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CM’s 16000km rural road network

Calcutta, Dec. 28: The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to build a 16,000km rural road network, including 1km “all-weather” roads in each of the 3,349 gram panchayat areas, as part of a plan to ensure better connectivity among villages in Bengal.

The chief minister will launch the project at a programme in West Midnapore’s Amlasole during her visit to the Jungle Mahal pocket on January 7.

Mamata announced the decision in a Facebook post this evening. She said the West Bengal Highway Development Corporation had taken up an “ambitious programme” to “upgrade” around 1,000km of state highways that connect the national highways.

“In all, 16,000 kilometres of village roads will be developed through this intervention. Such an initiative has no parallel in the history of rural development in the country,” the post said.

Mamata said four more roads would be built in gram panchayat areas apart from the 1km “all-weather” roads.

The decision is expected to boost Bengal’s economy as building such a huge road network would give a leg-up to the infrastructure sector, apart from creating jobs.

Much of the road network that now exists in the US was built as part of the New Deal during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term between 1933-1936. The move, to counter the Great Depression of the 1930s, had boosted the economy.

Government sources said the “all-weather roads” would not be damaged by rain.

While Mamata will launch the scheme at Amlasole, which had reported starvation-like deaths during Left rule, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee will flag off the project at Sagar island.

Mukherjee said funds from the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act would be utilised for the project. “How the money will be spent will be worked out on the basis of funds sanctioned by the two central schemes,” he said.

Senior officials at Nabanna said that since the roads would be built in gram panchayat areas, the panchayat and rural development department would oversee the project.

The two-phase PMGSY had been launched with the aim of ensuring sustainable management of the rural road network.

Earlier this year, sources said, the state government had sent a report to the Centre stating that it had completed 2,322 of the 4,309 roads supposed to be built in Bengal under the Prime Minister’s rural road scheme in the 2012-13 financial year.

According to the report, the state government had spent Rs 4,300.68 crore of the Rs 4,513.85 crore sanctioned for this purpose.

“Based on the report, the Centre sanctioned more funds in November to build another 421 roads covering 1,887km. This money can be utilised to build roads in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore under the project the chief minister announced today,” an official said.