Babus cry budget woes for state

Ranchi, Jan. 16: The state's bureaucrats, left rudderless after more than a week of political vacuum in Jharkhand, are despairing for either an alternative government in place or President's Rule to help direct new development projects and prepare proposals for the coming fiscal (2013-14).

Arjun Munda, who resigned as chief minister on January 8 after JMM pulled out of the BJP-led coalition government, finds his responsibilities trimmed down.

According to the executive's rules, a caretaker chief minister ' Munda's role since resignation ' can only look after law and order, disaster management and protocol related matters.

As a result, the bureaucracy is experiencing bouts of uncertainty at a time new projects need to be taken up for the remainder of the ongoing fiscal (2012-13) to utilise the maximum possible of the earmarked funds.

"There is a complete vacuum. Either there should be a popular government or President's Rule. We have been told to prepare a plan document for the next fiscal by January 21. We can take decisions on day-to-day and minor issues, but big decisions like priorities for the next budget should be taken at the topmost level," said a senior bureaucrat requesting anonymity.

The bureaucrat told The Telegraph a working group meeting of the Planning Commission is slated from February 15 onwards in Delhi which will witness detailed discussions on state-wise plan budgets for 2013-14.

In normal circumstances, a state government prioritises works to be executed by various departments before the Planning Commission meeting so that it can receive a good share of central assistance.

But, as a result of the fragile political situation in Jharkhand for the past couple of months, the state has failed to prepare in this regard. The bureaucrats are also in a fix as chief secretary S.K. Choudhary is retiring at the month-end.

"If President's Rule was imposed, the governor or his advisers would have acted like a council of ministers to give a broad idea about the state's priorities," said another official.

At present, the biggest challenge faced by the government is to utilise the plan head funds for 2012-13. The state has so far spent only around Rs 5,300 crore of Rs 16,300 crore that was earmarked.

"At present, there is no sanction for detailed project reports for any scheme. New projects are getting affected completely. One engineer-in-chief and two chief engineers of my department are also set to retire soon. But no decisions are being taken at present. Over 100 files were returned by the former minister's office a couple of days ago without any remark," said principal secretary, rural works department, Santosh Kumar Satpathy.

Industry secretary A.P. Singh pointed out that the last leg of a financial year was always crucial as far as finance management was concerned.

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