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12-year-high central funds for rural roads

Patna, July 6: The Centre today reached out to chief minister Nitish Kumar by sanctioning Rs 4,133 crore to the state for the construction of over 5,600km of rural roads, the highest allocation to Bihar in the past 12 years.

The announcement, made by Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, is the latest in the bouquet of gifts doled out by the Congress-ruled central government to Bihar ever since the break-up of the NDA in the state.

Yesterday, the Centre allocated coal linkage from the Deocha-Pachami coal block in Bengal to three proposed thermal power projects in Bihar — Pirpaiti (Bhagalpur), Kajra (Lakhisarai) and Chausa (Buxar). A few days earlier, communications minister Kapil Sibal announced a second National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology for the state even though the first, at Bihta, is yet to come up.

The money for the rural roads has been sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

“The sum has been sanctioned for the financial year 2013-14. It will be used for the construction of rural roads spanning 5,683km in all the 38 districts of the state. This will include the construction of 2,400 roads and 190 culverts and bridges. The amount under the Centre’s scheme is the biggest the state has received in the past 12 years. In the financial year 2012-13, the Centre provided Rs 2,500 crore to the state under the scheme. The amount rested at Rs 900 crore in 2011-12,” Ramesh said.

The Union minister, who met Nitish during the day, said 60 per cent of the sanctioned sum would be spent on 10 districts, seven of which are affected by Naxalite activities.

“The sum will be used for the construction of rural roads in all districts of the state. But 60 per cent of the amount will be spent on 10 districts — Araria, Aurangabad, Darbhanga, Jamui, Kaimur, Madhubani, Nawada, Sitamarhi, Rohtas and West Champaran. With the exception of Araria, Darbhanga and Madhubani, which are poor when it comes to road connectivity, the rest are Naxalite-affected. However, even after this amount being sanctioned, there will be at least 8,000 rural settlements in the state which won’t see road connectivity. More funds will be approved and the department wants to complete the leftover task within a year,” he said.

However, in the same breath, the central minister gently nudged the state on the pace of work. “We should know whether the state government is ready for it. The pace of work of the state government at present is slow towards the implementation of the scheme. Moreover, the government should ensure that the quality of the roads constructed is good and not substandard,” he added.

Nitish said a detailed proposal regarding the construction of 10,000km of rural roads would be put forward before Ramesh’s department by October this year.


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