Stepping up its effort to fight Maoist insurgency, the Centre is all set to launch the second phase of its ambitious road expansion programme in 34 districts spread across eight states which are worst hit by Left Wing Extremism (LWE.)
As part of this, the Road Transport Ministry will be building approximately 5,700 km of two lane roads at a cost of over Rs 10,000 crore. Together with Phase I of the project, which was launched in 2009, this will result in a total road network of over 11,000 km to be build at a cost of over Rs 17,000 crore by 2017.
"We have finalized the second phase of road expansion projects in LWE affected areas. It is likely to be cleared by the Centre's Expenditure and Finance Committee on Wednesday," said road secretary AK Upadhyay.
In Phase-II, the maximum number of road stretches would be developed in Andhra Pradesh followed by Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
However, work on Phase I of the road development programme has been moving at a snail's pace. Of the 5477 km stretch of two lane roads that was approved in 2009, the road ministry has till now managed to complete construction of just 1865 km stretch.
Road ministry officials attribute it to a sharp spurt in violence in Naxal affected states. The road development project in LWE areas is part of the government's strategy to wean away Naxalite supporters by improving the physical infrastructure in interior tribal areas.
The roads once constructed will go a long way in not only improving connectivity to the interior areas affected by Naxal violence but will also bring development. The entire stretch would have bituminous road which, officials said, is difficult to mine by Maoists as compared to the present gravel roads.