Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has called for fast tracking construction of rural roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in Naxalite-affected districts. He said this will be the single most important rural development initiative that can significantly transform the ground-level situation in these districts.
Ramesh said an additional Rs 15,000 crore was needed to complete all PMGSY projects covering areas with a population of 250 to 500 in the 60 Naxalite-affected districts. Another Rs 19,000 crore will be needed to complete road connectivity to areas with a population of less than 250.
“In addition, we will need additional funds to construct small and minor bridges (not linked with PMGSY roads) which have an importance of their own in these Left Wing Extremist-affected districts. I am optimistic that these resources will be forthcoming. The challenge really will be to ensure project completion within the next 3-4 years at most.”
Delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial lecture organised by Prasar Bharati here yesterday evening, titled “From Tirupati to Pashupati: Some Reflections on the Maoist Issue”. Ramesh said the first target of the Naxalites is roads and that was the reason why PMGSY works were severely lagging in the LWE-affected districts.
“Some innovations have been made to maximise the involvement of local contractors. But there have been frequent instances of these contractors being killed. Some degree of security cover by para-military agencies like the CRPF will be essential to expedite PMGSY works. But we have a long way to go.”
“There are 25 districts out of the 60 LWE-affected districts where the expenditure levels are lower than the overall national average. And within these 25, there is a core of 10 districts where expenditure levels are lower than the average for the LWE-districts,” said Ramesh.
“These to me appear to be the districts where Naxalite activity is most intense. These ten districts are Bijaipur, Narayanpur and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, Lohardaga, Gumla, Latehar and Simdega in Jharkhand and Malkangiri in Orissa.”
It is here that we need the synergy between the security forces and implementing agencies on the ground in order to speed up connectivity without which nothing else worthwhile is really possible.”
He also called for speedy settlement of land related disputes in these districts and recommended setting up of para legal assistance centres in the districts which could document all cases of land alienation and work for the restoration of lands to their rightful owners.
Ramesh upheld the views of Home Minister P Chidambaram on combining development that addresses the tribal population that the Naxalites claim and pretend to serve and a strategy to deal with the leadership of the insurgents.