Here comes a whiff of fresh air, finally. Uttar Pradesh which otherwise vies with Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam to be on the bottom of development parameters and to earn the distinction of being the poorest executor of the Centrally sponsored schemes is surprisingly doing exceptionally well in implementing the Centre’s rural road connectivity programme.
Hence, Centre which has to crack the whip on UP all the time is giving pats on its back for being the country’s one of the three best States in executing the demand driven Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sarak Yojana (PMGSY) that seeks to connect rural habitations to all-weather roads, in a phased manner.
Unlike in the case of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), where the Central grants lapse almost every year because of the State not being able to utilize them, the State has achieved more than the target in case of the PMGSY. And curiously is happening without attracting significant charges of irregularities unlike in the case of over 200 other Centrally sponsored schemes.
However, a good and laudable show by UP on the PMGSY front should not give it any reason for being smug. Its own documents show the State is still far behind the national average in rural road connectivity.
“However, it is worth mentioning that UP still has 99.2 Km road length against the national average of 147.4 Km per lakh population and is ahead of only Bihar, Assam and West Bengal. Compared to all-India average, UP road density and intensity are lower by 15 pc and 50 pc respectively.
Further, almost one-fifth of the total roads in UP is non-motorable and therefore restricts the connectivity to a limited use,” reveals, Destination To Destination, a book-let published by the UPRRDA.
Statistics show that expenditure on the project that was kicked off by the NDA Government in 200-01 significantly shot up in UP from Rs 724.24 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 2,000 core in 2008-09 against the target of Rs 1800 crore set by the Centre , constructing 1415 roads and connecting 787 rural habitations with population more than 1,000. The State achieved 111 per cent of the fund utilization target and 112 per cent of road construction.
The State’s performance was adjudged to be the best along with Haryana, in the country. During the current fiscal 2009-10, the State has already spent Rs 1408.74 crore upto October 15, against the target of Rs 4,000 crore.
“Yes, we are the best in the country so far as implementation of the PMGSY is concerned,” claimed Ravindra Singh who was principal secretary, PWD for a long time before he was posted in the CM secretariat in the same capacity. Manoj Kaumar, rural development commissioner, also made the same point, “We are the best,”, he stressed. A letter (May 14, 2009) written by Principal Secretary (Agriculture), Rohit Nandan to Chief Secretary, AK Gupta also mentions how the Centre had appreciated UP for its achieving more than the target of the PMGSY.
Then, there does appear to be one single reason why UP has been doing so well in this particular area and officials will obviously brat about good planning, hard work, efficiency et al. “We have been executing the scheme in a very systematic and dedicated way with bosses doing rigorous monitoring every day, said Rohit Kumar Gupta, deputy chief executive officer, UP Rural Road Development Agency (UPRRDA). But one fails to understand as to why UP with the same set of officials is not doing well in the execution of MGNREGS and some other schemes.