Friday, May 18, 2012

Government cleared Rs 8500-crore Project to promote connectivity in Naxalite-affected Districts

The Union government on 17 May 2012 cleared a Rs 8500-crore project under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) with an objective to connect 6000 habitations in the 78 naxalite-affected districts of nine states. Under the project money will be utilised for new connectivity and upgradation of habitations, which will be an addition to the core network, approved in 2002 by the Union Ministry of Rural Development.

Norms of PMGSY were relaxed for the first time to provide road connectivity to these habitations, in view of the naxalite problem.
Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa will be the biggest beneficiary of this package. There are some 1000 unconnected habitations in nine Naxal-hit districts of Bihar and another 2500 in 17 districts of Jharkhand. The remaining habitations are spread over 18 districts in Orissa, 16 in Chhattisgarh, eight each in MP and AP, three each in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and two in Maharashtra.

PMGSY is the single-most important rural development intervention that is believed to significantly transform the ground-level situation in Maoist-hit areas.

Roads are the prime targets of the Naxals, the reason why PMGSY works are severely lagging in Maoist-hit areas. The problem is most acute in 20 districts, and has the worst record in implementation in Bijapur and Narayanpur in Chhattisgarh, Rohtas, Hazaribagh and Gaya in Bihar and Deogarh in Orissa are among them.

Major relaxations in norms have been made in the rural roads programme to improve connectivity in Maoist-hit districts. The population norm for a habitation to be connected has been reduced from 500 to 250 in these districts. The tender package for road construction was kept at Rs 50 lakh, as against Rs 1 crore earlier, to stimulate local contractors.

The move to boost road connectivity is aimed at preventing tribals and backwards from falling for the Naxal campaign revolving around government neglect and under-development. The roads will also increase government interaction with these villages thereby providing better security besides being a key indicator of development. Cement-concrete roads have been pushed in Naxal areas because of the plea of security agencies that they were better insurance against Naxal landmines. The Centre bears 90% of the cost of these roads.