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Ramesh ‘doubts’ Imphal claim

- Too good to be true, says minister of job scheme feat

Imphal, June 10: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said he would send an independent team to evaluate the achievement claim made by the Manipur government on implementation of projects under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

Ramesh announced this at a news conference today after an on-spot inspection of work in progress. The minister had also reviewed the projects yesterday with chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and officials.

According to official figures, Manipur was the top state in implementing the scheme, providing employment for 80 days in a year, while the national average is 45 days. “It is too good to be true. I want the actual figure,” Ramesh said.

The minister, who arrived here yesterday, said, while the work under NREGS was satisfactory, the progress of work under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana was “slow” particularly in the hills. He asked Ibobi Singh to ensure “social auditing” of implementation of programmes either by gram panchayats or village authorities.

Stating that money was not a problem, Ramesh told the chief minister to complete road connectivity of 1,004 villages, each having a population of more than 250, in three years. He expressed displeasure over 245 villages being connected, when the funds sanctioned was for 450 villages.

Ramesh said a decision had been taken to appoint Manipur Institute of Technology as the state technical agency for examining detailed project reports, instead of sending them to Silchar for examination.

He also asked the state government to appoint an agency for preparing detailed project reports. “We will provide a panel of agencies and the state can choose any one and also give financial support,” he said. At present, the rural development department has been preparing the detailed project reports.

The Union minister also directed the government to strengthen the Manipur State Rural Development Agency by recruiting more young and energetic engineers.

Observing that women were still defecating in the open in rural areas, he directed the government to stop the practice in five years, by taking up rural sanitation programmes.

He said he would talk to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for starting banking and Internet facilities in all 60 block headquarters in the state. At present, only 30 block headquarters have banking facilities while only 16 have Internet services.

“During Ibobi Singh’s 10-year rule, the state has come back on the path of development. It needs to be accelerated. If Manipur wants to move fast, we (Centre) will move faster,” Ramesh said.

The minister also promised to take up a proposal made by the government with the forest and environment ministry, for construction of a suspension bridge to connect Thanga, a village on the fringes of Loktak lake with Karang, an island on the lake in Bishnupur district. He also urged the government to develop a botanical garden inside Kangla Fort. Ramesh, who was here on a two-day visit, left for Delhi today.