Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Agatha’s Concern

Union Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma has written a letter to all the chief ministers of the northeastern States requesting them to monitor and evaluate fund utilization under various schemes in their respective States. Her concern stems from the various reports of misuse and misappropriation of development funds in the Northeast, an area crying for development but where politicians in tandem with the bureaucracy seem more into the business of pilfering development funds than into ensuring that the funds are utilized for the development of their region and its development-starved people. The Minister’s letter reads: ‘‘You will agree with that a perusal of the statement reveals that the performance of your State in respect of some of these schemes leaves much to be desired. Hence, I consider it appropriate to draw your kind attention to enable you to kindly look into the matter personally and to monitor the schemes of the Ministry of Rural Development’’. Agatha Sangma is of the opinion that with the ‘‘personal involvement’’ of a Chief Minister in monitoring the utilization of development funds in rural areas in the State concerned, ‘‘a radical transformation can be brought about’’ in the development paradigm. The Minister further writes that ‘‘in case any other project or proposal pertaining to your State is pending with our Ministry, kindly do let me know to enable me to get the same expedited’’.

Misuse, underutilization, misappropriation or pilferage of funds meant for rural area development in the Northeast, Agatha Sangma would do well to know, is a consequence of the roaring business of loot carried out by a well-fortified network comprising a section of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and those in the underground — the same breed that is also responsible for the transformation of insurgency into an industry of sorts. Funds pour in from the Centre for development works in rural areas but are seldom used for the uplift of people trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation and backwardness. The semblance of development one comes across in rural areas is just a minuscule fraction of what could be accomplished with the funds available had there been an appropriate monitoring mechanism or a political will to ensure that the funds do not reach private coffers. The Union Minister of State for Rural Development should, therefore, insist on a monitoring mechanism under the direct supervision of the Chief Minister in each of the northeastern States to keep an eye on fund utilization in rural area development as also to keep a record of the manner in which funds have been spent and of lacunae or aberrations if any. But perhaps, and because example is better than precept, the best way to bring in discipline among those responsible for utilization of funds sanctioned by the Centre for development works in rural areas is to apprehend the guilty, fix responsibilities, and punish them exemplarily so that a deep fear factor may act as a deterrent to brazen unscrupulousness. Agatha Sangma is thus expected to be far more pro-active and assertive; she must send out the message that she means business. It is high time the rot was weeded out thoroughly. THE SENTINEL

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