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Maoist threat stalling key roadworks, Bhupesh Baghel has local solution

Ninety per cent of the 5422-km Road Requirement Plan — for connectivity in hotspots of 34 districts worst-affected by Maoist insurgency in eight states — stands completed, but progress remains a problem in Chhattisgarh.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Updated: December 10, 2020 8:57:09 am
Bhupesh Baghel at Idea Exchange on Wednesday

With critical road projects to provide connectivity in Left Wing Extremism-affected areas often coming to a halt due to security reasons, Chhattisgarh has proposed a new plan to the Centre, suggesting that it divide the remaining contracts into small packets so that local contractors can take up the jobs.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel made this proposal to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari when he met them last month.

This, the state said, will not only speed up but also complete the remaining portions of the Centre’s Road Requirement Plan for extremism-affected areas, the progress of which has been held up mainly in Chhattisgarh.

“We have proposed to the Centre to break up the contracts into small portions so that local contractors can take up the jobs. When local people take up the contracts, they are in a better position to get the work done. I told this to Gadkariji and the Home Minister, who asked me to send a detailed proposal on this, which we are doing,” Baghel said Wednesday at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express.

Ninety per cent of the 5422-km Road Requirement Plan — for connectivity in hotspots of 34 districts worst-affected by Maoist insurgency in eight states — stands completed, but progress remains a problem in Chhattisgarh. Works include widening and strengthening of roads, and construction of bridges.

Of the 419 km of roads remaining across four states, Chhattisgarh accounts for 360 km. The ministries of Road Transport and Highways and Home, overseeing execution of the projects, have been flagging the need to complete some of the stretches in the state, critical to movement of security forces. In Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, less than 10 km of the plan remains to be completed, and 41 km in Jharkhand.

“The meeting was positive. It will not be correct to say that Chhattisgarh is not cooperating with the Centre in this,” Baghel said. “However, during the UPA government, financial assistance for these projects was much larger than in the NDA government.”

During an inter-ministerial review in October, chaired by the Home Secretary, it was stated that the remaining 360 km of roadworks in Chhattisgarh are in state roads in the Bastar region. An additional 37 camps are required for 10 roadworks.

A senior official of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said, “There are around 21 spots where police camps are needed for the works to happen. The state has been asked to provide a plan for them.” Sources said progress there has suffered with Maoists threatening contractors, engineers and labourers, even vandalising construction equipment regularly.

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