GUWAHATI, Feb 10 - At a time when wasteful expenditure and corruption involving public money has become a norm with government functionaries, the Transport Cell of Panchayat Election-2018 in Darrang district has set an example by bringing down transport-related poll expenditure to an unprecedented scale during the just-concluded panchayat election.
Compared to transportation expenditure incurred in the 2013 panchayat polls in the district which stood at Rs1.40 crore, the December 2018 polls recorded an expenditure of a meagre Rs 32.57 lakh under the same head. This is despite rising fuel costs and higher number of polling stations.
Given that all expenses generally tend to increase with the passing years, the reduction in cost to the tune of over a crore is significant and indicative of financial discipline and prudence – and also lack of it during the conduct of the previous poll.
“Transport management in panchayat polls is a big challenge and unless some financial discipline is there, it can result in a lot of wasteful expenditure. During this election, we did proper planning and rationalisation of the entire procedure.
Accordingly, a Transport Cell was constituted to ensure hassle-free conveyance for smooth conduct of the polls,” Pankaj Chakravarty, Additional Deputy Commissioner and Transport Cell in-charge told The Assam Tribune.
He added that the transport team had several sessions with different stakeholders to work out the most convenient and economical transport plan.
“The huge savings was possible solely from rationalisation of vehicles, as the entire process of hiring, monitoring and allotment was done in a transparent manner. We proposed an estimated Rs 1.40-crore budget based on previous election records, but was successful in restricting the cost to Rs 32,57,954,” he said.
The Transport Cell chose to deviate from the earlier practice in order to inject technical and economic efficiency in the whole process. Unlike hiring of vehicles for four to five days for the poll days, the Transport Cell was able to meet the conveyance needs of the polling personnel during the poll by hiring vehicles for only two days.
“This was done to the utmost satisfaction of all concerned. While three days’ wage was offered to the drivers and handymen as incentive, unlike in the previous election, no outsourcing of vehicle was done and it was for the first time that all vehicles were arranged locally from Darrang district.
Not a single vehicle was hired from Guwahati, which was the earlier practice,” he said, adding that care was taken to minimise the expenditures involved with the hiring of vehicles needed for longer period ahead of the polls.
The use of technology, too, resulted in avoiding unnecessary expenditure. The process of vehicle allotment was streamlined, enabling every polling official and personnel to find out precisely the vehicle allotted to them through a comprehensive SMS service indicating the vehicle number, name and details of their sector and zonal officers.
“This helped in doing away with unnecessary plying of vehicles, besides plugging all forms of leakages. We also introduced for the first time a welfare scheme for drivers and handymen who were provided with first-aid boxes, dress material, biscuits and drinking water bottles which resulted in a lot of goodwill among the drivers and handymen,” Chakravarty said.