Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari Saturday said he had planned a meeting in Mumbai to discuss the fast-tracking of irrigation projects in the state. “The meeting will be held soon and I have requested Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti to attend it. She has consented,” Gadkari told mediapersons at a Meet the Press programme organised by the Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ).
Gadkari, who recently remarked unfavourably about irrigation allocation in the state Budget, said, “The Centre has budgeted Rs 80,000 crore for Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) and Rs 20,000 crore for Pradhanmantri Sinchai Yojana. Maharashtra’s 28 projects are included in the AIBP scheme. I have called the meeting to fast-track the projects that will irrigate 25 lakh hectares in the state.”
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Gadkari reiterated his assertion that the problem of water shortage would not be solved merely by shifting a few cricket matches out of the state.
Gadkari had recently said that while a small state like Telangana had set aside over Rs 27,000 crore for irrigation, Maharashtra has earmarked only over Rs 8,000 crore.
Gadkari spoke at length about his ministry’s roadmap for the next three-five years. Among the main programmes was a dedicated “blackspot” (accident-prone spots) removal programme to reduce accident deaths — which he said was one of the world’s highest — by half over the next three years.
“Over 1.5 lakh people die in over five lakh accidents every year in the country, which is much higher than the number of casualties in terrorism and Naxalism. I have decided to spend one percent of my ministry’s budget on removing black spots.”
He added: “One of the main reasons for many accidents is the fact that over 40 per cent traffic is on national highways that constitute only two per cent of total road length in the country. I have planned to increase the present length of NHs from 96,000 km to 2 lakh km.” He said his ministry would add another 15,000 km to the existing over 5,000 km National Highways in the state.
Gadkari also spoke about a plan for plantation along highways and handing them over for maintenance to farmers living in adjoining villages.
On where he was planning to draw huge resources needed for the massive infrastructural plans of his ministry, Gadkari said, “I have Rs 55,000 crore from the current Budget. I will have another Rs 2-3 lakh crore from budgets over next three years. I can pledge the toll tax money as security with banks to get loans and also have bonds over Rs 80,000 crore. Thus, I will have more than
Rs 5 lakh crore. My problem is not money. I don’t have officers who can fast-track the work.”
Gadkari also listed many projects for Nagpur city, but cautioned that it should not be inferred that he was focussing only on Nagpur. “I have projects for the entire state,” he said.
He admitted that the much-hyped Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) project had been languishing and that he was going to focus his attention on it. Gadkari said his endeavour would be to make Nagpur a pollution-free city by introducing city bus transport that would run totally on bio-CNG fuel.
On his pet e-rickshaw project, Gadkari said that while the Centre had already amended the Motor Vehicles Act to legalise e-rickshaws, the state hasn’t yet made its own amendment. “I discussed it with the CM, who said the amendment could pose traffic problems in cities like Mumbai, Thane and Pune. I told him to exclude those cities and apply it to the rest of the state.”