Wednesday, February 21, 2024

DoNER and NESIDS Projects


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The Ministry for the Development of the North Eastern Region (MDoNER) was created in 2001 after it was seen that the North Eastern Council (NEC) had failed to get development projects off the ground. Several projects lapsed as the money could not be utilised in time. The NDA Government led by AB Vajpayee created the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), mainly to prevent the finances provided by central ministries for development projects from lapsing and the funds diverted elsewhere. This has helped get many infrastructural projects off the ground and to be completed at a timeline that was feasible for the North Eastern States that suffered from remoteness and where the monsoons often stood in the way of timely completion of projects.
The NLCPR was discontinued in 2017 and was replaced with a new scheme called North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS). During the first NDA Government under PM Vajpayee the Union ministries were mandated to spend 10% of their budget allocations for development of the North Eastern Region. If the states failed to spend the said amount for development purposes, those unspent funds were diverted to the NLCPR. This was a nuanced and timely intervention which came about as a result of a study conducted by a team led by Lok Sabha Secretary General and political scientist, Subhash C Kashyap. This after it was found that the NEC had failed in its mission to speedily develop inter-state communication projects. Today the NEC is more of a regional planning body working under the MDoNER. Since 2017, 22 projects worth Rs 885.44 crore have been selected for funding under the NESIDS for different states of the region. During the last two financial years of 2019-20 and 2020-21, 54 projects worth Rs 1320.49 crores were sanctioned under this 100% central funded schemes. As far as number of projects under NESIDS are concerned Assam and Nagaland have the highest at 13 each with Assam getting Rs 397.85 crore and Nagaland Rs 233.68 crore. Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura have 7 projects each with Rs 182.89 and Rs 228.05 respectively. Manipur has 5 schemes and Mizoram 4 at Rs 111,06 and 61.35 respectively. Meghalaya has only 3 projects and Sikkim has 2 at Rs 59.16 and 46.45 respectively.
The question is why does Meghalaya with so much road and infrastructure backlog have only 3 schemes under NESID? This has been Meghalaya’s problem in the past too. When there is 100% central funding why is the State not keen to tap these resources? Is it because MDoNER under the present dispensation is keeping a close watch on funds utilisation and monitoring projects very minutely and because Meghalaya has consistently failed to complete projects on time? The two proposed medical colleges and the Assembly building are cases of inordinate delay in completion, although they are not MDoNER funded. These questions need answers!

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