Centre clears road projects worth Rs 38,500 crore

The UPA government on Thursday cleared projects worth about Rs 38,500 crore, giving a boost to the rural road connectivity scheme launched by the erstwhile BJP-led government in 2000.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, gave in-principle approval to the projects for building roads in rural habitations, including villages located in areas affected by Left-wing extremism and those near the country’s borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan.

The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000, when the BJP-led NDA was in power at the Centre. The ambitious scheme envisaged laying all-weather roads to link all villages with at least 500 residents in the plain areas and 250 or more inhabitants in the hilly, desert and tribal areas.

The projects approved by the Union Cabinet on Thursday included 1,491 habitations, each having a population of more than 500 people, in Karnataka.

However, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday rejected the BJP’s demand to rename the project after Atal Behari Vajpayee, the prime minister in the erstwhile NDA government.

Ramesh said though the scheme was launched during Vajpayee’s tenure, the NDA government had made a minuscule allocation between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 crore for the projects. “It was the UPA which allocated huge sums of money for the programme since the 2007 Union Budget,” Ramesh told journalists after the meeting. He added that about Rs 24,000 crore was allocated for the PMGSY in the last Budget.

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