Meghalaya: Row over funds earmarked for district councils
Shillong: PN Syiem, chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF), lashed out at the state government for failing to release the funds earmarked for the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) by the 15th Finance Commission.
Syiem alleged that out of the Rs 182 crore earmarked for 2021, Rs 91 crore has already been received by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC). The remaining is yet be released, he said. Of the Rs 91 crore, Rs 45.50 crore is the basic grant (Untied) and 45.50 crore is the tied grant.
"Out of the tied grant, the amount will also be shared with the Jaintia and Garo Hills Autonomous District Council. The grant is yet to be released. A Committee sat for a meeting in October 2020, during which they said that the tied grant is meant for specific uses like sanitation and water supply. The Committee of officers say that since there is the Jal Jeevan Mission, the amount will not be released to the KHADC but instead given to the Public Health Engineering Department," said Syiem.
In the history of the Autonomous District Council, it has never happened that funds released by Central government had been diverted without the consent of the district council.
“This should be taken up to the level of the Chief Minister and I’m sure this has happened with the consent of the CM,” said Syiem.
According to Syiem, if the funds are not released within 10 days after the release, there would also be an interest to be paid by the state government.
UDF members claimed that they have met with the Chief Executive Member (CEM) of KHADC and apprised him of the same. The CEM has assured that he will take it up with the Deputy CM and the CM.
Ronnie V Lyngdoh, a member of the UDF, said, “What we fear is that many subjects could be taken away from the Autonomous District Councils. In the latter days, how will the state govt give the Grant Transfer Certificate? The state government is making the councils weak. It is not about the money, it is about protecting the interest of the council. We fear many subjects could be taken from us, which will be a threat for the indigenous people of the state since many states long for an autonomous council.”
Lyngdoh questioned whether the PHE department doesn’t have their own schemes and why should it be taken from the District Council share.
UDF members said this undermined the Autonomous District Council's function. They added that several subjects like the issuing of Scheduled Tribe certificate, land registration and running of primary schools have been taken away from District Council.