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Strengthen NEC to develop NE: Rio

rio 1
File Photo

Seeks more fund allocation to NEC

Dimapur, January 23: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio today decried that the functional autonomy of North East Council (NEC) has been significantly diluted over the years and called for strengthening the council by bringing out a clear vision for development of the NE region.

Addressing the 69th plenary of NEC at Shillong on Saturday, Rio touched on the existence of significant overlap in the role of NEC and the Ministry of DoNER. He reminded that NEC can now sanction projects costing Rs15 crore and below only, as all projects above Rs 15 crore are to be approved and sanctioned by DoNER.
Let us not forget that this Council has been set up out of necessity to develop the North Eastern region of the country. It is now almost 50 years since NEC was set up but the region still has a huge development deficit when compared to the mainland, he said.
On the issue of enhancing fund allocation to NEC, the Chief Minister reiterated that more funds should be made available to the council in order to meet its committed liabilities towards development of the area and to enable it to go for new projects.
“The North Eastern Council, which has been set up with a special purpose due to special needs, deserves more resources at its disposal. One way could be to channelize part of the NLCPR accruals through the NEC,” he suggested.
Rio also expressed dissatisfaction over the budget allocation of NEC, which was Rs 904 crore in 2020-21 and called for redrawing the NEC budget in such a way that more funds are made available under the State component and the guidelines suitably modified.
‘Financial woes’
Highlighting the effect on economy by the Covid-19 pandemic, Rio said Nagaland revenues have taken a big hit in the first two quarters of this financial year, disturbing the budget even thought the State’s revenues form a small part of the total budget.
Considering the challenges brought about by the economic difficulties, the CM said the State decided to develop a strategic roadmap for giving an immediate boost to the agri and allied sector activities and reskilling of the returning youth to create employment opportunities and to augment the income of farmers and households.
The projects to be undertaken in the short run, he informed, were presented to NEC for funding. Out of the total projects worth Rs 80.62 crore submitted to NEC, projects worth only Rs 31.57 crore were approved and only Rs 7.04 crore has been released so far. NEC may consider sanctioning the remaining projects so that these could be taken up in the short term, he requested.
Rio also informed that Nagaland has developed an innovative proposal for Naga-Integrated settled Farming (N-IsF) towards achieving the goals of generating employment, remunerative farming and doubling farmers’ income, which is a whole farm management system involving cluster-based value chain activity, and sought NEC support for the initiative.
‘Projects completion’
On ongoing projects supposed to be completed by March 2021, the CM requested that the completion date be extended as the COVID-19 has hit the entire country badly and the progress of the implementing agencies had come to a standstill.
In respect of Nagaland, he informed that there is a total balance of Rs 45.89 crore due from NEC covering 30 numbers of projects under MH 3601 (i.e 90:10 funding) “and these cannot be completed within the remaining two months.” He requested NEC to give another 12 months for completion of the projects.
‘Road funds’
Under the North East Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS), Rio lamented that a separate fund is kept for roads in the North East, but the NEC or the constituent States have no role to play, as the projects are to be implemented by the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) under the control of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.
Even in the road selection committees the constituent states are not included, he said while seeking a relook into the guidelines of the scheme to make it friendly to the constituent states as the ultimate goal is to uplift the NE States.
The CM also observed that the role of NEC in crucial sectors such as road construction has been limited to building of inter-state roads only, leaving intra-state connectivity requirement gap of the resource-starved NE states stranded. He requested that a certain portion of the roads’ budget be earmarked for maintenance of roads, especially NEC constructed roads.
‘Ciethu Airport’
Rio also pushed for approval of the Chiephobozou- Touphema-via Ciethu Airport and to start developmental work. This, he said, will go a long way in providing direct physical connectivity with the rest of the country.
He informed that the State Government has already acquired suitable land measuring 1013.72 acres at Ciethu and is ready to transfer it to the Airports Authority of India for development of the proposed airport with a runway length of 4.4 Kms capable of operating A-320 Airbus aircraft.

‘Utilization Certificates’
Stating that NEC is insisting on early submission of Utilization Certificates (UC), Rio mentioned that major portion of the UC due is for fund released by NEC during the year 2020, during which implementation of ongoing projects was affected due imposition of lockdown and COVID-19 related restrictions. “As such, utilization of funds had been slow under MH 3601.Therefore, to be realistic, submission of UC without spending is not possible as UC due for Rs.58.11 crore in respect of Nagaland could not be given immediately,” he added. (Page News Service)