Prime Minister Narendra Modi rapped top bureaucrats over procedural delays in a UP highway project, piling up of pension grievances and cost over-run of Sikkim airport project at Pakyong near Gangtok, at the monthly PRAGATI meeting last Wednesday.
Modi was interacting with secretaries and state chief secretaries through video conferencing under pro-active governance and timely implementation platform, according to government sources.
Expressing concern over the flood of pension grievances, he directed Labour secretary M Satiyavathy to ensure that people in the organised labour get their pension papers ready before retirement.
Modi apparently said that the sector should get pensionary benefits like senior bureaucrats on retirement. The observation was made after the secretary made a detailed presentation on how her department was addressing grievances.
Modi apparently questioned her on the rising number of complaints which indicated that the system was not functioning, sources said.
The Prime Minister then questioned Roads and Transport secretary Sanjay Mitra on the status of the 74 km-long Delhi-Dasna-Meerut highway, for which Modi had laid the foundation on December 31, 2015.
Apparently, the secretary informed that the project was progressing slowly due to environmental issues related to felling of trees, shifting of utilities and land acquisition.
Concerned, Modi asked UP chief secretary Rahul Bhatnagar to help expedite the project with cabinet secretary P K Sinha, who would monitor it, the sources said.
The PM told the secretaries that if projects are delayed like this, next time he would “satisfy himself” about clearances obtained before laying any foundation and maintained that he does not believe in laying foundation for projects which would be inaugurated by the next government.
The sources said Modi was also irked by land acquisition and compensation issues delaying the Pakyong airport project in Sikkim. As the state’s chief secretary A K Srivastava began reading a long note on delays, Modi told him that he ought to have all the facts on his fingertips as the airport would provide much needed tourism revenue to his state.
As of now, Sikkim is linked by a two-lane road to Silliguri in West Bengal which remains choked with traffic most of the time. For flight services, people have to go to Bagdogra, near Siliguri, as there is no airport in the state.
The cost of constructing the Pakyong airport, 30 kilometres from Gangtok, has doubled since the contract was awarded in 2008, with local protests over compensation being frequent.
Slated for inauguration next year, the airport will ensure that Sikkim people do not have to travel 124 km via the choked road to catch a flight.