Nearly half the central government funds allocated to fight chikungunya last year remained unused - mostly in southern states that, ironically, were struggling against the mosquito-borne disease that had affected at least 1.4 million people across the country.
According to data available with the health ministry, the government last year allocated Rs. 160 million to the worst-affected 16 states to help them contain the chikungunya fever. But a sum of over Rs. 74.9 million is yet to be utilised.
"It is unfortunate that the country's progressive states are adopting this attitude. Nearly 50 percent of the money allocated to states affected by chikungunya are lying unutilised with the states," a top health ministry official told IANS.
Among the states, Karnataka is the worst offender. It is yet to spend a single paisa of the Rs. 22 million that it received from the central funds - this when state had 762,026 suspected cases of chikungunya, more than half of all reported cases in India.
Chikungunya is caused by a virus spread by the Aedes Egyptis mosquito that breeds in stagnant water.
Maharashtra is another state that took little interest in spending the allocated money, with Pondicherry following suit. Maharashtra is yet to spend Rs. 18.5 million of the allotted money, Pondicherry Rs. 13 million, Tamil Nadu Rs. 2.3 million and Andhra Pradesh Rs. 1.8 million.
The matter has not escaped the attention of Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who expressed disappointment. "We have asked the respective states to submit a utilisation report within a week or so," he said.
However, the minister promised not to withdraw the funds. "They have been instructed to spend it as soon as possible," Ramadoss told IANS.
The minister said that the central government has allocated a sum of Rs. 200 million this year for 10 states to tackle the vector-borne disease.
This year, India has so far reported 17,000 suspected cases of chikungunya spread across nine states, Kerala alone accounting for around 12,000.
India reported 1.4 million cases in 16 states last year.
Defending her government, Karnataka's Principal Secretary (Health) Usha Ganesh said: "We got the fund a little late and there is no question of under-utilising the fund. We spend over Rs.200 million alone from our state fund last year."
"They are not taking back last year's fund. The central health ministry has promised to give us Rs. 20 million more this year," Ganesh said.