The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Red-buster road on PMO table

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, June 29: A decision on 1,700km answer to the Naxalite arson across three states — the Vijayawada-Ranchi corridor — lies with the Prime Minister’s Office now.

National highway status, however, eludes the dream project of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who has been harping on this road project at every meeting of Maoist-affected states and at Prime Minister-Planning Commission discussions.

The proposed highway will pass through 12 districts of Orissa, including the Maoist-ridden Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj.

The Orissa stretch of the inter-state road will start from Motu in Malkangiri district in the south and terminate at Tiring in Mayurbhanj district in the north.

The chief minister felt that if the corridor passing through the Maoist affected states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh is constructed, it would usher in economic development in the region and thereby reduce the intensity of Left-wing extremism.

Works minister A.U. Singhdeo said out of the total 1,219km passing through Orissa, 215km would be built by the state government with World Bank assistance, while another 106km would be covered under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna.

Another 237km was proposed to be taken up by the National Highways Authority of India.

Though the state government has demanded national highway status for the project, the proposal is still pending with the Centre, the minister said.

Sources in the national capital said a detailed project report (DPR) is being prepared by the ministry of shipping and transport and the costs will decide whether the highway will be a two-lane or two-lane-with-paved-shoulders.

Implementing agency for the project will be decided when the ministry of finance and Planning Commission finalises the project, sources said.

Giving details of the progress of the 509km construction already taken up, Singhdeo said work on the Phulbani-Bhanjanagar stretch (80km) had already commenced with additional central assistance of Rs 20 crore, while tender had been floated for 64km Malkangiri-Jeypore portion, which would be opened in July 31.

For the rest 610km, tenders will be invited soon for preparation of a detailed project report, he said. Responding to a request of Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Congress MLA from Koraput, Singhdeo said the government would consider setting up an office of chief engineer at Koraput to monitor the work.

“Usually it costs anywhere between Rs 1-2 crore,” said an engineer working on the project.

About 314km of the road falls in Andhra Pradesh, 197.13km in Jharkhand and the 1219km in Orissa.

The highway is ploughing funds from the respective governments of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand, the Centre and the Union rural development ministry.

The route is something like this: Vijayawada-Kodar-Khammam-Motu-Malkangiri-Jeypore-Koraput-Rayagada-Digapahandi-Aska-Phulbani-Boudhi-Deogarh-Keonjhar-Tiring-Hata-Chaibasa-Chakradharpur-Khunti-Ranchi (see map).

Since the Naxalites are rapidly infiltrating Orissa, apart from Karnataka, security experts feel the Centre should decide on the project at the earliest and implement it fast.

“After five years, the rebels may not let you work,” said an expert from Chhattisgarh working on the project.

He added that some of the stretches like from Koraput to Rayagada are heavily affected by the Naxalites and need security.

In Jharkhand, engineers working on the project disclosed that contractors have been paying the Naxalites regularly in order to progress with work.

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