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Talk roads, not future road

Patna, Jan. 24: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh spelt out road construction proposals the Centre cleared for the state but was non-committal on who the Congress would ally with for the Lok Sabha polls.

“I am neither the party in-charge (for Bihar) nor do I participate in the state’s political affairs. But, I can say the party has kept its options open. We have not closed the doors for anyone. The nature of alliance would be known in the next few days,” Ramesh said.

Asked to clarify if the party intends to go it alone in the polls, he said it, too, was an option but given the mood of party workers there are chances the party may go for an alliance to “keep communal forces at bay and strengthen secular forces”. He, however, made it clear he was not here to certify if the JD(U) was secular or Lalu Prasad was corrupt.

Confining himself mostly to his ministry, he said the Centre had in the past three years sanctioned construction of 17,000km of rural roads worth Rs 12,000 crore for Bihar. Just five-six days ago, the ministry sanctioned construction of 2,861 new rural roads 5,636-km-long for the state, he said adding that it would entail an expenditure of Rs 3,946 crore.

Similarly, the ministry has also approved upgrade of 43 roads whose total length would be 519km at a cost of Rs 311 crore. Also, Rs 323 crore would be spent on construction of 111 small bridges (6.5km).

“I have conveyed these aforementioned decisions to chief minister Nitish Kumar through a letter recently. Altogether, the ministry would spend Rs 4,580 crore on the construction of new and old rural roads in the current year,” he said. Ramesh said, the Centre approved construction of 2,000km of rural roads in 2011-12, 3,900km in 2012-13, 5,500km in 2013-14 and 2,861km in the current year. Another proposal, for construction of 4,200 km of roads and upgradation of 3,000 km in 2014-15, is pending approval, but only a new government at the Centre would decide that after the polls.

“All these schemes allotted to Bihar are not any kind of favour (to the state), rather it’s their right. The country would not prosper unless Bihar makes progress,” he said.

Under Indira Awas Yojana, six lakh families would be given benefit under the scheme, he said. The Centre has also decided to build around 10 lakh toilets in the state in 2013-14 under MGNREGA, he said.

Asked about the progress of aforementioned schemes by the state government, Ramesh said the Centre’s job was to provide funds and the state government’s to execute them.

“If I start monitoring schemes, it would be alleged that the Centre is not respecting the federal structure of the nation,” he said. He admitted there were complaints of dip in quality of rural roads but he was not here to criticise anyone.

Told that he was politicising the issue by holding a government function under the banner of the Congress party, Ramesh said: “I am a minister by virtue of being a Congress worker, so I have a double role to play, one as a minister and the other as a worker. Bihar’s development is of prime importance. That’s why I am making announcements from here (party platform).”