New Delhi: In a move to improve road connectivity in Maoist insurgency-affected districts in the country, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday announced steps to introduce more flexibility into construction of rural roads.
Laying of roads is the “single most important developmental intervention in Naxal-affected areas,” Ramesh told reporters. Of the 52,000 habitations in 82 Maoist insurgency affected districts only 19,000 had been connected by roads under the rural roads programme, Ramesh said.
The new steps announced by the minister include construction of roads without tar-paving or cement-concrete surfacing. “Road construction under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) can be broken up into two—Stage A and Stage B. Stage A is everything except blacktop,” Ramesh said. “Maoists are not against un-tarred roads. They blow up only the blacktopping,” he said. “Black topping of roads can be done at a later stage,” he said pointing out that this was a departure from the current norms under which only a fully metalled road was earlier deemed as a completed road under PMGSY. “States will have the flexibility to declare the habitation—of 350 people or above—as connected at the end of Stage A itself,” he said.
To ensure contractors participate in the PMGSY projects despite threats from Maoists, the central government will fully compensate any destruction of their equipment, the minister said. Labourers employed by the contractors would be provided insurance with the central government picking up 75% of the insurance tab and state governments picking up the remaining 25%, he said.
The Union cabinet will consider this week a proposal to connect habitations with more than 100 people in the Maoist-affected districts under PMGSY, Ramesh said. This was a proposal suggested by tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo, Ramesh said.
In case of multi-connectivity block level, Ramesh said it did not mean that all roads should be blacktop. “Why are we having problem with connectivity (in Naxal- hit districts)? Because, they (Naxals) blow blacktopping... Under PMGSY you give money only for one blacktop road. What we are saying now is you can have four roads, but one of them will be a blacktop road,” the minister said.