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Road connectivity norms to be relaxed: Ramesh

Acceding to the demands of Punjab and other states whose boundaries touch international borders, the Union Government has in principle agreed to bring these under the Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yogana (PMSY) by relaxing the existing population norms here today.

punjab Updated: May 11, 2012 14:52 IST
Harkirat Singh

Acceding to the demands of Punjab and other states whose boundaries touch international borders, the Union Government has in principle agreed to bring these under the Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana (PMSY) by relaxing the existing population norms here on Friday.

"Some of these border areas are sparsely populated and under the existing population norms for PMSY such rural areas cannot be included under this scheme. So we have decided not to apply the population clause in the case of border areas so that the road network in these areas can be developed or upgraded under PMSY", union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh said while talking to reporters after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple.

The minister who commenced his two day visit of Punjab to apprise himself of the central schemes of his ministry being executed by the state government will be visiting certain border belts before meeting the chief minister in Chandigarh on Saturday.

His tour programme includes a visit to Qadian in Gurdaspur district on the invitation of party MP Partap Singh Bajwa besides Ferozepur and Jalalabad. He had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on Thursday related to rural development schemes for Punjab.

He disclosed that under PMSY another 18,000 kms of roads will be taken up for upgradation in Punjab. The proposal for this had already been cleared, he added.

Clean drinking water
Pointing to the contamination of groundwater due to presence of uranium and arsenic in the Malwa belt of Punjab which was being viewed as the principle reason for the increasing number of cancer cases from the region, Ramesh said that his ministry was according this problem a great deal of priority. The central government and his ministry were ready to provide all assistance for providing clean drinking water to the rural population in the state, he added.

The minister lamented that a mere 200 of the 16,000 village gram panchayats in Punjab had got the status of Nirmal Gram Panchayats. Every family in rural Punjab must have a toilet if we have to talk about rights of women or of improving their living standards, he added.

"In the country 60 percent of the women do not have access to toilets. To improve this scenario we have decided to increase the subsidy on toilets from Rs 5000 to Rs 10,000 and all states should avail of this benefit", he added.

Scheme for semi rural or semi urban areas
When questioned on the increasing urbanisation of rural areas of the country, the minister said that due to this factor there were areas all over the country which could now be classified as neither urban nor rural.

As such areas may miss out on schemes of the rural development ministry earmarked exclusively for the rural belts, the central government has now come out with a new initiative for development of these areas, he added.

Ramesh pointed out that under this new initiative which includes improving the infrastructure of such areas, Kerala had been sanctioned two central projects amounting to Rs 140 crore each. Likewise two schemes for Rajasthan and one for Uttrakhand had been cleared by his ministry, he added while calling upon Punjab to submit proposal and avail funds under this new initiative.

The projects sanctioned under this initiative will be in Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode with contributions coming from the central government as well as the state besides the executing private enterprise chipping in with its share.

SGPC honours minister
After paying obeisance, Ramesh was honoured with a 'siropa' and a replica of the Golden Temple by SGPC executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta and secretary Dalmegh Singh. During his visit to the shrine he was accompanied by Khadoor Sahib Akali MP Rattan Singh and Congress MLA from Batala Ashwani Sekri.