A tug-of-war of sorts is on between the State departments of Health and Family Welfare and Finance over the Rs. 72-crore special incentive awarded to the State by the Centre for bringing down infant mortality rate from 35 per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 32 per 1,000 live births in 2012.

While the Health Department is staking claim to the grant, the Finance Department is not releasing the grant arguing that it would be adjusted to the State government’s share of funds for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Highly placed sources in the government told The Hindu on Monday that the Finance Department wants to include the special incentive to its NRHM share of 25 per cent. The State has been allocated a total of Rs. 1,073 crore for implementing the NRHM this year. While 75 per cent of this (Rs. 831 crore) is given by the Centre, the State has to bear the remaining 25 per cent.

Earlier instance

This is not the first time that such a difference of opinion has cropped up. Three years ago, when the Health Department had got a similar incentive of Rs. 52 crore for strengthening maternal and child health programmes in Karnataka, the Finance Department had taken a similar stance.

Confirming that there were differences between the Health and Finance departments, Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader told The Hindu that the officials were pursuing it with the Finance Department.

“By bringing down IMR to 32 per 1,000 live births, we are getting closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of 28 per 1,000 live births. Our efforts have been recognised by the Centre, which has granted the special incentive to bring it down further. However, the Finance Department does not want to release it for the purpose it is meant for,” Mr. Khader said.

Karnataka is one among the 14 States and Union Territories that have made impressive reduction in the IMR between 2009 and 2011.

The incentive has been granted on the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission.

The Minister said the incentive could be utilised for further strengthening maternal and child health programmes in the State.

However, sources said the Finance Department’s argument was that the Health Department was able to bring down IMR only with financial assistance from the State government.

“Moreover the Health Department that was to utilise 75 per cent of the total budgetary allocation by December-end, has been able to use only 60 per cent. This may be because of various reasons, including elections. The department’s expenditure may further slow down if the Lok Sabha polls are announced in the next one or two months,” sources added.

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