Centre expedites release of Rs 8,924 crore of rural local body grants to 25 states

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The Centre has expedited the release of funds amounting to Rs 8,924 crore to 25 states for providing grants to rural local bodies, on Saturday.

This marked the first instalment of untied grants for the ongoing fiscal, released to the states for the village, block and district level of panchayati raj institutions, said a finance ministry statement on Sunday.

The grants, which were to be released in June on the basis of the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, can be used for prevention and mitigation measures needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it said.

As part of its recommendation, the commission had imposed certain conditions for release of untied grants such as online availability of accounts of a certain percentage of rural local bodies in the public domain.

“But taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances, this condition has been waived for release of the first instalment of untied grants,” the ministry said.

Uttar Pradesh received the largest amount at Rs 1,441 crore followed by Rs 861 crore transferred to Maharashtra and Rs 742 crore to Bihar, official data showed.

On Sunday, UP extended its curfew restrictions by another week till May 17, as the state reported 26,847 fresh cases and 298 deaths in the last 24 hours.

However, reports suggest this to be a severe underestimation as the infection spreads through rural areas which lack adequate testing and treatment facilities.

At a national level, India saw its fifth straight day of daily cases above the 400,000 mark as Sunday’s daily case count stood at 403,738.

The medical journal The Lancet has criticised the Modi government’s failure to act in time to mitigate the second wave of the pandemic despite warnings about the risk of superspreader events like religious festivals and political rallies.

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