The UPA II’s big ticket initiative to spruce up infrastructure in Naxal-hit areas got a boost with the road ministry finally clearing the second phase of road building projects in eight such states.
Under it, the ministry plans to build 8,000 km of two-lane roads spread over 34 districts, at a cost of R10,000 crore. Together with Phase I, this will add up to 14,000 km of road network by 2016, at a cost of Rs 18,000 crore.
“We have started the process to get the requisite approval from the Centre’s expenditure finance committee,” said a ministry official who did not want to be named. In Phase-II, Andhra Pradesh has the maximum number of stretches to be developed – 100. It is followed by Maharashtra (56), Chhattisgarh (42), Bihar (39), Orissa (29), Madhya Pradesh (18), Jharkhand (17) and Uttar Pradesh (10).
Ministry officials said Phase II would also include a 1,100 km corridor along the Andhra Pradesh border, linking it with Maharashtra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. These are among the areas worst affected by Naxals.
“Once the entire stretch is completed, it will not only bring development—part of the Centre’s strategy to wean away Naxalite supporters—but will also give a big boost to the security forces posted there,” said a official.
The progress of Phase I of the project, however, has not been very satisfactory.
Of the 5,477 km of roads to be developed under it, construction of just 730 km was done by November 2011. Officials blame the delay on law and order and land acquisition issues.
The budget for the project, which was started in 2009, is Rs 8,000 crore.