or putting it under the Prime Minister. We want to revive it and it will be incorporated into the vision document,” said a senior BJP leader.

The BJP is exploiting an opportunity to restructure the DoNER —a task that was not taken up by the UPA government.

Former DoNER minister Arun Shourie said the difference could be made by having a more effective set of ministers and bureaucrats. Shourie said disbanding a ministry would not be advisable. If the DoNER is disbanded, the government will only end up reinforcing an impression in the Northeast that the region is neglected, said Shourie.

DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar had also protested to the Prime Minister after the 170th report of the parliamentary panel for home affairs that studied the DoNER ministry.

The report recommended winding up the ministry for its ineffectiveness or putting it directly under the Prime Minister. It had also observed that ineffectiveness stemmed from lack of funds and power.

The BJP is out to weed out the weaknesses and restructure the ministry. On a two-day visit to Assam, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reportedly said today that it was “laughable” to say that the BJP will do in 60 months what the Congress did in 60 years. The BJP, however, seems to have targeted the Northeast’s 24 Lok Sabha seats for some time now. As the idea for resuscitating life into development policies of the Northeast, RSS and BJP workers spotted some 100 teachers hailing from the region and working at premier institutes like the Indian Institute of Technology, sources said. Suggestions were invited from them and a “committee” was constituted of volunteering technologists.

“They worked quietly on several issues and that is where we got the idea of the engineering wing for DoNER,” a BJP source told this correspondent.

An engineering wing could enable the DoNER to engage in completion of unfinished roads and engineering projects to be completed through the NLCPR besides additional projects.

In its present avatar, officials concede that DoNER is simply a “post office” that clears projects to utilise the NLCPR.

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