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Poem Atal’s, name not his

Jairam

New Delhi, Feb. 7: Jairam Ramesh today rejected the BJP’s demand that the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) be named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had launched the scheme.

The rural development minister said the road scheme, which aims to provide road connectivity to rural habitations, was started in 2000 when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister but the scheme got priority and better funding during the UPA government.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had last month written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting the road scheme to be named after Vajpayee.

“It is a fact that the scheme was started in 2000 but it started with a kavita (poem). It was the responsibility of the UPA to turn the poem into a reality,” Ramesh said.

He said allocation for the PMGSY between 2000 and 2006 was about Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 crore per annum. After 2006-07, the allocation has increased manifolds. The allocation for 2012-13 is about Rs 24,000 crore.

The cabinet today approved new road projects with an estimated expenditure of Rs 38,500 crore for the next five years. The projects include road connectivity to all villages with over 250 people in border areas and habitations with 100 people in 82 Naxalite-affected districts.

Earlier, villages with 500 people in border areas and at least 250 people in Naxalite-hit areas were eligible for roads under the PMGSY.

Bengal stands to get the lion’s share from the proposed road construction programme in border habitations.

About 717 habitations from Bengal bordering Bangladesh will get roads under the programme. Jammu and Kashmir where 420 habitations will get connectivity comes next.

Ramesh said the ministry would soon move another proposal to the cabinet to allow upgradation of roads already constructed under the PMGSY. Such roads have not been taken up for upgradation till now.