New Delhi: Five months from a looming deadline, the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is unlikely to meet its own targets in four of the six components under Bharat Nirman, the ambitious Rs1.76 trillion rural infrastructure programme that is scheduled to be completed by April, according to latest data available.
Miles to go: As of March, only half of the four-year programme’s targets were met in irrigation, 60% in drinking water and about 33% in rural roads and electrification, a Planning Commission review shows. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
As of March, according to a review by the Planning Commission, only 50% of the four-year programme’s targets were met in irrigation, 60% in drinking water and about 33% in rural roads and electrification.
“The situation is particularly bad in irrigation, rural roads and connecting rural households with electrification. There is no way the targets can be met in these areas by April 2009,” said a senior Planning Commission official, who didn’t want to be named.
Housing and rural telephony, however, are on track, according the review.
The news that the government has fallen behind on one of its core promises is likely to become big political fodder, as several states head to polls followed by national elections likely in early 2009.
“The programme has been a big failure and the UPA should not have taken up this ambitious project if it did not have the right people and wherewithal to push it,” insists Laveesh Bhandari of research firm Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.
Indeed, as late as April, the government even launched a mega ad campaign on Bharat Nirman tapping into large audiences that were watching the 20-over Indian Premier League’s debut season.
Also See: Slip Back on Targets (Graphic)
While the execution of Bharat Nirman is done by respective nodal ministries, such as water resources, rural development and power, it is monitored by the Planning Commission as also by Prime Minister‘s Office.
On 3 November, rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had emphasized the need for strict punitive measures for lapses occurred during the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yojana, responsible for construction and upgrade of rural roads. Part of Bharat Nirman, the scheme also aims to cover 66,800 habitations and upgrade or build 3.4 million km of roads.
Prasad’s claim that 178,000km of roads have been constructed so far means that only half of the 340,000km target for rural roads has been met.
“With acute shortage of engineers, contractors, equipment as also the failure to produce detailed project reports, how can you expect the rest 50% to be completed in the last leg of the programme?” asked the commission official.
The government is also very unlikely to meet the targets of providing electricity to 125,000 villages and connecting 23 million households below the poverty line (BPL) with electricity under its ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, also part of Bharat Nirman.
While 38% of the target has been met in the case of villages, only 10% of the target was achieved in the case of BPL households as of March.
“As of today, we have provided electricity to 27 lakh BPL households, and 51,000 villages. How will the scheme work when no finances were made available? Targets are dependent upon funding. This sends a wrong signal to the industry and the vendors, as we had earlier told them not to worry about finances,” said a senior power ministry official, who also didn’t want to be named.
The electrification scheme had an initial total outlay of Rs5,000 crore. From April 2007 until 3 January, no further funding was allocated, the official said.
The scheme has a total financial requirement of around Rs33,000 crore as grants spread over the 10th (2002-07) and 11th (2007-12) Plans. Of this around Rs10,000 crore has been spent.
The Union government provides 90% of the capital cost involved in rural electrification of the states, with the balance extended as loans from state-owned Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd.
“We have been told to manage this year (2008-09) with Rs5,500 crore, while the requirement is for Rs13,000 crore. We have been asked not to make any contractual commitments over this amount as even the finance ministry is unsure about the next year’s budget,” the power ministry official said. “The scheme was announced to showcase the UPA government’s achievements over its tenure. Not just this, all major components are faring poorly. Political promises are just like that.”
Funding is also being seen as a major hindrance in the irrigation component, run through the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), also part of Bharat Nirman. Both the ministry of water resources and the Planning Commission have been demanding higher allocations by the Centre to run this programme. A sum of Rs50,000 crore has been allocated to AIBP in the 11th Plan.