Editorial: Wither development

Given the dismal performance by the state’s planning department, the government took various initiatives to re-structure the Planning and Development department. The aim was to ensure focused monitoring of public expenditure, timely preparation of project reports and close monitoring of development projects.

The proposal was given a nod some eight months back and it was decided to reorient and reorganize the Planning and Development Department. As per the governments’ proposal, the Planning and Development Department has been renamed as Planning and Monitoring Department.

Notably, the government functionaries attributed the change to the replacement of Planning Commission of India by NITI Aayog and acceptance of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations by the Union Government with long term ramifications with regards to the planning process in the state.

Under the new framework, Revenue Expenditure and Capital Expenditure Budget have been separated from last year and the process of rationalisation will continue over the current year.

However, the government’s move to provide impetus to the developmental projects has failed yet again. It has been reliably learnt that about 15 departments of the Government in the State have failed to utilize in full the grants sanctioned to them for the financial year 2016-17.

Though, allocations were made under Prime Ministerís Development Package for the current financial year and released through Planning, Development and Monitoring Department, the situation on ground has not changed.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir does not have a strong economy and most of the developmental schemes are dependent on the financial support received from the federal Government. Despite this, when funds are made available, the State Departments are unable to utilize them optimally.

What is more surprising is that the departments that have failed to utilize the funds in full are also the departments that are earmarked for lowest performance. Two of these are the R&B and School Education Department. Both of these departments are directly connected to public service meaning that these are involved in providing service to the public directly.

About roads, in Jammu province, the R&B Department was released Rs 20000 lakh but it utilized Rs 16358 lakh thereby leaving Rs 3641.71 lakh as unspent. However, in Kashmir province the R&B Department utilized Rs 19545.82 lakh against release of Rs 20000 lakh thereby leaving only Rs 454.18 lakh as unspent.

The reality about the School Education Department is disheartening. During the 2014 deluge, wide scale damage was inflicted on school infrastructure. The funds allocated to the head should have been utilized for reconstructing the infrastructure. But the School Education Department has miserably failed in its performance in regard to reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

The question now remains, who is to be held accountable for this mess. The political bosses, the bureaucracy or the lower rung babus who manage the affairs at the lower level. This question should be answered by the government soon and besides, the government should also try to fix the responsibility for such failure.

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