The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drive to link rural India to wired world

New Delhi, Nov. 17: The IT bug has bitten the rural development sector.

As part of an ambitious plan, the government has launched a project to connect 1,60,000 villages through Internet to ensure speedy rural development. The project, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, is to be completed by 2007.

The Online Management and Monitoring System will make information available to MPs, state legislators and the public at the click of a mouse.

Inaugurating the facility, rural development minister Shanta Kumar said legislators could now monitor rural development work in their respective constituencies on a day-to-day basis.

The facility, at present available in English and Hindi, will be improved on in the next three months to make it comprehensible in all major Indian languages. The application software for Internet users has been provided through the Gram Sadak Yojana’s website The site contains special sections for MPs, citizens and government officials.

The electorate and legislators can also lodge complaints, which will be redressed in 15 days, the rural development minister said.

The plan is to provide 58,787 villages, each with a population of more than 1,000, with Internet connection by the year 2003 and villages with a population of 500 by 2007.

Important features of the software are Discussion Forum on various topics related to the yojana, e-mail facility for the agencies involved in the implementation of the scheme and feedback facility.

Information to be made available includes connectivity status, projects cleared (such as sanctioned length and cost) and progress of road works for individual blocks, districts and states. Photographs and video clippings of actual road works will also be put on the Net.

The rural development ministry is likely to receive a grant of $1.2 billion from the Asian Development Bank in the next three years for the road project. The bank, which has decided to double its annual exposure to $2 billion for three years from the next financial year, has agreed in principle to provide $400 million annually to the rural infrastructure project.

As part of the increased exposure, the bank has also agreed to give an additional $300 million to the Rs 60,000-crore project for 2003 and 2004, the rural development minister said.

Kumar said the government was also negotiating with the World Bank for funding the village road project for which the Centre will contribute Rs 2,500 crore every year through the cess levied on diesel and petrol.

Talks were being held with the Cement Manufacturers Association to identify three roads in each state to lay concrete roads that would require no maintenance expenditure for 20 years, he added.

The minister said, at present, more than 20,000 road works of over Rs 7,500 crore were in various stages of execution in 28 states and six Union territories.

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