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Cabinet okays 32,000-km roads, telecom towers in tribal areas

The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the construction of 32,152 km of roads which are to be completed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in far-flung tribal and backward areas, including those affected by left wing extremism, at a cost of Rs 33,822 crore.

The union cabinet which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved telecom connectivity in tribal areas by putting up telecom towers in 7,287 villages in such areas in the five states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha.

A total of 44 aspirational districts in these five states will get benefited with 4G-based mobile services and telecom connectivity, where e-governance facilities would also be provided to residents in these backward areas, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said while briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting.

The estimated cost of these services would be about Rs 6,466 including operational expenses for five years. The project would be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and the project would be completed within 18 months after the signing of the Agreement and likely to be completed by November 2023.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister gave its approval to the proposals of Department of Rural Development, Ministry of Rural Development for continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-I and II upto September 2022, for completion of balance road and bridge works, the Ministry said.

The CCEA also approved continuation of Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA) up to March, 2023.

Of the total estimated cost of Rs 33,822 crore, the central government will spend around Rs 22,978 crore. The projects were part of Prime Minister’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ issued in 2019 for providing roads to every village, he said.

“This will help to construct roads in far-flung rural and tribal areas and the total road length will be 32,152 km and 2,648 long span bridges at a total cost of 33,822 crore of which the central government’s share would be 22,978 crore. This will help in providing connectivity to tribal areas with the rest of the country,” Thakur said.

The government started PMGSY-I to provide connectivity to unconnected habitations of population size of over 500 in plain areas and over 250 in the North-East and Himalayan states. In selected left wing extremism blocks, habitations of 100-plus population were also to be provided connectivity.

Only 2,432 habitations are remaining out of a total of 1,84,444 habitations and 20,950 km road length and 1,974 bridges are balance for completion out of total sanctioned 6,45,627 km road length and 7,523 bridges, work on which will now get completed.

Under PMGSY-II, only 4,240 km road length and 254 bridges are balance, which will also be completed now.

A majority of pending works under PMGSY-I and II are in the North-East and hill states due to factors such as Covid lockdown, extended rains, winters, forest issues, the Ministry of Rural Development said.

States have been requesting the central government for extension of time to complete these crucial works related to rural economy. Extension of time up to September, 2022 is being granted to help these states to complete the balance works, it said.

Road connectivity project of left wing extremism affected areas was started in 2016 to improve connectivity in 44 affected districts in 9 states. 5,714 km road length 358 bridge works are balance for completion and another 1,887 km road length and 40 bridges are being sanctioned.

Work for constructing a total of 7601 km of roads and 398 bridges is also being undertaken in left-wing extremist affected areas now, Thakur said.

The scheme is being extended up to March, 2023 for completion of these projects, which are very critical from communication and security point of view.

The PMGSY promotes use of new and green technology in construction of rural roads and locally available materials are used in road construction in order to promote cost-effective and fast construction.

The PMGSY envisages a three tier Quality Assurance Mechanism to ensure quality of road works during construction and post-construction. The number of quality monitors both at central and state levels as also the intensity of the inspections have been increased for a better quality management. The proportion of satisfactory works has witnessed increasing trend in recent years.

The government launched PMGSY-III in 2019 for consolidation of 1,25,000 km road length by March, 2025. Around 72,000 km road length has so far been sanctioned under PMGSY-III, out of which, 17,750 km has been completed, the ministry said.

A total of Rs 1,12,419 crore, including state share is likely to be incurred from 2021-22 to 2024-25 for completion of all the ongoing interventions of PMGSY, it said. PTI

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