A sharp spurt in violence in naxal-affected states over the last six months seems to be derailing the central government's ambitious plan to bring development to Maoist-dominated areas.
The cabinet had in February 2009 approved the construction of 5,477 km of two-lane roads in 34 naxal-hit districts across eight states. However, three years down the line, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has managed to complete just 1,811-km stretch.
Reviewing the progress, road minister CP Joshi on Tuesday expressed concern over tardy construction work on account of deteriorating law and order situation in a few districts, particularly Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
"We will be writing to the home ministry for additional deployment in areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) as it is stalling road construction work," said Joshi.
Depending on threat perception, the government had put the entire 5,477 km stretch in LWE areas in three categories I, II and III. Category III roads are in high-risk zone requiring special protection from central paramilitary forces.
Ministry officials said that with a sharp increase in violence, they are in the process of reclassifying categories. "Many areas which were earlier under category II have now come under category III requiring central paramilitary forces," said an official.
As of now of the total 5,477 km identified, about 1457m stretch falls in category III. So far, work on only a 51 km stretch has been completed in this category.
Similarly, in Category II, of the 2179 km stretch of road where work has been awarded, work on 675 km has been done.
"Because of high security risk, contractors are not coming forward to take up projects," said an official.
The slow pace has not only resulted in the extension of the original deadline by a year — from March 2013 to March 2015 — it has also resulted in an escalation of the total project cost from Rs 7,300 crore to Rs 8,500 crore.
So far, Rs 2,132 crore has been spent by the ministry.