By Arun Pratap Singh
DEHRADUN, 22 Feb: Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) has pointed out several major irregularities in the reconstruction projects undertaken after the Kedarnath tragedy that struck in the year 2013. The CAG has also expressed unhappiness with the performance of the government on the reconstruction work in the Shrine area. The report in this connection was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha, today, by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prakash Pant. Interestingly, the report is related to the years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 when there was a Congress government in Uttarakhand.
The major irregularities that have been pointed out by the CAG include diversion of funds meant solely for reconstruction work in the disaster hit areas to other projects and areas which were not affected by the 2013 disaster.
The report also cites poor and inefficient utilisation of Central funds despite the funds having been released by the Centre well in time. Many projects have not been executed at all due to the fact that administrative and financial sanction by the state government was not issued despite the availability of the funds for these projects. For example, the state government did not sanction funds for construction of a ropeway between Gaurikund and Kedarnath, for construction of shelter homes cum godowns, for second Phase works in Kedarnath township, for development of other dhams, and for setting up of 10 Industrial Training Institutes to train the youth in alternative means of livelihood. The report points out that for these projects an amount of Rs 319.75 crores had been released by the Centre under the Special Plan Assistance (SPA).
The report also points out delays in completion of most projects against the stipulated time. The report also pulls up the Uttarakhand Power Corporation (UPCL) for inordinate delays in the works. The report also points out that in the work related to reconstruction of Kedarnath township, while the Government of India released its entire approved amounts for the period in question under various Central Schemes and Grants, the Government of Uttarakhand did not release the state share in many of the projects that it was stipulated to contribute.
The state could not fully utilise approved outlay of Rs 6,259.84 crore under the Medium and Long Term Reconstruction package due to non-submission of viable projects. In respect of SPA-R and externally funded works, the government auditor cites slow progress in execution attributing it to delay in issuing of sanctions or non-release of funds by the state government and short utilisation of funds by the implementing agencies. Against total approved outlay of Rs 6,259.84 crore under MLTR, only Rs 4,617.27 crore (74 per cent) was made available for implementation of projects against which the implementing agencies could utilise 3,708.27 crore (59 per cent of approved outlay).
The report has also pointed out that the state government had a large sum of unutilised central fund lying with it. Questions have been raised regarding selection of contractors and executive agencies and quality of work executed by these agencies. The executing agencies in question include the highly controversial UPRNNM, which was the favourite construction agency of the previous government for majority of the projects in the state even as the state’s own agencies like Peyjal Nigam, Uttarakhand State Infrastructure Development Corporation, the Irrigation Department, etc., remained idle and without work during that period. Serious questions have been raised regarding fund management which has not been found to be satisfactory. It says that there was cost escalation in many of the works due to improper planning, execution and delays.
Another serious issue pointed out in the report is diversion of the funds to non target projects and to projects which were not in disaster hit areas and were not related to reconstruction of the disaster hit infrastructure. The report says that no separate and centralised mechanism was set up by the state government for supervision, monitoring and quality control of the reconstruction works which could have expedited their progress. Many of the works were awarded without tendering. In addition, it says that the state’s disaster preparedness was not satisfactory adding that against the targeted number of five helidromes, 19 heliports, 34 helipads and 37 multipurpose halls (MPHs) only 27 helipads and no MPHs were constructed. Describing Uttarakhand as a disaster prone state where recurrence of natural disasters in the form of landslides, avalanches, cloudbursts, flash floods and forest fires are always likely, the CAG has underlined the need for disaster preparedness of the state machinery and having a well coordinated mechanism in place to deal with future challenges.