Central funding should not be based on population criteria, CM tells NEC plenary

GUWAHATI, Sep 8: Stating that most developmental schemes of the central government – be it in the social sector or for creation of infrastructure – are based on the population criteria, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said the criteria of central funding should not be based on population when it comes to northeastern states like Arunachal.
Khandu said this during his address at the 68th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) here in Assam on Sunday.
Highlighting the remote, hostile and challenging terrains in large parts of the NE region, Khandu said that “for a state like Arunachal, the criteria for deciding the quantum of funding under various central sector schemes should not be based on population, and the Centre must take into account special conditions of the state.”
Arunachal is prone to several natural disasters which cause large-scale destruction of houses, standing crops and other private properties, besides damaging infrastructure, the CM said, adding that the relief grants that the state receives from the Centre to mitigate the devastations caused by natural calamities “is insufficient and needs to be revised substantially.”
Citing poor connectivity as the major challenge to development, Khandu said that around 700-800 rural habitations in his state are still unconnected by road “because they do not qualify for funding under the PMGSY.” He suggested that roads for such habitations be taken up under the NERSDS or Bharatmala.
“Or else, the eligibility criteria under the PMGSY could be revised for states like Arunachal,” he said.
Stating that the Hollongi airport “is expected to become operational by 2022,” the CM suggested that in the meantime a daily flight from Delhi to the Lilabari airport in North Lakhimpur district of Assam – the nearest airport to Itanagar – via Guwahati may be commenced at the earliest.
Arunachal is perhaps the only state in the Northeast which is deprived of externally aided projects from the World Bank, the ADB and the JICA, Khandu further said.
“There is a substantial deprivation of developmental loans/aid to the state, which needs to be compensated through an alternative arrangement, preferably under the NEC,” he said.
Pointing out that the 15th Finance Commission is about to make its recommendations to the Centre regarding the formula by which vertical and horizontal devolution of central funds would be made to various states, Khandu informed that at present Arunachal receives 1.37 percent of resources from the divisible pool.
He said “this share needs to be revised very substantially, keeping in view the strategic location of the state and several jointly shared developmental priorities of the Centre and the state.”
As to the funds received from the NEC under many schemes in the social sector or capital works, he informed that the total amount of funds received by the state was around Rs 200 crore. However, he said that “since 2018, no new schemes are being considered for approval/sanction, which is adversely affecting developmental works in the state,” and sought urgent attention of the NEC in this regard.
“As the state government has already constructed necessary infrastructure at Pangsau Pass for facilitation of border trade,” the proposed land customs station there needs to be made operational with immediate effect, he said.
Khandu also advocated providing sufficient NEC funds for developing the sports infrastructure in the NE states in general and Arunachal in particular.
The CM also requested the DoNER ministry to expand the outreach of the NERCORMP in all border blocks across Arunachal.
“The NERCORMP has made appreciable impact in the three insurgency-affected and drug-infested districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding; therefore the same may be extended to other backward areas of the state,” he said.
Khandu urged the NEC to increase the “normative allocation” under the livelihood sector for Arunachal, considering its physical vastness, remoteness, difficult terrains and unique topography.
He also requested the NEC to identify and provide fund for establishment of important regional educational institutions in the state.
“The central government should consider providing adequate funds and resources to create ample state-of-the-art institutions in the field of science, medical science, engineering, arts, management, and other specialized streams. Apart from these, middle and secondary level education institutions may also be included in the purview of the NEC,” he suggested.
The CM also requested the NEC to explore the possibility of opening a critical care unit at the Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Sciences by providing additional funds, and to provide fund for establishment of a “medicity” in Pachin Colony, Naharlagun, without curtailing the normative allocation for the state.
“Since Arunachal constitutes about 46 percent of watershed areas of the Brahmaputra basin and about 70 percent of its discharge,” Khandu requested the Centre to set up one branch office of the North East Water Management Authority (which is in the process of finalization by the NITI Aayog) in Itanagar.
He appealed to the NEC and the DoNER ministry to pursue the matter of green bonus for Arunachal with the union environment, forests & climate change ministry.
Khandu further pitched for establishing an airport in Tawang, both for tourism and security reasons, and reiterated the need for having a separate IAS/IPS cadre for Arunachal.
Stressing that there is an urgent need for the government’s intervention to preserve and protect the indigenous tribal cultures and identity in their purest forms, Khandu said “tribal scripts, oral traditions and rituals need to be archived by professional ethnographers.”
He said the NEC could play a pivotal role by providing assistance in setting up heritage centres and museums, and suggested to the DoNER ministry and the NEC to initiate a programme on development of modified Roman scripts of the indigenous tribes of all the eight NE states, in consultation with the ministries concerned.
Khandu also proposed that all NE states come up with a comprehensive plan to attract tourists from all over the country. “This will give a major boost to local entrepreneurs, besides showcasing the beauty of the region to the rest of the nation,” he said. (CMO)