Rs 162 cr for rural roads & bridges vs Rs 129 cr for Biju Yuva Vahini!

47% rural habitations in Odisha have no approach roads. Only 30 per cent roads taken up in 18 IAP districts

Bhubaneswar: Here is a stark instance that vividly portrays how politics supercedes the theme of development in Odisha.

The State had witnessed an embarrassing situation in Gumdumaha over killing of innocent tribals only 2-years back as the SOG had then open fired at them assuming as Maoists. The reality was the innocents were trapped by the kuccha road there.

Every day, scores of expectant mothers or critically ill patients are seen carried on a sling or a cot as they are unable to avail the much touted doorstep service 108 ambulance for the lack of proper approach roads in the rural lands of Odisha.

Significantly, the Economic Survey 2018-19, released by the state government two days ago, has claimed that 82.9 per cent villages in Odisha avail all-weather road connectivity. But the reality check on ground presents a different picture.

According to Nabard, which provides assistance for rural roads to Odisha under RIDF (Rural Infrastructure Development Fund) data,  a whopping 47 per cent of rural habitations in State have no all weather roads.

The truth is State Government has laid all weather approach roads to nearly 82 per cent villages, but the real picture is nearly half of the rural habitations lack all-weather or motorable roads.

Even, the progress of road networks under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for the left-wing hit districts is worse. Data till 2017-18 reveal that only 30 per cent of sanctioned roads under PMGSY in 18 IAP districts were taken up.

Despite such grim situation, the Budget 2019-20 has provisioned mere Rs 162 crore for Rural Roads and Bridges. And the budget speech didn’t even mention about rural roads, except about allocation for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). In 2018-19, the allocation under the head rural roads and bridges was mere Rs 147crore.

In contrast, the State Finance Minister allocated a whopping around Rs 129 crore for the Biju Yuva Vahini in 2019-20 – State’s sub-scheme to boost youth empowerment. Political observers view this a government scheme to augment capacity of the BJD cadre base.

Recently, in a reply to a question, the Sports and Youth Department Minister Tusharkanti Behera submitted a written reply in the House. It showed while in 2018-19, the allocation towards programme expenditure for the Biju Yuva Vahini was a whopping around Rs 192 crore, and total amount released during the year stood at Rs 124.5 crore. The allocation for the fiscal year 2019-20 has been pegged at around Rs 128.87 crore.