States that are currently facing severe drought are the ones who have spent the least on soil conservation and water conservation
The ministry of rural development has made the funding mechanism for its pan-India Integrated Watershed Management Programme easy and less stringent. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh made the announcement after a meeting with state rural development ministers in Delhi on Friday. The meeting took place in the wake of an unprecedented situation faced by the Union government—huge amount of money under the watershed programme remains unspent. The programme supports soil and water conservation to raise productivity of land in rain-fed areas. These include the drought-prone and desert districts.
“The huge unspent money by the states—Rs 3,900 crore—speaks volumes for the way water conservation schemes are being implemented,” says Ramesh. Interestingly, states that are currently facing severe drought are the ones who have spent the least under the programme that directly funds drought-proofing activities. For example, Maharashtra has the largest unspent budget of Rs 602 crore among all states; parts of it are facing the worst drought in memory.
Under the new funding mechanism, money will be transferred twice a year to a state, based on the annual action plan submitted to the Central government. Earlier, money used to be sent in three instalments over a period of seven years. Under the old mechanism, the state was not to be given the next instalment till it submits utilisation certificate for the first two years of budget. For the projects taken up in 2009, the second instalment was supposed to be transferred last year. But till now only three states—Nagaland, Tripura and Karnataka—have been able to avail it.
In fact, other states have not submitted any proposal for the second instalment.
The new mechanism is supposed to make states more proactive in filing accounts with the Central government. However, officials present in the meeting say it is too early to vouch for its effectiveness. Right now, it tentatively follows the mechanism of the rural employment guarantee programme. In this programme also, states have not been that prompt in sending in their utilisation certificates to access next tranche of funding.
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