Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Congress punctures holes in ruling NPP’s report card


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SHILLONG, Feb 4: Congress on Saturday punctured holes in the NPP report card by exposing gross financial mismanagement, coal scam and inept handling of Covid crisis, among others.
Taking a pot shot at the Conrad Sangma-led NPP, it dubbed the party as “Non Performing Party” and listed gaping holes in its performance last five years.
Tearing down the NPP’s 2018 election manifesto or “People’s Document”, the Congress team consisting of AICC media coordinator Mathew Antony, MPCC vice president Ronnie V Lyngdoh and general secretary Sanjay Das, termed the document as a “manifesto of lies”.
The Congress debunked the NPP’s attempt to romp home based on its report card.
Drawing attention to the Planning and Finance section of the NPP manifesto which states that the party (NPP) will work towards timely sanction of development funds to minimise the delay in implementation of projects, the Congress referred to the CAG report at the close of March 2021, which states that 215 utilisation certificates amounting to Rs 1765.86 crore remained outstanding in the books of the AG. “As many as 62 projects in Meghalaya are piled up without achieving completion and the state has suffered a loss of Rs 1166.89 crore because of cost escalation due to delay in completing the project,” the Congress said.
Pointing to the Fiscal and Economic Reforms section of the manifesto which states that NPP will formulate an Economic Development Policy by initiating fiscal and economic policy reforms for sustainable and all-round development of the state, the Congress lamented that the economy of the state is in doldrums as Meghalaya is trapped under a mountain of debt.
“As per CAG’s report, in absolute monetary terms, the overall debt of Meghalaya has increased by 51.60% from Rs 8983.50 crore during 2016-17 to Rs 13,618.74 crore during 2020-21. As percentage of GSDP, the overall debt was 32.74% in 2016-17, but has increased considerably to 40.73% in 2020-21,” the Congress said.
The Congress also pointed out that the state has failed to achieve the target of 28% (total outstanding liabilities to GSDP ratio) as set by the MFRBM Act, 2006 during the period 2016-17 to 2020-21.
With regards to the NPP promise of creating adequate infrastructure to streamline revenue collection to minimise revenue loss and maximise revenue earnings of the state, the Congress said that the report of Justice BP Katakey (retired) states that 13 lakh metric tonnes of coal was illegally mined, transported and discovered which the state sought to pass off as coal mined prior to the imposition of the ban.
“The report was scathing in its observation that the illegal mining and transportation of coal from Meghalaya could not have happened without state participation and even encouragement,” the Congress added.
The Congress is particularly critical of the NPP for the “huge scam” in illegal mining and transportation of coal to the tune of hundreds of crores and accused the ruling party and its allies of using the ill-gotten money to fund their luxurious campaigns and “purchase” MLAs from other parties.
Referring to Health Minister James PK Sangma’s reply in the Assembly in September 2022 that Rs 816 crore was spent by the government for 96,785 confirmed Covid cases and 1,624 Covid-related deaths, the Congress said, “If we deduct the ex-gratia payment of Rs 50,000 which the govt had promised to the relatives of those who had died of Covid-19, then an amount of Rs 8.12 crore would have been disbursed. There is no information furnished by this govt of the status of the ex-gratia relief.”
“Now compare this with Manipur which had more Covid cases (1.4 lakh) and deaths (2,149) as compared to Meghalaya but spent a measly amount of only Rs 78 crore. So Meghalaya’s expenditure for lesser number of Covid cases and deaths was more than 10 times that of Manipur,” the Congress said, adding that Meghalaya spent Rs 83,484 per person suffering from Covid as against Rs 4,803 per person spent by Manipur.
The Congress also stated that the then Director of Health Services, Aman War under whose watch the “Covid scam” happened, is now contesting as an UDP candidate from North Shillong. “We would like the people of Meghalaya to draw their own conclusions,” it said.
The Congress also took the NPP to the cleaners for the high school dropout rate under the MDA Government.
“Meghalaya’s school dropout rates have deteriorated to one of the highest in the country. According to data published by the Education Ministry, the state’s dropout rate in primary standard (Classes 1 to 5) has deteriorated from 7.4% in 2020-21 to 9.8% in 2021-22 while for the secondary school level, it stands at 21.68% against the national average of 12.61%,” the party said.

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