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A bureaucrat for every rural road

Senior officials from Nabanna (top) will visit panchayat areas to flag off the 1km “all-weather” rural road project on January 7. Mamata Banerjee will be present at some of the inauguration programmes in West Midnapore (picture
at bottom shows a village in
the district). Some senior officials from the state secretariat are also expected to attend similar events in other parts of the district

Calcutta, Jan. 2: The administration is finding it difficult to get enough senior officials to launch 1km “all-weather” roads in each of the 3,349 panchayat areas on January 7, a pet project of the chief minister.

Officials at Nabanna said the original plan was to send from Calcutta officials of the rank of joint secretary and above to launch the road project in the districts. There are a little over 500 such officials in Bengal, a source said.

“We don’t have so many officials. So it has been decided that one official will attend multiple inauguration programmes through the day,” a bureaucrat said.

Another official said Mamata Banerjee wanted to send at least one senior official to each panchayat area to “make it clear” to villagers that the government was “really serious” about development projects in rural areas.

Mamata will attend some of the inauguration programmes in West Midnapore on Tuesday.

Each of the 18 districts has been allotted officials from three to four departments for the inaugurations.

“We have decided to ask officials of the ranks of additional district magistrate and sub-divisional officer to assist their seniors from Calcutta. The officials of the ranks of ADM and SDO will inaugurate the project in areas where those from Calcutta will not be able to reach. Still, it appears that each official will have to attend four to five programmes,” a district magistrate said.

For example, 40 officials from the water resources, public works and irrigation departments have been assigned the task of flagging off the projects, announced by the chief minister on Facebook on December 28, in the 277 gram panchayat areas in Burdwan.

While some officials in Calcutta said they did not want to visit the districts, others said it would be a “welcome break” from the “monotony of routine office work”.

“I would love to go to the districts because getting in touch with common people gives a refreshing feeling,” said a department secretary who will visit north Bengal.

Some others said frequent visits to the districts would delay their departments’ work. “We are under pressure to deliver on time. Tours like this mean staying away from office for three to four days. Can we afford to do so at a time each day is important to meet the high standards set by the chief minister?” an official asked.

The project, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee had said, will be implemented with funds under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and the 100-day rural job scheme. Mukherjee, who will attend an inauguration programme on Sagar island in South 24-Parganas, said: “The initiative will boost the rural economy.”