UPA-II’s ambitious plan to bring development to Maoist-dominated areas as a part of its strategy to wean away Naxal supporters is going nowhere.
The Cabinet had in February 2009 approved construction of a 5,477-km stretch of two-lane roads in 32 Naxal-hit districts across eight states. Two years down the line, the ministry of road transport and highways has managed to complete construction of just 118 km.
The tardy pace has not only resulted in the extension of the original deadline by a year — from March 2013 to March 2014 — it is also likely to escalate the project cost from Rs 7,300 crore to up to Rs 8,500 crore. So far, the ministry has spent Rs 396 crore.
Ministry officials blame security threat coupled with delay in land acquisition in some regions for the slow progress. “In regions like Bastar in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra, contractors are not coming forward to take up projects due to the high security risk. The prevailing security situation is not conducive. This has affected work,” said an official.
Based on threat perception, the government had distributed the 5,477-km stretch into three categories I, II and III. Category III roads are in a high-risk zone requiring special protection from security forces. “Of the 5,477 km, about 1,158 km fall in category III where there is a high risk of security,” said the official.
The ministry has so far sanctioned 60% of the work. “We are planning to sanction all projects by March 2011 and by June 30, we intend to award projects to successful bidders after which work will start...” said the official.
Ministry officials said the project may get further delayed once this happens. “Till now, only the preparatory phase — giving sanctions and awarding projects — is on. Even this is delayed. Once work starts, the real problem will start, especially in high-risk zones. Unless security cover is provided, it will be difficult,” said the official.
At the sixth consultative panel meeting on development of roads in Left-wing extremist affected areas on Friday, road transport minister CP Joshi had also expressed concern at the tardy pace of work.