• 9 states stall push for full rural connectivity by 2019

    Nine states seem to be holding back India’s race to achieve full rural connectivity by 2019 with Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand topping the list, according to a central government assessment.

    The fear is that the ambitious scheme may have to be pushed beyond 2019, a politically significant date as the Modi government will be up for re-election then, despite recent improvements having taken daily road construction to 130 km from the earlier average of around 85 km.

    Besides the three worst performers, a review of ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana’ (PMGSY) found progress wanting in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, prompting a concerned rural development ministry to begin meeting chief secretaries of these states to urge them to step up the pace of work.

    Some of the states, like J&K and Chhattisgarh, face obvious problems of terrain and terrorism. Development work in these states is a challenge and recurrent political turmoil in J&K makes the state even less effective. West Bengal is seen to lack admini strative efficiency while Odisha and Rajasthan have large backward areas. Bihar’s road construction has improved but PMGSY records reveal more needs to be done.

    The choice of 2019 to achieve full rural road connectivity is clearly linked to the political objective of presenting voters with a glowing report card ahead of Lok Sabha elections. While targets may have to be pushed forward owing to the drag of nine states, the question is if the Modi government will be able to do enough to make it count in its attempt to net the sprawling rural constituency .

    The 2019 time-frame is daunting. As per estimates, Assam will have to scale up the pace of work by 10 times to take the length of road constructed per day from 2.3 km to 22.5 km. Only if roads are constructed at a rate of 22.5 kmday over three years will Assam be able to connect all rural habitations by 2019.

    The chart of estimates drawn up for laggard states presents clear targets. Second on the list is J&K which has to take road construction from the present 1.3 km a day to 8 km; Jharkhand from 3.7 to 20.2; Odisha from 10.3 to 18.9; Uttarakhand from 3.3 to 7.7; West Bengal from 6.6 to 10 and Chhattisgarh from 5.1to 6.2.

    A senior official said, “The ministry has already met all states barring Bengal and J&K. We are urging them to raise the pace of work.There is no shortage of funds and there is no reason why states should not step up.”

    Noticing that hill states are among those lagging behind, the Centre has decided to rope in Border Roads Organisation in Assam, Uttarakhand, J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. Josh Robinson Jersey

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