By Vritika Mathur
The government has gathered more than Rs 16,400 crore through taxation in the past two years. However, reports show that as much as 25 percent of the Swachh Bharat cess has not reached the Rashtriya Swachhata Kosh (RSK) and has stayed outside the dedicated fund.
Most of the funds collected through cesses remained either unused or were not transferred to the intended schemes.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a campaign started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that aims to promote sanitation within the country. The main goal is to prevent open defecation in the streets of India by providing household and community-owned toilets. It is divided into two missions, where one focuses on the rural areas under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and the other focuses on urban areas, under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
One of the programme’s main sources of funding is the cess levied on all taxable services. The Swachh Bharat Cess came into effect from November 2015, at the rate of 0.5 percent. All the tax is then collected in the Consolidated Fund of India. The funds are later audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which releases reports on its functioning and management.
For the period of 2015-16 and 2016-17, it has been revealed that the government collected around 16,400 crores as Swachh Bharat Cess. However, a quarter of this collection was not utilised, which resulted in the rise of a number of questions by the opposition in the Parliament. According to a report by the CAG on the Union Government Accounts 2016-17, funds accruing into the RSK were to be distributed between two sub-missions: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). This was to be done in the ratio of 80:20. However, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation spent the entire amount on the rural or Gramin areas and didn’t leave any provision for the urban mission.
The report released by the CAG states that the Ministry attributes the non-utilisation of large grants to non-receipt of viable proposals from the state governments, non-receipt of annual sanitation survey and fewer funds required by the implementing agencies.
Is there a success story?
Recently, the government informed the Rajya Sabha about the construction of more than 500 lakh toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). In addition, seven states and union territories have been declared as Open Defection Free (ODF). While this may be true, the housing and urban affairs minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, stressing on the urgent need to “step up the incurring of expenditure” for promoting Swachh Bharat. With a deadline of eradicating open defecation by 2019, only 37.5 percent of India can be declared ODF.
Need for change
This unemployment of funds brings to light the unnecessary burdening of the pockets of the taxpayers. While India has made strides in improving the existing situation, the future is still bleak, with very little to celebrate in terms of statistics. There is an urgent need to boost the expenditure in order to introduce new, as well as improve upon, the already existing schemes for better results. This should result in fastening the delivery of the promised services to the citizens.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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