Railway minister Mukul Roy wants funds diverted from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and the MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) to the Railways for accomplishing a critical task - preventing accidents at unmanned level crossings.
Roy directed Rail Board officials recently to work out a plan for making most railway crossings manned, and constructing road over-bridges (ROBs) or road under-bridges (RUBs) at the remaining ones. The railways minister is expected to discuss the idea with Planning Commission deputy chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh soon, sources said.
Significantly, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar also advocated the diversion of MNREGA funds to the agriculture sector. The idea finds support among a section of MPs, who have been campaigning for expansion of MNREGA's mandate to provide funds that can be spent on infrastructure construction activities. The
main argument behind this demand is the fact that MNREGA work is being duplicated by other governmental schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yojna.
Roy's funding plan is said to have the approval of his party chief Mamata Banerjee.
Unmanned level crossing accidents have accounted for approximately 40% of all railway-related accidents. In the four-year-period from 2008-09 to 2011-12, as many as 614 persons died in 227 accidents at unmanned crossings.