The Centre’s decision to restore Uttarakhand’s special category status and its move to create a special cell for the Himalayan states would not help much the fund-starved state, chief minister Harish Rawat said on Tuesday.
“We welcome the Centre’s twin moves but that are not going to help the fund-starved state until it (Centre) starts releasing grants given to the state under the head of central assistance,” Surendra Kumar, the chief minister’s media in-charge, quoted the chief minister as saying.
Kumar told HT that the proposed cell had been disbanded after the erstwhile planning commission had been replaced with Niti (The National Institute for Transforming India) Ayog after BJP-led NDA government replaced the previous Congress-led UPA regime in May 2014.
The Niti Ayog is likely to give its approval to this cell for the Himalayan states at its meeting to be held on November 30.
“This cell had also existed before. As a result, we as the Himalayan state used to get the Central funds for infrastructure building at a 90:10 ratio,” Kumar said.
That meant the Centre used to share 90% of the funds for infrastructure related projects and the rest were shared by the state government.
“We stopped getting central funds for such (special infrastructural-related) projects after the Modi government dismantled the planning commission with Niti Ayog,” Kumar said. “Similarly, the Central share of the funds was also withdrawn after it took back the special category status.”
Similarly, the cancellation of the special category status deprived the state of its share that it used to get for the Centrally sponsored projects.
“That together with the Centre’s decision to stop its grants provided to the state under central assistance created a massive financial crisis for the state,” Kumar said.
The officials agreed the state would start getting funds under certain heads it had been denied earlier following the Centre’s recent decisions.
“These benefits would, however, be offset by the Centre’s decision to not resume its financial assistance for the state that it used to get under four heads during the previous UPA regime,” said state finance secretary MC Joshi.
He named these heads as Special Central Assistance, Normal Central Assistance, Special Project Assistance and Additional Central Assistance.
“As a result, the state will continue to incur a whopping loss of around `2000 crore annually as in the past some time,” Joshi said.
He, however, agreed that the state would again start getting major share of the funds for the centrally sponsored projects like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RAMSA) following the Centre’s decision to restore the state’s special category status.
The state might also start getting Central funds for infrastructures if a separate cell for the Himalayan states would be created, official said. “That means networks of roads, rails along with tunnels would start coming up in the hilly areas,” Joshi said.
“That would reduce distances while giving a boost to the local economy thereby checking the migration from the hills,” he told HT.