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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Jul 2014

Agri dept wants change in rulesof exhaustion of central funds

Harkirat Singh, Hindustan Times  Amritsar, December 11, 2013
First Published: 00:02 IST(11/12/2013) | Last Updated: 00:03 IST(11/12/2013)

The Centre-state relationship in India is overtly centralised by the central government in its favour, especially in financial matters - is evident from the funds issued by the Centre to the states for centrally-sponsored schemes, which is withdrawn by the Centre if remained unutilised after a stipulated time-frame, ignoring practical difficulties faced by the state concerened in utilising the funds.

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The issue has been raised by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal time and again, arguing that the states should have freedom to decide on utilisation of the central funds.

Agri schemes

Numerous agriculture-related schemes of the central government often irked the Punjab agriculture department because year-after-year (fiscal year) a large chunk of funds for these schemes remained unutilised and withdrawn by the Centre.

Giving details of these schemes, director of agriculture Mangal Singh Sandhu told Hindustan Times the state got a sum of `206.44 crore under the Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Yogana (RKVY) for various agriculture-related activities, including subsidies to farmers. By end of the current fiscal year, the entire amount could not be exhausted, as had been happening every year, said Sandhu.

"This is because, as per the central government rules, a certain amount of the fund has to be spent or given as subsidy to the Scheduled Caste or Other Backward Class (SC/OBC) families for utilisation in agriculture-related activities. The amount allocated for this purpose is on the basis of the SC/BC population in Punjab, which is about 29%,"stated Sandhu.

However, according to the director of agriculture, the number of SC/BC families involved in agriculture - those owning lands - come to just 3.68%. In such a scenario, a large portion fixed for the distribution among the SC/BC section remained utilised and lapsed every year, he added, while pointing out that the amount of subsidy to a farmer for a particular scheme was fixed by the central government before release of the funds.

He further said similar rules also cover the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) scheme, where subsidy was provided for wheat seeds replacement every year so as to get higher yield.

Such central funds also come for horticulture activities, dairy farming, fisheries, poultry etc and the rules are similar. In all these schemes, the Punjab agriculture department is the nodal agency.

"We have written to the chief minister that the rules for these schemes should be modified. That is, if after covering the SC/BC farming families, funds still remain, the centre should allow us to use this amount for the benefit of the general category farming families. This will help the state utilise the entire amount,"stated Sandhu, adding that this parameter also covers the funds that the state has got for its prestigious diversification programme.

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