Karnataka's ambitious rural road project languishes

Karnataka MLAs get Rs 1,277 crore while rural road project languishes

The Grameena Sumarga project was first unveiled in 2019 when the Congress-JD(S) coalition was in power

Representative Image. Credit: DH File Photo

Six days before he stepped down as chief minister, B S Yediyurappa ordered the release of Rs 1,277 crore to 132 Assembly constituencies as special development grants, depriving funds for the ambitious Grameena Sumarga project, officials lament. 

On July 19, Yediyurappa used his discretionary power to release these grants which were approved in February-March 2021, but the money was not released until it was time for Yediyurappa to go. 

However, this money could have helped the Grameena Sumarga project, which aims at upgrading 20,000 km of rural roads, a senior official said. The project has been languishing for at least two years. 

“The project needs Rs 1,500 crore a year and the government says it has no money. But individual MLAs were given a total of Rs 1,277 crore. They want to make political use of the available funds, which could have been given to this project,” the official explained. 

The Grameena Sumarga project was first unveiled in 2019 when the Congress-JD(S) coalition was in power. Yediyurappa included it in his 2020-21 budget by earmarking Rs 780 crore for it. The project, Yediyurappa’s budget stated, would span five years. However, the Covid-19 pandemic came in the way. 

Karnataka has a rural blacktop road network of 56,362 km. Of this, authorities have identified 24,246 km as priority village roads that provide access to key infrastructure like schools, hospitals, offices and markets. Of these, 4,000 km of roads are in good condition while the remaining 20,000 km need reconstruction, re-asphalting and other repairs.

The list of 132 constituencies to which Yediyurappa doled out special grants includes segments represented by Congress and JD(S) MLAs. Constituencies in Belagavi district received the highest grants at Rs 121 crore. Notably, constituencies represented by Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah (Badami), Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar (Kanakapura) and JD(S) legislature party leader H D Kumaraswamy (Channapatna) are not on the list.