Centre cuts rural water fund by 64%


After complaining that the Centre had shortchanged the state over drought aid and NREGA funds, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has now zeroed in on another scheme where it claims the Centre has not fulfilled its obligation towards the state. Data shows that the Centre has cut funds for Karnataka under the National Rural Drinking Water Project (NRDWP) by 64%. In 2018-19, Karnataka has Rs 2,200 crore to meet drinking water needs in rural areas of which the Centre’s share is Rs 312.33 crore. Five years ago, the Centre’s share was Rs 868 crore.

NRDWP was launched in 2009 to provide safe and adequate water for drinking, cooking and other domestic needs to every rural household on a sustainable basis. The Centre and states share the cost in a 50:50 pattern. Karnataka has been doubling down on drinking water in rural areas, given the severe drought across the state. NRDWP funds are being pumped into providing borewells, overhead tanks, RO plants, multi-village drinking water schemes and so on. “Our outlay is Rs 2,200 crore, but we expect to end up spending Rs 2,600 crore. And because the Centre isn’t releasing enough funds, the scheme has virtually become a state-funded scheme because we are pitching in with our funds,” Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda told.

But the Centre has tried to justify the fund cut during a recent Comptroller & Auditor-General (CAG) audit into the NRDWP scheme. Apparently, Karnataka is one of the 13 states where the Centre imposed fund cuts for reasons such as late receipt of proposals from the state governments, less release of state’s share and excess expenditure on operation and maintenance.

Between 2015-16 and 2016-17, Karnataka was found to have defaulted on its share of funds towards various components of the scheme. From 2012 to 2017, Karnataka’s delay in releasing funds ranged from one day to 127 days, the audit found. In the same period, the state was found operating 108 savings bank accounts for the scheme against the stipulated two accounts, indicating that funds were parked in various unauthorized accounts. Also, Karnataka did not prepare a State Specific Sector Policy Framework and a Water Security Plan. There were also shortcomings in its annual action plan, besides other lapses. Gowda said these lapses could have resulted in fund cuts of about Rs 50 crore. “That’s immaterial. It does not justify the drastic cuts imposed by the Centre,” he said.

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