DoNER Ministry's Spending Fell by Over Rs 150 Crore in 2018-19, Lowest in 5 Years

The Department of North East Region spent Rs 1,047.73 crore in 2018-19, down from Rs 1,230.67 crore during 2014-15.

New Delhi: The Central government’s Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has spent Rs 1,047.73 crore during the 2018-19 fiscal – the lowest since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.

According to written information provided to the parliament by Jitendra Singh, minister of state (independent charge) of DoNER, while the ministry spent Rs 1,230.67 crore in the 2014-15 financial year, during 2018-19, its total spending plummeted by over Rs 150 crore.

The figures provided by the minister – in response to an unstarred question (No. 2002) by Shillong Congress MP Vincent Pala on July 3 – showed that the ministry had spent its highest amount, Rs 1,562.11 crore, in 2017-18.

Out of last fiscal’s spending, the lowest amount was earmarked for Tripura. At Rs 35.05 crore, the ministry’s spending on the state had significantly reduced from Rs 99.72 crore in 2014-15.

Meghalaya too saw a cut of DoNER ministry funds – from Rs 96.84 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 65.29 crore in the last financial year.

Assam, which typically gets the largest share of DoNER funds, bagged Rs 231.69 crore in 2018-19. In 2014-15 it had got Rs 249.96 crore.

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While Arunachal Pradesh was allotted Rs 151.12 crore in 2018-19, a significant slide from Rs 243.89 crore in 2014-15, the ministry spent Rs 134.86 crore on Sikkim in the last fiscal, a hike from the Rs 125.49 crore it spent on the state in the fiscal after Narendra Modi took charge.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally at Moran in Dibrugarh district of Assam in 2016. Photo: PTI

In Nagaland, the ministry slashed its allocation from Rs 155.18 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 94.40 crore last fiscal.

Along with Sikkim, Manipur and Mizoram too saw a hike in DoNER funds from 2014-15 to 2018-19. In Mizoram, it went up from Rs 86.16 crore to Rs 126.79 crore in 2018-19. In Manipur, the ministry’s allocation rose from Rs 173.44 crore to Rs 208.52 crore in 2018-19.

‘Exhibition’ money

Significantly, in the last five years, Rs 51.15 crore of Central funds were sanctioned by the ministry to hold exhibitions on northeastern states. While the amount has veered between Rs 4.82 crore and Rs 7.39 crore since 2014-15, during 2016-17, it ran up to a whopping Rs 25.31 crore.

The minister said: “The funds were utilised in holding exhibitions in various places including Bengaluru, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Lucknow, Imphal, Aizawl, Silchar, Gangtok, Kolkata and Tezpur.”

Responsible for matters related to planning, execution and monitoring of development schemes and projects in the eight northeastern states, the DoNER ministry was established by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in September 2001. In May 2004, the Manmohan Singh government accorded it the status of a full-fledged ministry.

All the central ministries are to keep aside 10% of their annual plan outlay on a mandatory basis for a specific region allotted through the DoNER ministry.

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During the first National Democratic government, General (retired) V.K. Singh had been the first DoNER minister. In November 2014, Singh took over the reins.

‘Special attention’

On July 3, responding to another unstarred query from independent MP from Assam, Naba Sarania, Singh, however, said the Centre is paying special attention to the Northeast.

As proof of the government’s attention to the region, he said that in September 2017, the ministry had started a dedicated venture fund for the region to encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups “for early stage and growth stage companies with new products and technologies for innovative business models.” Investment under the North East Venture Fund ranges from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 10 crore per project, the minister said.

Singh said that so far, the ministry has released funds to 12 such ventures, out of which the highest fund allocation (Rs 4.50 crore) has been to Atvi Infotainment Private Limited and EncloudEn.

While Atvi is engaged in the “online and TV-based infotainment service for news, media and entertainment from northeast India”, EncloudEn, which mentions its areas of operation as Karnataka and Assam, reportedly “provides complete stake that can enable an enterprise to set up its own private cloud or VD without any other product.”

(The story has been updated to remove a typo to reflect that Atvi and EncloudEn were allocated Rs 4.50 crore each, and not Rs 450 crore as mentioned earlier.)