PAC rap on Agri, Horti dept knuckles

SHILLONG: The Public Accounts Committee is irked with the Agriculture department for failing to implement the National Watershed Development Project for Rain-fed Areas or NWDPRA, a Centrally-funded scheme which was launched in 1990-1991, and with the Horticulture department for its failure to utilise funds worth crores sanctioned by the 13th Finance Commission. The PAC on Friday sum moned the officers of both the Agriculture and Horticulture departments on observations made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report. Committee member HM Shangpliang told reporters that the Agriculture department had failed to ensure meaningful implementation of the NWDPRA project in the state. Observing that there are several projects which went “missing” , he informed that as per the CAG report, two of the six inspected fisheries-cum-water harvesting ponds were found abandoned in East Khasi Hills while three of the five projects inspected in West Garo Hills were found missing, he said.
The Committee also took cognisance of the fact that the Agriculture department could not utilise an amount of Rs 9 crore and surrendered it back to the government.
Shangpliang said that the amount which was meant for purchasing power tillers, pest control and medicines, was returned during the lockdown when farmers in the state were craving for assistance from the government.
In addition, the CAG also inspected plant nurseries in East Khasi Hills, which were found abandoned, and five out of seven pigsties in East Khasi Hills were found without any trace of pigs. Same was the case with one pigsty in Garo Hills.
On the reduction of production of maize in the state, Shangpliang said that there was a sharp decline in Ri-Bhoi and West Garo Hills districts while there was a fall of 30 per cent in East Khasi Hills.
“We have asked the department to conduct a study and submit a report to the committee on the reasons that led to the sharp decline in maize production,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shangpliang also said that Meghalaya had stopped the purchase and sale of fertilisers and these were not to be sold in the open market. The committee, however, found that fertilisers were being sold in the market and farmers were still using these.
On the other hand, PAC chairman Charles Pyngrope said that Meghalaya being an agrarian state, the agriculture department needs to tighten its belt. “We were not very pleased over the manner that the funds were utilised and the overall functioning of the department needs to be improved tremendously,” he said.
Non-utilisation of funds
As for the Horticulture department, Shangpliang said that the 13th Finance Commission had approved and sanctioned an amount of Rs 38 crore for the state on November 13, 2007. Of this, Rs 19 crore was released, but the department spent only Rs 7.36 crore.
“The department could not utilise the rest and also could not submit the Utilisation Certificates to the Centre,” Shangpliang said.
The Committee pointed out that the inability of the department to utilise the fund and submit the UCs had cost the state an amount of Rs 19 crore, which was supposed to be released as the second tranche.
On cross-checking with the department, the Committee found that it had not done the baseline survey and had also failed to obtain certification from the National Horticulture Board. “The state has been deprived of such wonderful schemes from the 13th Finance Commission,” Shangpliang said.
Highlighting some of the details about the funds sanctioned by the 13th Finance Commission, Shangpliang said that the department had come up with Planting Material Hub (PMH) project, which includes floriculture PMH project in Upper Shillong where Rs 80 lakh was released, potato PMH project at Upper Shillong where Rs 70 lakh was released, temperate fruits PMH at fruit garden in Shillong where Rs 1.5 crore was released and a cashew nut PMH at Garo Hills where another Rs 1.5 crore was released.

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