Orissa pushes case for road connectivity

Bhubaneswar | Updated: Nov 21 2005, 06:26am hrs
There couldnt have been a better opportunity for infrastructure-starved Orissa to highlight its road connectivity problem. As the Indian Road Congress met here last week for its 66th annual session, the state went whole hog to lobby hard and push through critical road projects.

The Indian Road Congress, an apex body of highway engineers of the country, drew all those who matter in the development of the countrys road network. Union minister for shipping, road transport, and highways, TR Baalu, Union minister for rural development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, director-general (road development), Union department for road transport and highway, were among those who attended the five-day session.

We spent Rs 25 lakh to host the session. But, it was worth it, said AU Singhdeo, state minister for works and housing. The first success for the state was when the Union rural development minister announced a Rs 2,300 crore package for providing pucca road connectivity to about 4,500 villages under the Bharat Nirman Yojana. The funds will come as grant over a period of three years.

Not only that, Mr Singh also assured Rs 300 crore for a road project under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Orissa has already utilised Rs 1,000 crore under the PMGSY.

While state industries and rural development minister, Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, pushed through rural road projects, Mr Singhdeo, pushed for major road projects for strengthening, improvement and development as national highways. He highlighted the problem of road maintenance due to lack of adequate funds. With a total of 14,414 km, excluding the NH of 3,192 km, the state requires Rs 215 crore per annum for repair and maintenance as per the norms of the Eleventh Finance Commission. However, total funds available during the last three years were Rs 320 crore, 37% of the actual requirements. He urged Mr Baalu to take up some of the important state roads under the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to ease the burden on the state.

Although, in February 2004, NHAI had announced development of 395 km of state roads, including Khurda-Bolangir, Puri-Satapada, Puri-Konark, Jharkhand Border to Porsara in Orissa as NH, not a single project has been taken up so far. Mr Singhdeo drew the ministers attention to 13 more state roads totaling 313 km for accordance of NH status. The list includes Berhampur-Koraput (208 km), Motu-Rairangpur. Mr Baalu said he would to consider the states proposals.