Punjab misses urban mission milestones, named among laggards by Centre
Punjab, which was one of the first to get its development plans approved from the Centre more than two years ago, has been named among the nine states languishing in the implementation of the urban development project.Updated: Dec 13, 2017 08:50 IST
Blame it on fund diversion, non-release of state share or anything else, the Punjab government has missed key milestones in implementing the centrally-sponsored Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) project aimed at improving basic civic amenities in 16 cities of the state.
The state, which was one of the first to get its development plans approved from the Centre more than two years ago, has been named among the nine states languishing in the implementation of the urban development project.
Besides Punjab, other states which are lagging behind in achieving project milestones include Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, according to a status report circulated by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs a month ago.
The delay in achieving project benchmarks has affected further fund releases by the Centre to these states. “The central ministry has not cleared the State Annual Action Plan (SAAP-III) of Punjab and other laggard states for the financial year 2017-18, whereas the plans of 23 states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, which met the project milestones, have been approved,” according to sources.
These 23 states have also been sanctioned a total of Rs 2,500 crore as a first instalment of the central assistance during the current financial year. The programme is jointly funded by the centre and the state governments on 50:50 sharing basis.
The apex committee of AMRUT headed by Union secretary, housing and urban affairs, had, in its meeting held on November 18, 2016, decided to assess the states on progress made in the implementation of the first two annual action plans (SAAP I and II), transfer of 100% of central funds and state share to the implementation agency or department and appointment of a project management and development consultant (PMDC) for approval of SAAP-III and release of any more funds under it.
Though the Punjab local bodies department has got almost half of its detailed project reports approved and awarded some contracts, their implementation has been hit by diversion of project funds received from the centre and non-release of state share.
The central ministry had released Rs 153 crore for AMRUT in the last two years, but the state government released only Rs 33 crore. Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who took over in March this year, had charged the previous SAD-BJP government with derailing AMRUT and other urban development projects by diverting the central funds.
While the minister has been constantly trying to get funds released from his government, the fund-starved state government is finding it hard to do so. The housing and urban affairs ministry has also repeatedly written to the state government to transfer central funds granted under SAAP-I and II in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and its own share to expedite implementation of the approved projects for completion in a time-bound manner.
“We have repeatedly requested the finance department to release funds. There are finally some positive indications from them as the state has received its share of funds from Goods and Services Tax (GST) and money will be release to us soon,” said a local bodies department official.
The programme was launched with the aim to provide basic civic amenities such as water supply, sewerage, urban transport and parks to improve the quality of life.
The 16 towns having population of more than one lakh each and selected in the state under the programme include Hoshiarpur, Batala, Amritsar, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Malerkotla, Muktsar, Mohali, Moga, Khanna and Pathankot.
First Published: Dec 13, 2017 08:50 IST