This is among suggestions of a House panel to improve connectivity, socio-economic progress in the interiors.
Convergence between the rural job scheme and the village road scheme for faster completion of projects and the involvement of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) professionals, who are trained to work in combat zones, in building village roads in pockets affected by Left wing extremism are among the key suggestions made by a parliamentary committee for improved connectivity and socio-economic development in the interiors.
The 32nd report on Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) by the committee headed by Kanimozhi Karunanidhi suggested to the rural development ministry that the unskilled labour component of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) can be used for the earthen works required in the construction of roads under PMGSY.
“On the one hand, the unskilled labourers of MGNREGA would get their workdays while the PMGSY construction work would be collaterally taken up through review of administrative modules and in consultation with the departments or state bodies involved,” said the panel, claiming that a convergence between the two schemes would lead to rationalised government fund utilisation.
Acknowledging the difficulties faced in building rural roads in areas affected by Left wing extremism, the panel said bottlenecks like insurgency and difficult terrain were potent reasons why road connectivity to the mainland from such areas was of utmost importance. “The more delay is caused in bringing the affected population to mainstream via the connectivity, the situation would take even longer to be controlled and developed for good,” said the panel headed by Kanimozhi.
To check delays in insurgency-hit areas, the rural development ministry needs “out-of-box” solutions like involving area-specific professionals who are skilled to work in combat and insurgent zones, such as Border Roads Organisation (BRO), to boost the lagging projects under the Rural Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA).
The panel also expressed concern over the unspent balance of Rs 2269.6 crore till 20 January 2023, saying that unused fund is a vital parameter that portrays the performance of any scheme.
“The need of the hour is expeditious utilisation of available finances for the faster completion of the projects, particularly in those states which are lagging behind in the implementation of the scheme,” said the committee.
The standing committee asked the rural development ministry to increase the tempo of their ongoing efforts so as to ensure that the amounts under the head ‘unspent balances’ get wiped out at a faster rate and the projects under PMGSY are executed in a time-bound manner.
The slow pace of projects under the Rural Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA) was also pointed out by the committee. It said while the deadline for completion of this component under PMGSY was March 2023, only 55% of the work had been completed by 31 January 2023. As per government data, till 31 March 2023, a total of 1.03 lakh km of rural roads have been constructed under PMGSY, out of which 89,000 km have been declared open to traffic. The total budget allocation for PMGSY for 2023-24 is Rs 1.2 lakh crore.