New Delhi: The government’s flagship initiatives have barely spent any of the money allocated to them, a parliamentary committee has reported, raising questions about the on-the-ground implementation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most high profile national programmes.
Although the government insists the figures are wrong, a report from the parliamentary standing committee on urban development said Modi’s six top infrastructure initiatives spent on average just 21 per cent, or $1.2 billion, of the $5.6 billion allocated.
India’s “Smart Cities” programme, which Modi has championed, used just 1.8 per cent of the funds released to it, the committee said, or just $28 million of a dedicated $1.5 billion. Other programmes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Swachch Bharat, used less than 30 per cent of the available funds, the report said.
The central government releases funds to states to roll out the initiatives, but the committee said India’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs had “not made realistic projections or proper planning.” Despite the ambitious-sounding goals of some of the programs — such as providing “housing for all,” or ending “open defecation” across India – they suffer from a lack of proper funding, as well as “slack implementation,” the committee said.
“They’re coming up with all these grand schemes,” Pinaki Misra, a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP and chair of the standing committee, said in an interview. “Too much has been promised, by way of too many projects, with too many fancy acronyms, that haven’t really been thought through.”
The government, however, rejects that view. The small spending amounts in the report don’t accurately reflect construction work being done, said Rajeev Jain, a spokesman for the housing and urban affairs ministry.
Funds are only considered officially spent once all the work is completed and project managers have sent back “utilisation certificates” proving they have spent the cash, Jain said, adding project managers have up to two years to do so, leading to delays. ”It’s not a barometer of the implementation of the project,” Jain said.