Nearly two-thirds of funds allocated to the eight hilly states of the North-East (N-E), according to the revised estimates (RE) for FY23, remained unutilised by the ministry of development of the northeastern region, the latest data released by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) showed.
This comes at a time when the central government is pushing for the development of the northeastern region. Out of the revised budgetary allocation of Rs 2,754 crore for FY23, only Rs 989 crore (35.9 per cent) was utilised by the ministry, according to the provisional estimates of CGA.
Utilisation of both revenue and capital expenditure remained low at 32.4 per cent and 45.6 per cent, respectively.
Under the ministry, the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme is the major scheme to fill up the infrastructure gap in the northeastern region through sanctioning the projects prioritised by the state governments. Under RE FY23, Rs 1,233 crore was allocated to it.
The other major programme under the ministry is North Eastern Council, which has representation from the eight northeastern states, where they advise the central government regarding flood-control projects, inter-state transport and communications. It was allocated Rs 666 crore in the last fiscal.
The massive under-utilisation by the North-East ministry comes after a whopping 113 per cent increase in allocation in the FY24 Union Budget. The finance ministry has budgeted Rs 5,892 crore for FY24 for the region in February this year.
Of the budgeted amount, Rs 4,093 crore is to be spent on capital expenditure, nearly 15 times the money spent on capital expenditure (Rs 336 crore) in FY23.
Earlier this week, the Centre undershot its fiscal deficit target in FY23 at 6.36 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) against 6.4 per cent in the revised estimates (RE). It was on the back of lower-than-estimated revenue expenditure, even as the Centre’s capital expenditure (capex) had slightly exceeded the revised estimates.
Business Standard’s analysis of the latest data from CGA shows that apart from the ministry of North-East, the ministry of minority affairs also showed poor utilisation of the allocated funds, as Rs 802 crore was utilised out of the total of Rs 2,612 crore (30.7 per cent).
Earlier this year, the ministry saw massive cuts in funding to various education empowerment initiatives by the ministry, from an estimated Rs 2,515 crore to Rs 1,584 crore.
This was followed by the ministry of social justice and empowerment (66.3 per cent). Post Matric Scholarship for scheduled castes (SCs) is the single largest scheme that is run by the ministry, with an outlay of Rs 5,660 crore.
Among the ministries that overshot the RE for FY23, the ministry of law and justice spent 168 per cent more than the RE at Rs 6,828 crore as its revenue expenditure went up by 223 per cent. This was followed by a 150.6 per cent jump in total expenditure to Rs 23,540 crore by the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) on the back of higher revenue expenditure.