Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) legislators from Phek district of Nagaland on Saturday accused the State Rural Department of attempting to shield the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government’s mismanagement of the grant-in-aid for rural blocks.
In a joint statement, the four Opposition legislators – Kuzholuzo Neinu, Yitachu, Chotisuh Sazo and Kezhienyi Khalo – denied the department’s claims over release of funds to two districts and some blocks of another district.
The Rural Development Department claimed earlier that Rs 96 crore grant-in-aid, released by the Union Finance Ministry on November 17, 2017, for development activities in “excluded areas”, was cleared for rural blocks under Peren and Dimapur districts and some blocks under Mon district while the remaining blocks are yet to complete the required formalities.
The NPF MLAs also sought a clarification from the department as to why Phek district had been denied the fund even after a lapse of almost a year of it being cleared by the State Finance Department.
Alleging that the Rural Development Department changed the sub-allocation approved by the high-level committee in December, 2017, the four legislators asked Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who is also minister in-charge of the department, to explain as to how the sub-allocation to the communitised departments as per their requirements has been “drastically reduced to bare minimum”.
They further sought to know if the advice of the department’s advisor was taken when the Government decided to “disregard” the high-level committee’s decision.
On the department’s claims that non-availability of bank accounts has been one of the restrictions in releasing the fund, enforced in the beginning of April last year, the four MLAs asked it to explain as to how the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has been implemented in the previous years.
The four MLAs expressed shock at the “flimsy excuse” given by the Rural Development Department in a press statement with “pompous technical terms” to confuse the public.
They alleged the department is now passing the buck to the central ministry’s guidelines for non-release of the funds.
“This is nothing short of incompetence on the part of the State government and the department,” they said.
“The delay of almost a year is uncalled for and the department should take utmost care when it comes to the schemes which the Centre is providing lest a small and economically weak State like Nagaland is refused further sanctions for misuse and mismanagement of the funds,” they added.
The NPF legislators from Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchung and Tuensang districts slammed the PDA Government for the delay and change in sub-allocation of Rs 96 crore grant-in-aid to rural blocks.
Dimapur district NPF legislators Azheto Zhimomi and Moatoshi Longkumer in a joint statement earlier said the Dimapur District Rural Development Agency had not received grant-in-aid for rural blocks for 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18.
Peren and Mon district NPF legislators said their districts had not received the funds. NPF legislators of Kohima district Khriehu Liezietsu and Keneizhakho Nakhro also said Rs 96 crore grant-in-aid never found its way to the beneficiaries.