Saturday, November 22, 2014

SKM MLAs take up Water supply woes and rural development queries during Question Hour

GANGTOK: The question hour in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly today saw members, Gopal Baraily, MLA, West Pendam, Hemendra Adhikari, MLA, Rhenock and Ugen Nedup, MLA, Kabi-Tingda raising queries.
In his query to the PHE Minister, Tulsi Devi Rai, the West Pendam MLA, Gopal Baraily stated that as per the concerned Minister’s answer to his question on 26 June 2014 in the SLA, around 10,700 beneficiaries would benefit from the Greater Rangpo Water Augmentation Works project, (GRWAP). However, with the project being stalled at present, Mr Baraily wanted to know the reasons behind the project being stalled, when the project would be completed and how the beneficiaries would benefit from the project.
In her answer, the PHE Minister informed that the GRWAP had already started in March 2014 and that the beneficiaries of Rangpo were already availing the facilities. However, she added that due to the July 2014 "natural disaster" in the area, the water pipeline was damaged in seven places. The department has sought funds for repair works. “As soon as the funds are released, we will carry out the repair works,” stated the PHE Minister.
In another query, Mr. Adhikari questioned why the Krishi Karyalaya earlier situated at Chalamthang, Rhenock was shifted by the concerned department to Gnathang-Machong without the consent of the local people or the concerned panchayats of the area.  Further, why was this done immediately after the elections? He added here that that the existing building was a prominent landmark in the area and was even used a as a polling booth because of its accessibility.
In his answer Somnath Poudyal, the Minister in charge of Agriculture stated that the Krishi Karyalaya was shifted for the convenience of the general public and that the new location was much closer to the sub-divisional offices which made it more convenient for the sub divisional offices to coordinate with the new Krishi Karyalaya.  
Similarly, he added that the State Election Commission would be able to answer the query on why a polling centre was shifted. He also stated that the state government was already aware and carrying out works on requirements of the farmers of Rhenock and would continue to do so. He concluded by stating that the concerned VLWs were the adequate medium between farmers and the state government and that the programme was being conducted in full swing to benefit all farmers in the existing area as well.
In his query to the Social Justice, Empowerment & Welfare Department Minister, MLA, Kabi-Tingda, Ugen Nedup Bhutia asked why there were routine delays in the disbursement of various social welfare schemes like old age pension, handicap pension, widow allowance, transgender allowance, unmarried allowance, disability marriage allowance etc. and whether the central government was releasing its share of fund for the above schemes in time and what was the sharing ratio between centre and state? And what were the number of beneficiaries under the schemes?
In her answer, the SJE&WD Minister, Tulsi Devi Rai provided an overview on the state share ratio and also provided the total number of beneficiaries under the various schemes. She went on to add that the department has observed that the disbursement of pension and allowances get delayed sometimes, on account of the delayed submission of the required documents by the beneficiaries and the panchayat members. Various gram panchayat units have been sensitized for early verification and recommendation of the applications for such pensions and allowances, by the eligible public with a view to cut down the administrative delays.
Further, the department has taken significant steps to develop software to automate the processing of pensions and allowances, which will enable electronic submission of applications duly recommended by the Members of Gram panchayat Units, Gram Vikas Adhikaris and concerned area MLAs and their online processing. The status of any application or information and reports can also be accessed online in a transparent manner,” stated the SJE&WD Minister, Tulsi Devi Rai.
She also added that the issue of the release of funds from the Finance, Revenue & Expenditure Department has also been taken up and instead of pro-rata release of resources on the basis of funds received from the Ministry of Social Justice/Ministry of Rural Development, GoI, it has now been decided to obtain quarterly release of resources from the Finance, Revenue & Expenditure department and ensure monthly transfer of pension and allowances directly to the beneficiaries accounts.
‘The proposed system will ensure further improvement for timely release of pension and allowances. Once the online electronic processing of pensions and allowances will get implemented from January/February 2015, further improvements have also been planned with departmental plans to do away with Life Certificate requirement for disbursement of pensions and allowances by the use of Adhaar card data base and bio metric verification of beneficiaries fingerprints at the time of receipt of applications. The department proposes to extensively use digital e-governance to speed up the implementation of all welfare programmes,’ stated the Minister.
During the Zero Hour, MLA, Rhenock, Hemendra Adhikari while alleging that the state government had used “undemocratic means” to shift the Krishi Karyalaya from Rhenock stated, “The reasons and answers given are not satisfactory. How could such a step be taken up by the state government without consulting the farmers, the panchayats and the concerned MLA? Because of this decision the farmers are suffering, why this vested interest?”
Supporting his question during the Zero Hour were Shyam Pradhan, MLA, Arithang, Sang-Martam MLA, Dr. Mechung Bhutia and MLA, Kabi-Tingda, Ugen Nedup Bhutia. Minister, Tulsi Devi Rai responded by stating, “the answers to all queries have been answered and if there are more questions then please bring the same in a written format so that I would be better able to answer them specifically.”
Further, the Gangtok MLA Pintso Chopel in his query to the PHE Minister, asked about the water shortage problem in Gangtok. “We know that there is a water crisis in Gangtok which is the hub of the tourism industry. Why does the PHE department still rely on Ratey Chu as the primary water source? Why hasn’t the government looked into alternative sources in the past 20 years? Why are only temporary works being carried out, and instead of carrying out temporary works for so much money, why doesn’t the department look for concrete answers?” he questioned.
Supporting his query was Ugen Nedup Bhutia who also spoke on other alternatives for the Gangtok water source to be explored like Tsomgo, Bhusuk etc. and also called for transparency in the projects PHE was implementing in Gangtok. In her reply, the Minister PHE stated, “We have been working on a new ADB funded project that will solve the water crisis in Gangtok by delivering 42 million liters of water per day against the existing 26 million liters per day by 2015. We will look into the same and let the members of the opposition know.”
The last query put up during the Zero Hour was from Dr. Mechung who questioned the tabling of the RK Patra Commission report in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly during its last sitting.

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