Parliamentary panel questions Modi’s govt over curbing funds for Dalit scheme

Chandigarh, Aug 14 (KMS) : Non-allocation of funds for the scheme of special central assistance to scheduled castes sub-plan for want of utilisation certificates and annual action plan to Punjab has left the standing committee on social justice and empowerment, ministry of social justice and empowerment annoyed.

Special central assistance to scheduled castes sub-plan is a central government’s scheme under which 100% grant is provided to the states/UTs as an additive to their scheduled castes sub-plan (SCSP).

The Centre had held back grant of 13 states , including Punjab, for non-submission of utilisation certificates and annual action plan.

In a report submitted in the Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary panel questioned the rationale behind withholding the funds of states like Punjab having the highest percentage of scheduled caste population in the country. Expressing discontent, the committee further asked that if the states with large scheduled caste population are not getting assistance from the Centre to run the scheme, what is the purpose of running this scheme.

The committee observed that the schemes running under SCSP in states having a higher number of scheduled caste population would be hampered if these states do not receive adequate funds from the Centre. Gauging the implications, the committee recommended that the Centre should not stop the release of funds totally for the entire year, but release a proportion of the allocation to the states with higher SC population. The states should be given a time period and “pursued vigorously” to submit utilisation certificates and annual action plans as required.

In response, the ministry submitted that grants under the scheme are released to the state governments as per the extant guidelines according to which further grants cannot be released to the States/UTs if the utilization certificate is pending beyond a prescribed period. The ministry appraised the committee that the annual action plan has been submitted by the government of Punjab during 2020-21 and allocation has been made from the financial year 2018-19 and onward.

Grave concern over water pollution

The standing committee on water resources of Union ministry of jal shakti took a serious note of water pollution in the Ganga Canal flowing from Punjab to Rajasthan and containing harmful and untreated chemicals discharged by the industries located in Punjab.

The committee noted that villages located in Ganganagar and adjoining areas are facing serious health problems due to consumption of this water. “This is a grave issue having direct bearing on the health and wellbeing of rural villagers who are using this water for consumption and number of cancer cases are reportedly increasingly day-by-day,” the committee said. Expressing “grave concern” over the issue, the committee urged the ministry to take up the matter with the government for installing water treatment plants in Ganganagar district of Rajasthan and adjoining areas to ensure supply of clean and potable drinking water.

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