Kiphire was declared by the government as an Aspirational District in 2017 but no funding has been made available to bring it to fruition till date. Seen here is an aerial view of Kiphire town. (Photo courtesy: Thriseo Sangtam)
P Achumse Yingbithongrü
Kiphire | March 3
Among 117 districts selected from across India, the government declared Kiphire district in Nagaland State as an Aspirational District in November 2017.
The objective behind this was to enable Kiphire district to move forward in critical areas of development such as Basic Infrastructure, Agricultural & Water Resources, Education, Health & Nutrition, so it can catch up with other developed districts in India.
The declaration led to high hopes among the public, especially the poor, that Kiphire will witness an era of progress and development to mitigate suffering from poverty and high cost of living.
To their utter dismay, despite repeated requests and pleas, not a single rupee has been released by the government to live up to its declaration of Kiphire as an Aspirational District.
As per documents available with The Morung Express, there is no visible development and zero funding for the Aspirational District programme. This was corroborated by the response given to the United Sangtam Likhüm Pümji (USLP) by the District Planning and Development Board (DPDB) during its meeting held on February 19 last.
On a question raised by the USLP on the status of the ‘Swajal Yojana’ Scheme implementation in Kiphire, which is a flagship fund available under National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), Executive Engineer, PHE Department, Kiphire reportedly revealed that the Department is not in a position to implement the scheme as there is no funding for it.
‘Swajal Yojana Project’ was allocated to Kiphire as a priority district. The project was expected to provide piped water for every rural household and rain water harvesting facilities.
As per a report addressed to the Prabhari Officer in-charge of Kiphire Aspirational District and Joint Secretary (under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, New Delhi) about the Aspirational District Kiphire’s ranking on Deep Dive V2, unique issues/problems are at the core of the Kiphire Aspirational programme quagmire.
The reoprt revealed that the district is yet to take off as per the policy and guidelines of Aspirational District programme.
Convergence and Funding
The report stated that Aspirational District programme rests on the pillar of convergence of flagship programmes. However, till November 2018, Kiphire district was awaiting fund release for Financial Year 2018-19 under various flagship schemes including NREGA, PMAY and PMGSY.
The report pointed out that lack of release of funds is stifling most of the possible development initiatives under basic infrastructure and education sector. Similarly it pointed out that skill development initiatives managed from State headquarters could not make headway in the district nor access Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding channels opened as a viable alternative.
The report stated that the District Administration tasked with coordination of flagship schemes couldn’t progress as there was no funds/implementation under these schemes.
As per the report, “the parameters engaged to evaluate the progress made by the district during Aspirational District programme has left the actual development un-evaluated.”
The report, for instance, stated that tremendous progress was made under agriculture sector while coverage under drip irrigation as an evaluation parameter may not be applicable to Jhum cultivation in Kiphire.
Subsistence agriculture practiced in the district has not led to development of a Mandi or declaration of Minimum Support Price as evaluated in the development parameter.
Funding constrains and implementation
The report revealed that with regard to DDUGKY and PMKSY, Nagaland State is still in the process of initiating the programmes and hence no achievement could be made in Kiphire.
In the parameters wise comments, the report exposed that CSR funding for Aspirational District was ‘Nil’ and State Specified Aspirational Funding for district was also ‘Nil’.
Sources privy to the Aspirational District programme said Officers in-charge are completely in the dark, as to where the funds are going/being diverted, as they are not aware of what is going on in the top level.
Ironically, on November 9, 2018, during the Special Cabinet Meeting held in Kiphire, Nagaland Cabinet came out with a ‘Cabinet Declaration’ with the idea of ‘Aspirational Blocks’ to be selected from the remaining 10 districts.
To this, a joint representation was submitted by USLP, YTC and ESH seeking clarification/justification from the Nagaland State Government, if the proposed 10 blocks are to be funded out of Kiphire Aspirational Programme? Sources said the State Government is yet to respond to the representation.
Commenting on the decision by the Nagaland State Cabinet, Litingse Yingbithongrü, President Kiphire Town Chamber of Commerce, termed it as a “bolt from the blue” for the public of Kiphire that such a decision was taken by the State Cabinet since the district was reeling under heavy natural disasters and lagging behind in developments due to topographical disadvantages.
If the State Government can come out with 10 ‘aspirational blocks,’ he wondered, why not apply the same yardstick and declare 10 or more ‘smart cities’ under the Kohima Smart City Project?
According to sources, even the funds which have reached the State under various schemes from the central government for the implementation of Aspirational District programme has “not been released by the top layer of various departments.”
According to senior citizen, academician and egalitarian of Kiphire, AJ Sebastian, it is a matter of concern not to implement the “God given chance of the benefits of Aspirational District.”
Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A full-fledged Industrial Training Institute is under consideration to be set up in Kiphire by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Local volunteers have also been appointed to enable youth participation in the development process.
Similarly, the North East Council has assured Rs. 1 crore funding for developmental initiatives in Kiphire and Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has also appointed Health Prerak (motivator).
Sources said various agencies have approached District Administration Kiphire and agreed to provide CSR funding for Kiphire district.