New Delhi, Feb. 5: The Centre is set to strengthen the road network in Maoist-affected districts by relaxing norms under a rural scheme.
Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today modified the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) rules to allow multiple roads to habitations in the country’s 82 districts affected by “Left-wing extremism”, including three in Bengal.
So far, each habitation with over 250 people in these districts was entitled to one blacktop road.
The ministry will also propose amendments to bring smaller hamlets, those with around 100 people, under the scheme. The cabinet is expected to consider the proposal on Thursday.
The proposal for multiple roads was cleared by Ramesh today as it does not need the cabinet’s approval. “There have often been complaints that one road to a village is not enough. That is why we have allowed multiple-road connectivity to habitations with the condition that one would be blacktop and remaining would be moram roads,” Ramesh said.
He said around 52,000 habitations in the country’s rebel zones were eligible under the scheme’s existing norms. If the cabinet relaxes norms for the 100-strong hamlets, another few thousand villages will be covered.
Ramesh said blacktop roads were often targeted by Naxalites, a reason why the Centre allowed flexibility in the scheme to enable the states to complete a project without using bituminous material.
Ramesh said the pace of road construction under the scheme was slow in many states. Only 19,000 habitations — 36 per cent of the 52,000 villages — had been connected so far.
The laggards include nine districts in Jharkhand, five each in Odisha and Bihar, four each in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and one in Bengal.
The road scheme faces a number of problems in Maoist zones, mainly violence and threats which scare off contractors and stall projects. The central government has now decided to provide insurance to such contractors and their workers. The Centre will pay 75 per cent of the premium and the states the rest.