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NATIONAL

Parliamentary panel flags under-utilisation of funds given in pandemic

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has raised concerns over the Labour and Employment Ministry missing physical targets for schemes and asked the Ministry to look into why it was unable to use funds allocated to it, particularly during the pandemic, in an optimal way.

In its report on the demand for grants for 2021-2022 that was presented in Parliament on Tuesday, the panel said: “The Committee also desires that the Ministry seriously look into the infrastructural or procedural constraints impeding optimal utilisation of funds especially made available during the pandemic (sic).”

The report said there had been an increase in the allocation for the Ministry from ₹12,065.49 crore in the Budget Estimate (BE) to ₹13,719.56 crore in the Revised Estimate (RE) in 2020-2021 due to the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) during the pandemic to boost the economy.

“The Committee notes that though an allocation of ₹4,860 crore has been made for the PMGKY in the First Supplementary Demand for Grants, only ₹2,566 crore could be spent as on 15.02.2021, which amounts to utilisation of only 52.8% of the funds. Further, there has been a downward revision of the allocation for the scheme to ₹2,600 crore at the RE Stage. This apart, ₹1,000 crore has been allocated for Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY) at RE stage,” the report said.

While ₹1,000 crore was allocated for the ABRY scheme in 2020-2021 at the time of the second supplementary demand for grants, the utilisation of funds stood at “nil due to non-dispersal of funds”.

The report said the Ministry had not utilised funds in an even manner over the four quarters of the current financial year.

“The Committee also observes that gross underutilisation of funds has impacted the performance of certain schemes thereby defeating the laudable intent of these schemes in benefiting the targeted group. The Committee, therefore, exhorts upon the Ministry to act on improving the implementation machinery and work towards bringing about more efficiency, especially during these critical times. (sic).”

The panel said it was ‘concerned’ that the Ministry had not been able to meet physical targets in many major schemes. The main cause of this was the pandemic, it said. While some schemes, like the coaching-cum-guidance centres for the SCs/STs, had achieved the targets, others, like the training centres for working children and the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana, which achieved 1.18 lakh enrolments out of the target of 2 crore new enrolments, had not.

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“The Committee, while acknowledging the fact that the pandemic may have had a deleterious effect on the implementing agencies, nevertheless, cannot help noting that the targeted beneficiaries of these schemes were also the ones who were severely hit by the pandemic (sic),” it said.

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With regard to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, the report said it was concerned about the increase in pending grievances. It said the Ministry must take steps to reduce the pending grievances from 30,411 as of the end of 2020.

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