BHUBANESWAR: Even as the State Government has raised a hue and cry over slashing of drought assistance by the Centre, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Saturday rapped the Government for its poor utilisation of Central assistance.
Expressing serious concern over non-utilisation of Central funds, Singh said, “Many States, including Odisha, were raising the question of more Central assistance but it is a matter of regret that the fund provided by the Centre was not being utilised in many schemes causing immense loss to the farmers.”
In many schemes, the pace of utilisation of the money was very slow. The Central assistance is either lying unspent or being carried over to next year, he remarked.
Reviewing the performance of the State in agriculture sector at a meeting here just a day before the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a farmers’ rally at Bargarh, the Union Minister said half of the Central assistance under National Horticulture Mission to the State has remained unspent. Utilisation of funds under other Central sponsored schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojana (RKVY), Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI), Krishi Sichai Yojana, soil health management and distribution of soil cards to farmers is very negligible, Singh added.
The Union Minister said his Ministry will release a status paper on the financial assistance provided by the Centre to the State and the utilisation made so far within a month’s time.
Singh said Odisha also figured far behind other States in the production of rice, the staple food of the people. Paddy production in the State is 18 quintals per hectare (ha) against the national average of 25 quintals.
In overall food grain production, the State’s productivity is 16 quintals per ha against 21 quintals at the national level.
Dismissing the State Government’s allegation that the Centre has slashed `214 crore from `815 crore sanctioned as drought relief measure, Singh said funds will never be a constraint for the State. He, however, advised the State Government for timely utilisation and submission of utilisation certificates for release of further assistance.
Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan present at the review meeting said the State Government is giving misleading statements on drought assistance provided by the Centre to hide its own incompetence.
He said the Union Government had sanctioned `815 crore as drought relief to the State from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and provided `600 crore to the State after adjusting the fund lying unspent in SDRF.
Pradhan said non-utilisation of the SDRF is a clear indication of inefficiency of the State Government.