Kohima, February 19: The Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) on Friday while terming the Budget 2021-22 of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government of Nagaland as ‘construction oriented & hollow’ said it is bereft of innovation and contains no plans and programmes to ease the hardship of the common man at a time when the State’s economy has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opposition leader, TR Zeliang participating in the Budget debate initiated by MLA Imkong L Imchen said the Budget is a ‘Construction Budget’ focused only on construction of infrastructures for various Government departments and the maximum profit will go to people at the helms of affairs running the present day PDA Government.
“There is no intention to bring in welfare-oriented policies and programs for the general public of the State except construction related works,” he said.
He also thrashed the Budget as “hollow, bereft of innovation and contains no plans and programs to ease the hardship of the common man during a time when the State economy has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Zeliang said Nagaland has the second highest debt in the entire country as per the 15th Finance Commission but there are no plans to solve the matter anytime soon.
Expressing concern that the unemployment rate is increasing sharply in the State, he lamented that the Budget 2021-22 has no provisions to ease the burden faced by the unemployed educated youths.
“Unemployment is growing every single day and the State Government has been left as the only agency to provide employment. There are already over 1,40,000 Government employees which is over 7.1% of the State total population of 19,80,602 as per 2011 Census,” he pointed out.
Unless, employment avenues are created for the unemployed youth, Government jobs alone will not be able to solve the ever increasing unemployment rate in the State, he said. The State has an excess of over 70,000 Government employees which is consuming 67.3% of the budget every year, he said while questioning if the State Government focuses only on constructing buildings, where will our unemployed youths go?
Zeliang said while the budget speech is overwhelmed with the topic of COVID19, there is neither mention of the funds received nor the utilization of the same. It is a fact that the COVID19 pandemic has affected all sections of the society however it is sad to note that there is no mention of the efforts made by the State to redress the grievances of the people, he said, adding that this pandemic has particularly badly affected the farmers and the business sector yet there is little mention of the assistance that the Government plans to provide to help rehabilitation.
Zeliang also noted with bafflement that the Kohima Smart City Project had no mention in the Budget and sought the progress and what targets does the Government have in place for the project to see the light of day?
If we cannot see the project to fruition, it will be a huge loss to the people of Nagaland and in particular the people of Kohima, he said.
On Power Department, the Opposition leader expressed happiness that a short discussion was held on Thursday regarding the need for reform in the department through which it is well understood that the Government is contemplating privatization in the distribution and revenue generation sector.
However, the big question remains as to why the sudden hurry for the same when the Leader of the House has also admitted that the electronic system that is being implemented in the two major towns of the State is in good progress and is optimistic of its success.
Maintaining that the department has invested a lot into prepaid metering system and other technicalities related to this, he said the sudden shift of focus into privatization would be counterproductive.
The department would become helpless and the private corporation would be given unparallel authority in this regard, he remarked.
If the ongoing system, that is the electronic and prepaid system, which are being installed becomes a failure, the Government has every right to venture into a different mode, however without the result coming in, to suddenly ponder upon privatization would only mean that there is a scheme to chop off the hands and legs of the power department in the State, said Zeliang.
He expressed confidence that the electronic system or the prepaid system would be a success if pursued diligently by the government and revenue generation would increase with it gradually.
On forest department, Zeliang expressed surprise that there is only one sentence in the whole budget speech of the forest department. Further, there is absolutely no mention of the important JICA project (Japan International Cooperation Agency) for which the 1st installment payment were made in 2016-17.
“We speak so much about self sustainability and revenue generating sources, yet when such mega project is given no importance it shows that there is no action and only empty words,” he said while maintaining that it will be pointless to talk about foreign investment in our State when we failed to implement what was sanctioned under externally aided project.
On Nagaland Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules 2019, the Opposition leader said it was issued after a delay of 3 years, and that too, only after a case was filed in the Guwahati High Court Kohima Bench against the State Government by candidates with disabilities for non implementation of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 passed by the Parliament.
“I don’t understand why this Government is taking credit for something which they were forced to do by the court,” he said.
Questioning the silence of the Government on ongoing projects, Zeliang said even if they failed to bring any new mega projects for the State, they should be sincere to implement and complete within specified period what was made available to them. He cited the examples of 4-lane Dimapur-Kohima road saying that department woke up only after the interference of High Court and the Governor.
He also questioned on the Chiethu Airport Kohima and suggested that Razaphe airport should be given more importance as expansion of the existent Dimapur Airport.
On Rural Development Department, he said the activities of the Department was summed up in one sentence while the department, during this pandemic, have been given special focus to streamline the implementation of MGNREGA which can help the farmers and rural section of the society, particularly the job card holders to rejuvenate the source of their income during this pandemic.
Meanwhile, in order to pursue and expedite the Naga political Issue, Zeliang requested the leader of the house to seek the opinion of his colleagues in treasury bench and decide on the proposal of Opposition bench to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee represented by all the legislature parties of the house including the two MPs.
On the issue of SARFAESI Act, while the House Select Committee, headed by the Law & Justice Minister, that is the Chief Minister himself, is being tasked to study the matter, Zeliang said that the process may take time to come back to this house for discussion and adoption of Assembly resolution.
Therefore, he requested the CM to direct the Chief Secretary to issue a notification to maintain status quo superseding the letter of the Deputy Secretary, Law and Justice to the Secretary, Finance Department. “This will ease the problem for the young entrepreneurs and other section of the society to seek loan and get assistance from the banks,” he said.
Earlier, initiating the budget discussion, MLA Imkong L. Imchen while expressing happiness that the House passed the resolution on Naga issue said that practical expedient effort is required to pursue the matter. He suggested that under CM’s leadership the resolution should be taken to practical steps and brought to the notice of the Prime Minister and the stakeholders, i.e the participants of the negotiations.
Imchen said the Budget are just an estimates but the deficit is a reality. In this he said in sarcasm “we were fortunate to have our incumbent CM to head the Finance Ministry in the State from 2003 and even now. Naga people have every right to expect better financial discipline and management but currently it is never as expected, which requires serious introspection.”
Further, Imchen stressed on the need for upgrading Khelhoshe polytechnic as full-fledged engineering college saying that infrastructure requirement are already there except for need of few faculty.
On the austerity measures of the Government which Rio claimed that the State government managed to save more than Rs 400 crore, Imchen inquired whether the 3 DA frozen will be paid in future or has it permanently been frozen and turned into ‘rock’.
On Power Department’s dismal performance, Imchen said it is the prerogative of the CM to summon any Minister or Advisor for corrective measure but bringing it for discussion in the House under matter of public urgency shows that CM has completely lost his confidence on the Power department and its in-charge.
MLA Dr Chumben Murry said the State has put much reliance on central fund as usual.
In this he said “if we go through the Union Budget for 2021-2022, we find the Centre has plans to rationalize and bring down Centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) in line with the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission”.
Ultimately, he expressed that the State may have to drastically work upon and improve own tax and non tax revenue.
Dr Murry also asked the Government to have a relook into the liquor prohibition issue and exploration of the State’s natural resources.
“We need to leave our begging bowl and become rational and business minded. We need major economic reforms and not just at certain sectors like power etc,” he said.
MLAs Moatoshi Longkumer, Y M Yollow, Dr Imtiwabang Aier, Yitachu, Chotisuh Sazo and Amenba Yaden also spoke against the budget while urging the Government to serious ponder on equitable distribution of development in all the constituencies, including that of the Opposition. (Page News Service)