Chronic poverty in less or underdeveloped parts of Odisha has resulted in regional imbalance in Odisha. While replying to an adjournment motion debate on the issue of regional imbalance and disparity in the state Assembly, the Planning and Coordination Minister of Odisha, Maheswar Mohanty, blamed the union government of India for not supporting the state matching its expectations in this regard. On the other hand, the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report presented in the Assembly has almost a contrast view on the same. The CAG report, released recently, said, there was overall saving of Rs 7,258.40 crore during 2011-12 but it was the slow implementation of programmes that largely contributed to surpluses on the revenue account.
About regional imbalance in terms of economic and infrastructure development, “it is deep rooted and chronic in nature. However, there has been a considerable reduction in regional imbalance during the last decade, during Naveen Patnaik’s rule," said Planning and Coordination Minister Maheswar Mohanty adding that the state government had taken several initiatives for development of the poverty stricken KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) region while the Centre had been apathetic and its assistance was not adequate. Citing at facts, the minister said that even though the state government, in consultation with Planning Commission, submitted an 8 year prospective plan for the underdeveloped KBK districts of Rs 4,500 crore for the period 2009-10 to 2016-17, the union government did not respond to it. Also, state's request for extension of special plan for 10 more years didn’t get any response.
On the other hand, CAG has detected at least 1759 instances of misappropriation to pull up Odisha Government for non-submission of utilisation certificates for grants-in-aid to the tune of Rs 27,920 crore paid during the last fiscal.
Questioning the transparency of the state accounts, the report cited at parking of funds in personal accounts and said that Rs 656.07 crore was lying unspent in 889 personal deposit accounts (as on March 2012) and were not credited back to the government account. While observing a rush of expenditure during the last month of the financial year, the report cautioned for strict budgetary controls to avoid such deficiencies in financial management.
“There were instances of persistent savings, excess expenditure and expenditure without provision of funds, excessive supplementary provision, substantial surrenders, non-surrender of anticipated savings during 2011-12 and instances of rush of expenditure during the last month of the financial year,” the report added.
To the embarrassment of the government about its poverty alleviation claims, the report said, while in a comfortable position in terms of cash balances with a revenue surplus of Rs 5607 crore and a fiscal surplus of Rs 622 crore, it was only invested in Government of India treasury bills with Reserve Bank of India with low interest rates whereas this huge surplus cash could have been utilised in providing more funds under capital sector/creating assets.
Keeping in view the claim of Odisha Government about the apathetic attitude of Indian federal government towards the issues relating to poverty, regional imbalance and disparity in Odisha and, on the other hand, CAG’s report placing the government at fault for slow implementation of programmes and a commercial focus about utilisation of surplus deposit, one can see how poverty is made to exist in the state with a surplus fund for welfare programmes.
The article first appeared on December 14, 2012, at the HotnHitNews.