The empowered committee has given clearance and the nod from the Ministry of Rural Development is expected by early September, senior officials of the department said.
The department has also prepared detailed project report (DPR) for another 4000 km to 5000 km of rural roads, which will be placed before the state Panchayat and Rural Development department minister Subrata Mukherjee soon. It may be recalled that the department has constructed over 10,000 km of roads between 2011 and 2015; as against 10,000 odd km by the erstwhile Left Front government between 1977 and 2011.
The improvement of rural roads has changed the scenario in the villages. Not only is there improvement in communication, the living standard of people too has gone up. It has also become easier for the children to go to school and number of school dropouts has gone down.
However, the department is facing a financial crunch as the Centre has drastically reduced its share for schemes under the PMGSY. Earlier, the Centre used to provide 100 per cent funds for the construction of rural roads under PMGSY and it was the responsibility of the state government to maintain them. But now, the Centre provides only 60 per cent of the estimated cost, while the remaining 40 per cent have to be paid for by the state government. Also, the latter is responsible to look after the maintenance of rural roads. As a result, the expenditure of the state government to construct and maintain rural roads has gone up.
Mukherjee added the state government was thinking of rechristening PMGSY as Rajya Sadak Yojana in West Bengal.
It may be recalled that after coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee put a lot of emphasis on construction of rural roads, and supply of drinking water and electricity. The Panchayat and Rural development department, besides constructing rural roads, has chalked out an elaborate plan to supply drinking water to every rural household by 2018, at an estimated cost of Rs 8,000 crore.
Similarly, the state Power department has decided to provide electricity to every rural household by 2019. Once these projects come up, rural Bengal will have a difficult outlook, a senior official of the department said. Steps have already been taken to help people to become economically independent through various schemes provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Senior officials say that the economic scenario in villages is fast changing and village economy is expected to be much healthier in the next couple of years.