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Tuki thrust on highway projects

Itanagar, July 12: Connectivity within the state is turning out to be the single biggest agenda of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki’s second stint as he made another push to expedite highway projects in the state yesterday.

Chairing a review meeting of highway projects here, Tuki directed officials to hasten the process of land acquisition, forest clearance and quarry notification for various projects in the state. Tuki is focussing on bringing about a better surface connectivity within the landlocked state and has directed officials to obtain forest clearances by end-August.

This development comes just two weeks after Union minister of state for environment and forests (independent charge) Prakash Javadekar assured Tuki on exempting forest clearances for road projects within 100km of the state’s international borders.

Besides officials from the state government, yesterday’s review meet was significant from the security point of view because of the presence of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials.

Officials from BRO, which handles road construction and maintenance in the state, raised concerns over non-availability of aggregates in the state. Arunachal Pradesh’s chief secretary Ramesh Negi suggested that local entrepreneurs be encouraged to set up crusher units at various locations with financial assistance from the state government.

Negi also called for a push to “award remaining stretches of the Trans-Arunachal Highway project within the current financial year”.

Announced by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008, the Rs 10,000-crore ambitious project stretching more than 2,400km has been plagued by delay ranging from land acquisition problems to difficulties in transportation of materials due to adverse weather conditions.

During his first stint as chief minister, Tuki had linked delays in getting many of the state’s planned hydropower projects off the ground, to communication bottlenecks in the state.

Tuki’s initiatives to focus on highway projects also received a boost when Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, during a visit to the state on July 4, said that the Centre’s focus would be to develop infrastructure in villages along the state’s border areas.

A press statement from the minister’s office today said the state’s telecom sector could be in for an overhaul after Rijiju met Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and apprised him of issues facing the state.

The press communiqué said the government-run BSNL’s media bandwidth service would be upgraded to allow for better 3G connectivity within the state.

During his visit earlier this month, Rijiju had said that “villages on the fringe border areas need to be developed” and that it must be “ensured that basic facilities reach border areas”.