PDA government ‘building castles in the air’

Our Correspondent

Kohima | February 26

Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) on Monday rained a barrage of criticism on the State budget 2019-20 which Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio presented in the Assembly on February 25.

The leader of opposition TR Zeliang pointed out anomaly in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), stating that the growth rate of GST in the State has shown diminishing returns from 25% in 2017-18, to 11.4% in 2018-19 and estimated to go lower at 9.72% in 2019-20. “If the department is effectively implementing online system in collection of taxes, how is the growth rate going down year by year instead of going up year by year?” he questioned the treasury bench.

Castles in the air

Participating in the general discussion on budget 2019-20, Zeliang said if the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government really placed first priority on improvement of roads, then the chief minister should refrain himself and his MLAs from making empty promises and focus more on action. He said that anyone could announce anything but without budget provision, they could not execute the works.

He maintained that during the past 11 months of governing the State, the PDA government has not been able to avail even a single road project from the Government of India and yet it continued to ‘build castles in the air’. Terming the PDA’s promise of renovating and filling of potholes in all the district headquarters and to have a comprehensive master plan for maintenance of all major roads a ‘complete failure’, the opposition leader said, “New schemes and programmes announcement without fund allocation will be just another ‘white elephant’ for the PDA government.”

“Till today, PDA government has not brought any Central Project on Road Sector and whatever is taking place at present is the achievement of the previous DAN-III NPF led Govt. Having said this, I must also add that it does not matter which Government brought which Project to the State. What is more important is the implementation of the projects on the ground. The government of the day should pursue the works till completion,” he stated.

Employee liability

Zeliang however agreed with the views of the Leader of the House that developmental activities of the state are hindered as a huge amount of fund is used for payment of government employees’ salary, coupled with the burden of pension payment issue. As the State’s financial position is not strong, he said it would do well for the government to stringently check bogus pensions and other malpractices. Towards this he mentioned that there is a need to streamline the work charged employees as well, observing that scores of employees under this sector are becoming a liability to the State and its exchequer rather than being an asset.

In this connection, he questioned how the government intended to cut down the number of government employees and whether the 15th Finance Commission had made specific commitment to take care of 7th RoP. If it did not, he felt the State will be overburdened and will not be able to move forward.

Equal attention

The opposition leader also remarked that the PDA government should adopt the policy of equal attention and equal distribution of resources, citing that besides Kiphire, newly created districts like Peren, Longleng and Noklak must also be brought up at par with the rest in the State as they equally deserved the attention of the government. He alleged that the present government has failed to even live up to its promise with regard to the case of Kiphire district.

“Despite the Cabinet Meeting that took place at Kiphire Dist HQ. on November 9, 2018; there is nothing on the ground that has taken place till today. Even, the District Planning & Development Board (DP&DB) of Kiphire District during its monthly Meeting held on February 19, 2019 has clearly stated that no fund has been allotted to the District till date. Therefore, the Leader of the House must clarify on the following: Why was the earmarked amount of Rs. 1 crore which has been set up for taking up projects to meet the developmental gaps in Kiphire district has been delayed till today? And how much expenditure was incurred on the Cabinet Meeting at Kiphire? If the Government is really serious on improvement of Kiphire district, instead of wasting huge amount of funds on a fancy Cabinet Meeting, the amount incurred could have instead been allotted to the DP&DB/Village Councils of Kiphire District for implementation of welfare Projects,” Zeliang maintained.

Students & education

While appreciating the Leader of the House for taking the time to address the welfare of students, he pointed out that the student community in the state was yet to receive the final installment of scholarship from the 2017-18 backlog, and they have not received any payment against the year 2018-19. Therefore, he remarked that for the government to keep claiming that they have ensured timely release of scholarships is either a direct attempt to mislead the people of Nagaland or the Leader of the House is being misguided by his support staff. To this, he called upon the chief minister to take up the matter on priority and ensure that the students were given what is rightfully theirs and not make an attempt to take credit of it.

Zeliang also asserted that the present government must work out a solution to the genuine demand of students on land encroachment issues faced by government colleges particularly Kohima Science College Jotsoma.

On the claim that all colleges are accredited by the NAAC, as stated by Rio, he stated that as per the updated record of November 30, 2018, not all the colleges in Nagaland featured in the accredited list.

“It is ironic that while claiming that the Higher Education system is being strengthened in the State, there is a case against the appointment of 177 Assistant Professors for allegedly not following procedure during the process of appointment,” he said. He added that if the quality of the appointment of professors was to be compromised, there is little room for excellence of students and a strong education system in the state cannot be expected because sooner or later the result of a weak teaching faculty would be too glaring for ‘any of us’ to avoid. The leader of opposition advised that the chief minister and his government stop giving ‘lip-service’ to the student community. Besides several other assurances, he pointed out that ex-gratia for students announced since last year had also failed to see the light of day till date and there was no mention of  ex-gratia in the budget 2019-20. Thus, he wondered under which head of account such expenditure will be listed. He stated that if the same cannot be granted then PDA government must admit so, instead of making false promises to them.