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Central schemes unlikely to be revamped before 2024 polls

New Delhi: The Centre is unlikely to further rationalize centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) during the upcoming budget, as the process has been completed in the previous years, and no changes are considered before the general elections, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

However, the Centre could take a relook at some of these schemes, especially the ones started during the pandemic, for further rationalization in the next budget, these people added.

“There is unlikely to be further rationalization of Centrally sponsored schemes during the 2024-25 interim budget,” said one of these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Rationalisation of these schemes in the earlier budget was carried out as the Centre wanted maximum efficiency to utilise the limited budgetary resources available (with the Union and state governments) for such schemes,” the person added.

Centrally sponsored schemes are largely funded by the central government with a defined state government share.

Though there were over 200 of these schemes a decade ago, the government phased out some over the years and their numbers fell to below 40 before the pandemic, only to rise to 58 now. The Union Budget 2022-2023 had reduced these schemes significantly.

The Centre’s release of funds under Centrally sponsored schemes is often dependent upon states meeting certain conditions.

The ‘core of the core schemes’ under the Centrally sponsored schemes are six schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREA), National Social Assistance Program, Umbrella Programme for Development of Minorities, Umbrella Programme for Development of Other Vulnerable Groups, Umbrella Programme for Development of Scheduled Tribes and Umbrella Scheme for Development of Scheduled Castes.

A total of 86,144.83 crore has been allocated to these schemes during the Annual Budget 2023-24, down from 99,214.70 crore allocated during the previous budget, according to the expenditure profile in 2023-24.

Meanwhile, about 52 CSS make up for the ‘core schemes’, the allocations for which stood at 3,89,959.76 crore during the annual budget 2023-24, up from 3,43,566.49 crore allocated during the previous budget.

Some of the popular CSS include Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY), Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)/National Rural Drinking Water Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, Swachh Bharat Mission, among others.

A finance ministry spokesperson didn’t respond to emailed queries.

The 15th Finance Commission had recommended a fixed threshold for annual allocation to CSS below which the funding for such a scheme suggested to be stopped in order to phase out the schemes that outlived its utility.

“Below the stipulated threshold, the administrating department should justify the need for the continuation of the scheme. As the life cycle of ongoing schemes has been made co-terminus with the cycle of Finance Commissions, the third-party evaluation of all CSSs should be completed within a stipulated time frame,” the 15th finance commission said in its report that was tabled in the parliament in 2021.

“The funding pattern of the CSSs should be fixed upfront in a transparent manner and should be kept stable,” it added.

The union cabinet last week approved the continuation of Fast Track Special Court (FTSCs), which was launched during the pandemic in FY 2020, as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) till FY 2026.

The financial allocations for this scheme during between FY2024 and FY2026 is Rs. 1952.23 crore (Rs. 1207.24 crore as Central Share and Rs. 744.99 crore as State share).

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Updated: 03 Dec 2023, 10:35 PM IST

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