The grand scheme of the Centre to connect more than 66,000 villages and hamlets across India through an intricate network of roads by 2009 seems be to hitting one roadblock after another.
One roadblock is that states do not seem to be interested in using the funds allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The second is that wherever work is complete, or is in the process of being so, the quality is shoddy, raising questions about the whether the money was used in a proper manner.
Total length of roads under the scheme:170674 km of roads
Work completed on 29986 km of roads
Work in progress on 22845 km of roads
Total cost: $26 billion.
Random inspections by the National Quality Monitors were carried out between July 2004 and September 2006. Most states fared badly. Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland were among the states that fared badly.
Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh are two of the few states that seem to have done well with 89 per cent and 81 per cent of the completed work of good quality. The percentage of work in progress found to be of good quality in these two states are 78 per cent and 73 per cent.
Most states have also not been able to meet expenditure targets for 2006. And at least 14 states have hundreds of crores lying with them unused since the scheme was initiated during the NDA regime.
The situation was bad enough for Union Minister for Rural Development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, to write to the chief ministers of 27 states and urge them to level the obstacles. The decision to write to the chief ministers was taken after Singh convened a meeting of senior officers involved in the implementation of the scheme on December 21 to review the scheme's progress.
At the end of the meeting, the mood and the findings were bordering dismal. At least 13 states had not used more than 50 per cent -- in some cases percentage is higher -- of the fund allocated. Among these states are Kerala, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar besides hilly states and states in the northeast.
In fact, the ministry has now decided to open a special window of the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) to ease any difficulty that the states might have in withdrawing the sanctioned money for the scheme.
In the letters, dispatched by Singh on January 8, he wrote that "special efforts are required to be made by the state governments for increasing their absorption capacity particularly in the context of additional funds, which is expected to be available through the special window of the NABARD." The special window would meet the requirement for financing rural roads under the umbrella programme of Bharat Nirman.