BHUBANESWAR: Even though the State Government claims to give top priority to tribal development, more than half of Rs 421 crore Central grants for different welfare programmes in this sector in 2014-15 remained unspent.
The Government failed to utilise funds released by the Centre to purchase forest produce. Out of Rs 64 crore released by the Centre in this regard in 2014-15, only Rs one crore was spent. The Central scheme was launched to stop illegal purchase of forest produce in the country. The scheme required the State Government to fix a price for forest produce collected by the tribals.
The Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation (TDCC) was handed over the responsibility to fix the cost of forest produce by organising village level meetings. The Corporation was asked to purchase the produce from tribals and transfer the amount to their bank accounts.
It was also decided that the TDCC was to get five per cent commission on purchase of forest produce from the tribals. However, the scheme was never implemented and tribals continue to be exploited by middlemen.
In two of the tribal majority areas of the State, only Rs 48 crore of Rs 104 crore sanctioned to Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) in Koraput and Jeypore were utilised. Meanwhile, the Centre has launched Vanabandhu Kalyan Yojana for Koraput block. Under the scheme, Rs 10 crore will be spent annually for next five years to develop it into a model block. The scheme will be extended to other blocks in a phased manner.
Official sources admit that utilisation certificate for over Rs 186 crore of Central funds is yet to be submitted. During a recent review of the working of ITDAs, it was found that funds for 2011 were still lying unused in some agencies.