Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rs 8,500 cr for roads in Maoist Districts approved

US$ 2 Billion package for connecting 6,000 habitations in 78 Maoist-hit districts.

The Centre has initiated the process to connect all tribal habitations and villages in border districts with roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting on Thursday, also approved a Rs. 8,500-crore special package for connecting 6,000 habitations in 78 Left wing extremist-affected districts and entrusted the Union Ministry of Rural Development with the job of preparing the estimates for the two projects.

Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo underlined the problems of the tribals who lived in scattered habitations of less than 250 people, and hence were still deprived of road connectivity.

The Cabinet directed Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh to conduct a survey to establish the number of such habitations in all the Schedule V areas that needed to be covered, and prepare the estimate for taking a final decision on extending this basic facility to the tribals living in remote forests and hills.

Similarly, the Cabinet was sympathetic to the problems of the people residing in villages in border areas that Union Road Transport and Highways Minister C.P. Joshi batted for. The Ministry of Rural Development will study all the 362 border blocks located along Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Mr. Ramesh has ordered a survey to establish the number of villages under the two categories, and the money that would be required to construct roads under the PMGSY, the allocation for which has been raised to Rs. 24,000 crore for the current financial year.

To cope with the problem being faced by over six States, which have completed their PMGSY targets, the Ministry of Rural Development is evolving new guidelines to put PMGSY II in place, to provide them funds which have, obviously, been stopped.

The Ministry of Rural Development intends to address the concerns of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Rajasthan, by allowing upgradation of rural roads on a cost-sharing basis. While the Centre favours a 50:50 sharing arrangement, the States were willing to meet 25 per cent of the expenditure, and want the Centre to foot the remaining 75 per cent of the cost.

In contrast, Bihar was allocated funds after a gap of two-and-a-half years, after resolving the irritants that had stalled the sanction of projects and resources. In the first tranche, Rs 915 crore has been provided for construction of 1,900 km of roads in seven LWE districts of Aurangabad, Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Jamui, Rohtas and Nawada.

For the remaining 31 districts, the Ministry is likely to sanction the proposals received for constructing 1,350 roads and 96 bridges, totalling 3,840 kms, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2,440 crore.

Accepting Mr. Ramesh's rider, no Central agency will be engaged in the construction of rural roads. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has agreed to appoint engineers to strengthen the State rural roads works department.

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