Docile babus, BJP-PDP nexus, reckless NC govt triggered finance crunch

Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: A reckless government, gross political opportunism of the opposition and a docile bureaucracy brought the state on the brink of the financial disaster underscored by Governor NN Vohra recently, Kashmir Reader has learnt.
An official in the state Financial department, wishing anonymity as she is not authorised to speak to the media, said the payment of the annual plan allocation by New Delhi got entangled in politicking.
She said the central government had to pay the allocation in three-monthly installments of Rs 2,000 crore each. The payment that was due for the quarter ending October was released in advance in September to enable the state government to tide over the emergency caused by the devastating floods.
While releasing the advance payment, the state was told that it can later deduct these Rs 2,000 crore from the flood relief package of Rs 44,000 crore it had sought from the central government. The state can spend the Rs 2,000 crore thus obtained on its budgetary plans, the central government had said.
“But then the election bugle was sounded on October 28 and everything turned topsy turvy,” the official said.
Having suffered its worst-ever defeat in parliamentary polls and sensing a similar rout in Assembly polls, the National Conference demanded that the elections shall be deferred but PDP and BJP had already smelled victory and wanted the elections to be held on time.
“The central government did not release the quarterly payments thereafter, saying it would do it once the state government sends utilisation certificates for the money spent on various projects,” another senior officer in the Finance department said.
As the election fervor gripped the state by the government, it could not produce the utilisation certificate for the second quarter payment.
“Just before the floods, the NC-Cong coalition government had decided to regularize contractual and ad hoc employees besides enhancing the retiring age of the employees to 60 without ascertaining whether the state coffers could bear such a heavy burden. Such measures overran the budget. This was all done to woo the voters,” the officer said.
“At the same time, the central government with the tacit understanding of a local party stopped the flood relief package just to corner the NC-led government from deriving any political mileage out of the flood relief and rehabilitation,” he added.
In the whole affair, bureaucrats maintained a “strange silence” as they did not want to annoy the new dispensation.
The finance officer said that it was not difficult for the bureaucrats concerned to send the utilisation certificate for at least securing the quarterly installment.
“It is being done due to power politics. The invisible political forces have told babus not to act till the new government is formed,” he said.
The government of India had approved a Rs 7300-crore annual plan, Rs 4000 crore under centrally-sponsored schemes and Rs 600 crore under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) for Jammu and Kashmir for the year 2014-15.
The officer said that only 40 percent of the money has been released, while bureaucrats have been told, verbally, that the rest of the amount will be released when the next government takes the oath.
“So the politicians in power could claim that the state has started treading on the path of development, the most heard slogan during the recent polls,” he added.
Governor NN Vohra recently sought Union Finance minister’s help on the crunch. The state’s liabilities have reached a whopping Rs 2000 crore. Reports said the government has decided to borrow Rs 300 crore from open market to meet its daily expenses. It has already borrowed Rs 1500 cr from open market during the current fiscal.
The state on its own can generate only Rs 7000 crore in revenue, which is expended on essential services.
The administration declined to comment over the issue.