GUWAHATI: Blame it on red tape and issues relating to technicalities that the Centre will take back a financial grant given to Kaziranga National Park in Assam for a livelihood development project, worth Rs.24.56 crore, which it failed to execute.
Back in September 2016, the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment had sanctioned Rs.24.56 crore for the project which was to be implemented in six fringe villages around the park.
The same month, the Central ministry released the first installment of Rs.12.40 crore to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). However, NABARD had to wait till December 2017 to release the money.
“The money was to have been released to the park but as it didn’t have a bank account, the amount couldn’t be released. Eventually, a decision was taken to release the money to Assam Biodiversity Board and Rs.7.7 crore was released in December 2017. The Assam Biodiversity Board released the money to Kaziranga authorities in February 2018,” the park’s director P Sivakumar told this newspaper.
He said tender was subsequently floated for six site-specific detailed project report (DPR) and the work was allotted to an agency called Iora Ecological Solutions on May 9, 2018.
“The Iora Ecological Solutions was supposed to submit the DPR within three months but they submitted it in March this year when I took over as the park’s director,” Sivakumar said.
He said he could not do anything in April and May as the model code of conduct was in force due to Parliamentary elections.
“Once the elections were over, we sent four villagers on a three-day training programme to Tezpur. The training was on organic farming, watershed management, fisheries and horticulture. They were trained. When we planned to release the amount, the Central government conducted a review meeting in May. The government said since we couldn’t utilize the money and the project closes in September this year, it is better to return the money,” Sivakumar said.
He said the problem started in the beginning relating to opening up of a bank account. The park did not have a bank account and couldn’t open one as it needed permission from the government. That time, files were delayed everywhere. As such, money was pending with NABARD, he said.
He said since the park received the money in February last year and the project is of three years, the time should be counted from the day when the park received the money.
“I’ve already written to the Central government seeking the extension of time for the project’s implementation till March 2021. Hopefully, the money will not go back,” Sivakumar added.